Hollyhock Retreat

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Hollyhock Lifelong Learning Centre is a not-for-profit educational institute dedicated to lifelong learning and cultural transformation through courses, conferences and community. It offers programs in health and wellness, creativity, wisdom teachings and leadership development on its Cortes Island campus. It also offers programs at various locations in Vancouver throughout the year.


Hollyhock was founded in 1982 by Rex Weyler, Siobhan Robinsong and Lee Robinsong who met at Greenpeace. While beach walking on Cortes Island, they saw the abandoned hand-crafted buildings of the former Cold Mountain Institute. Siobhan drew Rex's attention to crimson hollyhocks peeking over a hawthorn hedge. Days before, Rex was given that same vision by an intuitive seer at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Friends Peggy Taylor, Rick Ingrasci, Torkin Wakefield, Charles Steinberg, Yvonne Kipp and Michael Moore joined to purchase the land. Many others invested over the years, and in 1982, this group of 30 'founders' purchased the abandoned Cold Mountain Institute. Dana Bass Solomon joined in the late 90’s as Board Member, soon as CEO. With Joel Solomon, Board Chair, (whom she later married), together they have led two decades of mission advancement. In 2008 the partner group donated full ownership and Hollyhock Leadership Institute became a registered charity.


Over the years, Hollyhock has offered a wide range of personal, spiritual and leadership development programs to an international clientele, serving 1,800 to 2,300 guests per year. [1][2] The Centre hosts education and training [3] on topics including activism,[4] creative writing,[5] group facilitation,[5] singing,[5] cooking,[6] painting,[7] drawing,[8] entrepreneurship,[6] dance,[1] photography,[1] leadership,[2][9] social ventures,[10] woodcarving,[11] storytelling,[11] kayaking,[8] animal communication,[10][12] relationships,[13][12] mindfulness,[14] nonviolent communication,[15] spiritual chanting,[15] meditation,[16] Tibetan Buddhism,[10][17] Kabbalah,[18] hara hachi bu,[19] yoga,[20][21] morphic resonance,[10] holistic approaches for dealing with cancer[10] and integrative medicine.[10][22]

Prominent instructors at Hollyhock have included Robert Bateman,[7] Gabor Maté, Jane Siberry, Patrick Lane and Nick Bantock.[10] Hollyhock operates a scholarship fund. In 2008, the centre distributed CAN $97,000 to attendees.[23]


Hollyhock operates a renowned one-acre French-intensive garden on the property. Flowers and food from the garden are used in the retreat centre's meals.[24][25][26]

Political links[edit]

The CEO is Dana Bass Solomon,[27][9][28][29] and the board chair is her husband, Joel Solomon,[9][10][30][31] both of whom have connections to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.[32][33][34][35][36][37] Robertson was the treasurer of Hollyhock Centre Ltd. in 2003 and 2004,[38] and served on the board.[6] A number of connections have been drawn between Vancouver City Hall and Hollyhock, in part due to the number of people hired by the City of Vancouver who have connections to the retreat centre.[30][39][40] Board chair Solomon has responded to such claims stating that Hollyhock provides space to network for like-minded people around social and environmental topics, and have the possibility of making business connections. He has also stated that Hollyhock's programs attracted attendees from across the political spectrum.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Webb, Kate, How the Vancouver mayor’s BFF Joel Solomon is changing the way people do business, retrieved 2013-10-15
  2. ^ a b "Short Trips: Holistic programs work on body and soul", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 21, 2007.
  3. ^ Marion S. Goldman 2006. "Cults, New Religions, and the Spiritual Landscape: A Review of Four Collections", Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 45(1):87-96.
  4. ^ Merchant, Brian, Each Year, Canada's Top Activists & Social Entrepreneurs Head to a Remote Island. This is Why, retrieved 2013-10-11
  5. ^ a b c "Coming to Hollyhock". Vancouver Observer. 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  6. ^ a b c Solomon, Linda and Moreka Jolar. "Hollyhock Cooks", 2003.
  7. ^ a b Stateson, Alexandra, Hollyhock is good for the soul, retrieved 2013-10-11
  8. ^ a b Rabinovitch, Simona, Bliss break: Summer gone too quickly?, retrieved 2013-10-11
  9. ^ a b c Stephen Legault 2010. "Carry Tiger to Mountain: The Tao of Activism and Leadership" ISBN 978-1458783134.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Charlie Smith, "Building Hollyhock’s legacy", Georgia Straight, April 26, 2007.
  11. ^ a b Kallenbach, Laurel, Eco-Retreat: Hollyhock Educational Center, retrieved 2013-10-11
  12. ^ a b SUSAN SPANOPublished: October 12, 1997 (1997-10-12). "FRUGAL TRAVELER; Mellowing on a Canadian Isle - New York Times". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  13. ^ Shannon Rupp, "Hollyhock Blends Salt air and Spirituality Lite", Georgia Straight, March 28, 1996.
  14. ^ M. Kathleen B. Lustyk, PhD; Neharika Chawla, MS; Roger S. Nolan, MA; G. Alan Marlatt, PhD. 2009. "Mindfulness Meditation Research: Issues of Participant Screening, Safety Procedures, and Researcher Training" Advances, 24(1):20-30.
  15. ^ a b "Spiritual retreats on Vancouver Island respond to life's challenges", Canadian Press, May 12, 2009.
  16. ^ Sameet M. Kumar. 2010. The Mindful Path through Worry and Rumination: Letting Go of Anxious and Depressive Thoughts. New Harbinger Publications.
  17. ^ G. Alan Marlatt 2006. "Mindfulness meditation: Reflections from a personal journey", Current Psychology, 25(3):155-172.
  18. ^ "Summer gone too quickly?", The Globe and Mail, April 3, 2009.
  19. ^ Jim Nicolai. 2013. Integrative Wellness Rules: A Simple Guide to Healthy Living. Hay House, Inc.
  20. ^ Tom Pilarzyk. 2008. Yoga Beyond Fitness: Getting More Than Exercise from an Ancient Spiritual Practice. Quest Books.
  21. ^ "Cortes Island residents seek compromise with loggers". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 2012-12-07.
  22. ^ Stephan Faulkner 2001. "Two Years in Review", Association of Complementary Physicians of British Columbia News, 1(1):1-8.
  23. ^ Soloman, Dana Bass (2008), Dear Cortes Island Neighbours, retrieved 2013-10-15
  24. ^ Oliver, Anne (2007), "A Garden of Eden, Nutrition for the Soul" (PDF), DreamScapes Magazine: 27, retrieved 2013-10-15
  25. ^ Barazzuol, Toby (2010), Changemakers and entrepreneurs jam out at Social Ventures Institute, retrieved 2013-10-15
  26. ^ Zdybel, Katie (2010), "Replete Retreat" (PDF), Eat Magazine: 20, retrieved 2013-10-15
  27. ^ "Hollyhock retreat: 'Paradise with purpose'", Surrey Now, May 26, 2009.
  28. ^ December 20th 2007 (2007-12-18). "Van Go: Movers and Shakers Celebrate Year End at Fab Party". Vancouver Observer. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  29. ^ "Hollyhock retreat offers tool for change, hope and optimism", Canwest News Service, June 26, 2009.
  30. ^ a b Francis Bula 2009. "The Unlikely Revolutionary", Vancouver Magazine.
  31. ^ Derrick Penner. "Hollyhock Board Chair Joel Solomon and Hollyhock Sharegiver Carol Newell Inducted To Social Venture Hall of Fame", Vancouver Sun, November 20, 2012.
  32. ^ "Joined at the hip: The mutually beneficial relationship of a mayor and his closest adviser", The Globe and Mail, December 12, 2008.
  33. ^ "Holly moly", Vancouver Courier, February 15, 2011.
  34. ^ Jeff Lee, "Are Vancouver City staff political handmaids of the mayor?", Vancouver Sun, April 11, 2011.
  35. ^ Culbert, Lori, "How Big Money Drives Social Change", Vancouver Sun, August 8, 2010.
  36. ^ Don't count NPA out next year, Vancouver Courier, November 26, 2010.
  37. ^ The Hollyhock primer, City Caucus, March 10, 2010.
  38. ^ Smith, Charlie (2010-10-16). "Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson's associate generated significant income from charity work | Georgia Straight". Georgia Straight. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  39. ^ How big money drives social change Green philanthropists are striving to turn Metro Vancouver into a sustainable nirvana, Vancouver Sun, August 8, 2010.
  40. ^ "Vancouver City Hollyhock", City Caucus, March 8, 2010.

External links[edit]