A Dream Internship


Remember the interns from the Merwin Conservancy? Well, they invited me to tour Tom Sewell’s art studio. Tom was in Morocco, so Anna, Kalin, James, and Alex showed me around the property.  Nestled on top of a gorge, the ocean was a deep blue haze in the distance. I felt I was in a dream, an artistic paradise.

A green cottage on a 17 acre art estate in Maui, fresh guava, oranges, and pomegranates picked from the tree, and a rejuvenating swim in the sea every morning, this could be your life as Tom Sewell’s intern. You might also have to help him scan his dream journal entries.

Tom Sewell is a multi-media artist, designer, photographer, filmmaker, sculptor, environmental visionary, and proclaimed “Master of mischief, maker of dreams.” He was born in Minneapolis, where he worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. He then moved out to California during the 70s and 80s. Tom played a major role in restoring and gentrifying Venice Beach. As my mother liked to emphasize, he made his money not from art, but from real estate.  In the 90s, he left reality and moved to Maui.


In Maui, he created the piece he is most famous for, the Enigma of the Mill. He won the Annual Award of Excellence from the United Nations Society of Artists and Writers for his work. Tom created sculptures with scrap metal from the HC & S Sugar Mill. After the installation, he put them on his property, along with other pieces of potential material. According to Kalin, the placement of the metal looks random, but really he knows exactly where it is and why he wants it there. Tom is spontaneous, yet calculated.

My favorite and Kalin’s favorite was a large box made from sheets of metal that parts of the factory machines are cut from. Green vines and purple flowers wound around the rusted red. In the center, there were three seats and an wrought iron table, a perfect place to sit and look at the gorge between gaps. I wanted a book, a cup of tea and a pen ASAP. It was a place for a poem, and so I scribbled something like a poem in the moment…




A place for a poem,

Contemplation, epiphany

In a box made of

sugar mill parts extremities

Outer the purple vines

and inside the little yellow flowers

The vista of land

When are we? Lost in

Centuries, a human in

A box, a box –

Get out of the box –

Stop looking through the holes

Stop hiding in hollow security

Go out and frolic

In the fields of forever.

We wandered around the property. There are lots of little cottages; Tom rents some of them out on Airbnb. The library cottage was magical.  We walked down to the bali house, and the view – fifty shades of green.  They gave us a bag of fresh oranges and tangerines to take home.

All of the interns were exciting and curious individuals. Anna was visiting from Munich; she, like Tom, keeps a dream journal and draws. James and Alex are brothers from Florida. They bought a one way ticket to Maui to work at a workaway and ended up here. I got to hang out with them later in Los Angeles, where James said, “My goals in life are to never pay rent and to plant as many trees as I can before I die.” Kalin graduated with an MFA in painting in 2014 and was in Maui visiting her boyfriend James.  Their stories were inspiring. My mother quipped, “Wow, there are people like you out there, Sammy.”


Oh, how I didn’t want to leave. But we got in the car, and went on our way. Tom Sewell truly is the master of dreams!

As soon as I closed the door, I realized I hadn’t hugged my tour guides goodbye. I hopped out of the car. One last hug before we returned to reality, or so it felt.


If you want to find out more about Tom’s Internship, visit tomsewell.com. They also organize weekly film screenings on Mondays.