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Miraval Spa & Mike Elsass…The Full Story

In recent years, Miraval has devoted more focus to the Artist-In-Residence program. Throughout the year, Miraval hosts painters and sculptors who not only use the setting as inspiration but also teach Miraval guests their craft. Mike Elsass has become a guest favorite – he sets up his painting station in the Raindance Pass Courtyard during each visit to the property. This area is in the center of the resort and gets constant traffic throughout the day. Mike’s welcoming presence and easygoing attitude invites guests to take a seat at the table and explore their artistic abilities with his guidance. He encourages our Miraval guests to live in the moment by saying “don’t think, just paint.” And the creations that appear from this experience travel home with guests and (we assume!) become permanent fixtures in their home to remind them of their Miravalstay.Mike connects with each guest individually and helps them get to know one another while they paint. Miraval’s guests come from all over the world and Mike is known for his uncanny ability to remember where each person calls home.

When we commissioned artwork for the new Miraval Life in Balance Spa, Mike was one of the first people we called. His abstract style and materials fit perfectly with the concept and design of the spa. Acclaimed designer Clodagh collaborated with Mike to envision the future pieces that now grace the walls of the new spa. Using steel as his canvas and the colors of the Sonoran desert as his palette, Mike has created the backdrop for our award-winning spa

Mike went through a transformative time in his life while creating the pieces guests now enjoy in the spa. The project began in January 2012 and was finished by March 2012.This time of year always tends to be a reflective time for Mike since he lost both of his parents during these months many years ago. This year, while painting the Miraval pieces, Mike celebrated a big birthday, welcomed two new grandsons into the world, and also celebrated the second birthday of another grandson.

Not only did Mike get the opportunity to work with a nationally known designer, but he was also able to work closely with family and friends while planning this project. His cousin and fabricator Bill Elsass & friend Ben Steinke, and his long time friend and art critic Pat Barlage played significant roles in the original planning of the pieces. The steel itself was fabricated on a farm in northern Ohio where Mike spent his summers as a child. Because of all these personal experiences coming at a time where he was asked to create the largest pieces of his life, Mike truly had to channel the Miraval“mindful” philosophy while tucked away in his studio.

Much of Mike’s work is reflective of a place he has been. He paints not only with a location in mind, but the colors, sights, and sounds of that place, along with the nature and people he encountered while there. The good memories of painting at Miraval, the guests he’s met from all over the world, and the spirit of the Arizona landscape were all with him while he painted in a cold, snowy warehouse in Dayton, Ohio, (most times burning candles on altars or a bundle of sage).

When the project was finished and Mike emerged from the three-month intensive endeavor, he realized that this project reflects his past, his present, and his future. These paintings took Mike back to his roots in order to move him forward in his career. Sometimes when we’re asked to take on a challenge we’ve never experienced before, it takes the person we once were and the person we will still become to see the project through.

Now that you know the story, you can see the pieces hanging in the Life in Balance Spa at Miraval. The paintings are named after Mike’s youngest grandsons, Crosby and Tate.

Spa Photo Credit: Miraval2012