Artist Alla Dickson's captivating story fuels passion, creativity

Alla Dickson’s artistic endeavors are impressive.

Her many accolades include winning the 2016 Tulip Time Poster Contest, as well as being named the People’s Choice Award winner for the Tulip Time Artwork Competition in 2015 and 2017. She also won the Grand Prize at the “Design & Drive” contest during ArtPrize in 2017, and was the winner of the Michigan Ottawa County Art Trust contest. 

Alla Dickson created this tulip painting in 2015.

Additionally, she has had two large solo exhibitions at the Holland Area Arts Council, and her watercolors have been published in books in both the United Kingdom and China. 

The story that fuels her artwork and passion is just as captivating. She is currently working on a memoir that chronicles her unusual life, which began in the Belorussian Soviet Republic, took her to Cairo, then Siberia and, ultimately, to the Lakeshore, where she and her husband, Richard Dickson, created a fairy tale retreat. 

Alla Dickson with her husband, Richard.

Their decision to stay in West Michigan was a simple one. Alla had visited 24 countries when she arrived in Holland, and Richard, who was in town on a two-year contract, had been working around the world. 

When they decided to marry, Alla told Richard, “(Where we live) does not really matter to me. My girls are grown and live in different states. I can adjust to any culture.” Richard replied, “I have been in 52 countries and 48 U.S. states; this community is the best to live and grow old.” Alla, who also loved Holland, could not have agreed more, so they made their home in West Michigan.

All Dickson in her studio on her Zeeland hobby farm.
Dickson says she finds daily inspiration living on 10 acres of farmland dubbed “Dickson Kingdom.” When she and her husband, Richard, an English immigrant, bought the property 13 years ago, it was a mess. The house had been abandoned, and the property was littered with debris.

“We have made the decision to build our dreams here as we all are immigrants, and turn the land from trash to our homeland, replicating our childhood memories in Belarus and England, and developing the property into a lush, artistic, ever-inspiring, entertaining, glorious land, with as much sustainable as possible,” Dickson says. 

Alla Dickson titled this painting "Meadowlodious Sonet."

After purchasing the house, the couple had ceremonies coronating Richard as the king and Alla as the queen. The hobby farm has become the setting of many gatherings. 

“Most of our events here, we have costumes and theatrical performing,” Dickson said. 

Early life

She was born in the Belorussian Soviet Republic before the family moved to Moscow where her father, a military officer family, earned his second degree at a military academy. Then he was assigned to posts in Siberia. For four of those years, she lived with her family on a remote military base in the middle of a woodland, where she remembers harsh Siberian winters with no indoor plumbing or running hot water. Everyone on the base shared one bathhouse that could be used only once a week. Every Saturday afternoon, scores of base residents — men on one side of the bathhouse and women on the other — gathered to bathe together.

At the age of 10, Dickson's family moved to Cairo, which truly changed her life. It was there that she was introduced to English and Arabic, sparking a lifelong fascination with languages, cultures, and human psychology. By the age of 21, she had earned a master’s degree in English language and literature and philology. 
Alla Dickson titled this painting "Witness the Stillness."

A major turning point happened in 1996, when — with the assistance of Holland residents Tom and Lynne Walker — Alla and her family immigrated to America.

 After arriving in West Michigan, Dickson became director of Russian adoptions at Adoption Associates Inc. in Jenison.

Pursuing creative endeavors

Her life took another turn in 2012, when, at age 52, Dickson decided to devote her life to her creative endeavors. She decided to focus on living a meaningful, healthy lifestyle, which she does through her teachings, writings, exhibitions, and most importantly through her art. 

Alla Dickson titled this 2018 painting "Australia Red Desert."
She believes in the healing effect that art has on each individual through their choice of color, brush strokes, and subject matter. 

She loves teaching watercolor classes, where her students praise her for teaching them how to just dive in without thinking too hard about it and paint what they feel in that moment. 

Finding joy

In fact, one of Dickson's mottos, and a frequent title of her exhibits, is “The ART of living with JOY.”  

She finds joy on her hobby farm. Over the years, the couple has worked to preserve native plants and trees, adding a garden and planting more than 70 fruit trees. With so much bounty, they preserve hundreds of jars of vegetables and jams, and infuse their vodka with 12 flavors from produce harvested on their farm.

Alla Dickson titled this painting "Dickson Pond 2."

“We warm our house with our own wood and use our own mulch,” says Dickson. “We added chickens, ducks, and turkey, and we gift the fresh eggs daily to all neighbors and visitors.”

They have also planted flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. 

“We build bridges and bring sculptures. We grow fish and water lilies in our ponds. We create our fairy tale and live in it every single day of our life. Our ponds and bridges have names telling their stories,” Dickson said. 

To learn more about Dickson’s artwork, painting classes, and her life at the Dickson Kingdom, check out alladicksonfineart.com

 

Read more articles by Sally Laukitis.

Sally Laukitis, Chair of the Michigan Travel Commission, recently retired as Executive Director of the Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you have an idea of something to do, email her at sallyjlaukitis@gmail.com.
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