Guide for Inaugural Artists and Cultural Managers in Residence A Comprehensive Attempt to Explain Everything
Frequently Asked Questions Here’s what you need to know about the Sedona Summer Colony
Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center began a partnership late last year to establish a new residency program for artists and cultural managers, the Sedona Summer Colony. We've been working together over the past few months to shape a residency model to be based at the Verde Valley School—set amongst a singular high desert red rock environment. The experiment begins in full from late June, when our community will welcome over 100 creative people and visiting cultural producers—providing each with time, space, and new opportunities for discovery. They are musicians, choreographers, poets, film-makers, organization directors, visionaries, and documentarians. The following information is intended to guide their journey, allay any mysteries, and explain part of the Sedona universe.
The Essential Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the story behind the Sedona Summer Colony?
Sedona Summer Colony—developed as a partnership between Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School—has been designed as a new American summer residency for creative people and cultural producers. The program will serve as an opportunity to explore Sedona's unique red rock landscapes, Southwest heritage, local cultures past and present, and modern-day sense of place. At the very heart of the idea is a guest-host relationship offering time and space in the village-like campus of Verde Valley School—and a summer residency to focus on ideas, new work, potential collaborations, or the germination of a project. Beneath that is the simple opportunity to get away from a familiar routine and find quiet contemplation and solitude in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
We take as our inspiration the original colonies like Yaddo, MacDowell, Hambidge Center, Villa Montalvo, and the American Academy in Rome. We share their strong belief in the power of interdisciplinary associations of artists, and the commingling of cultural visionaries over meals, excursions, spontaneous interaction, and daily life. The inaugural Sedona Summer Colony in 2016 will test our model and our capacity to play host, and lay the groundwork for what we hope might be America’s next great 21st century artists’ colony.
How did the partnership between Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center come about?
Sedona Summer Colony began in Fall 2015 with the first meeting between Eric Holowacz, executive director of Sedona Arts Center and Paul Amadio, Head of Verde Valley School. Both arrived in Sedona in July 2015 to lead well-established, but staid organizations. Holowacz, who brought a background establishing artist residencies and cultural exchanges, proposed the idea of using the vacant summer campus to invite and house interesting creative people from all over the world. Amadio, who also had experience with summer residency programs and brought an earlier career as a stage performer, saw a ready partnership in the name of cultural advancement and local identity. Throughout early 2016, the two continued working on the model for the inaugural program. Creative people were invited, resources were put in place, and logistics were reckoned with. From mid-June to early-August, over 125+ artists and cultural producers from as far away as Hobart, Tasmania and Manitoba, Canada, will descend on the campus and become part of summertime in Sedona.
What’s the background on Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center?
Established in 1946 with a unique global outlook, Verde Valley School is located on 300 acres in a rustic setting eight miles south of the town of Sedona. Founders Hamilton and Barbara Warren opened the campus in 1948 with sixteen students and a small handful of teachers and artists, dedicated from its beginning to changing the world. Mindful of the international horrors of World War II and the ravages of ethnocentrism and racism in this country, the Warrens believed that America needed a school where the values of cultural diversity would be understood and celebrated—not simply studied and tolerated. Ham’s mentor at Harvard, Clyde Kluckhohn (the first President of the modern American Anthropological Association, and long-time Chair of the Department of Anthropology) added to the early visionary work. Kluckhohn learned Navajo by the age of fifteen and set a standard for the importance and value of engaging cultures different from one’s own that has become a school tradition. This quote, from Ham Warren, sums up what he accomplished in Sedona: “The nation, indeed the world, needs a school that will bring together children from many nations, many cultures, all races and religions, not simply to study and tolerate one another, but to learn from and celebrate their differences.”
Today, the campus has a village-like feel, with a small quad, dining hall, library, performing arts hall and gallery, equestrian facilities, and dormitory and faculty housing. It is surrounded by monolithic red rocks, the Oak Creek riparian ecosystem, and high altitude desert landscape. During the school year, it is home to 125 private high school students who care for the land and the campus, and work towards an International Baccalaureate degree.
And what about Sedona Arts Center?
In 1958, the Verde Valley School art department head, Egyptian sculptor Nassan Gobran, and 12 other civic leaders founded the organization that would become Sedona Arts Center. The population of the area at that time was less than 400 people, most of whom were ranchers, orchard workers, and merchants. A few years later, with support form the town’s small Chamber of Commerce, Gobran acquired a former apple orchard warehouse that became known as the Art Barn. The first exhibition featured works by Max Ernst, who had lived in Sedona with Dorothea Tanning and remained inspired by the red rock landscapes. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the barn and Arts Center became a hub of creative activity, artistic development, exhibitions and events, and community-building. Today, it operates an expanded campus, a fine art gallery that represents 110 local artists, a school that offers over 100 classes and workshops each year, an annual plein air festival, and other cultural events. It remains Sedona’s driving force for creative development and partnerships.
Is there a fee to attend Sedona Summer Colony? Do I get a stipend or travel support?
There is no fee for invited residents who have confirmed their place at the inaugural Sedona Summer Colony. The program provides accommodations, meals, and creative work space on campus, and will also offer optional excursions and field trips during the residency. There is no stipend or travel support, so residents will need to make their way to Sedona, bring their essentials, and have some funds available for their own activities, outside meals, and emergencies.
How do I get to the Sedona Summer Colony?
By plane: The most convenient airport is Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX), located 2 hours South of Sedona. From there, Arizona Shuttle provides $49/each way van service to drop points in Sedona, if booked online. If renting a car at PHX, see By Car section below. Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) is located one hour North, but most flights connect to PHX, and there are much fewer options. Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport (LAS) is a 4-hour drive from Sedona, and is an option if renting a car during your residency.
By train: Amtrak's Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, with a stop in Flagstaff. Sedona is a one-hour drive from Flagstaff, along Interstate 17.
By car: If navigating by Google Maps, use this address for your destination: 3511 Verde Valley School Rd, Sedona, AZ 86351. There are also good directions, from all points leading to Sedona, here. A few days before you arrive by car, please contact us to indicate an idea of driving route and estimated arrival time. That way, our staff will be on standby and ready to welcome you upon arrival.
If I take Arizona Shuttle from PHX, where do I get dropped off in Sedona?
If you book Arizona Shuttle, select Hilton Sedona Resort in the Village of Oak Creek (90 Ridge Trail Drive) as your destination. This is a regular pick-up and drop-off point for their vans, right off Highway 179, and we will pick you up from there. Verde Valley School is located about 3 miles away from the Hilton complex.
How do I take care of personal business while in residence?
A Sedona Summer Colony HQ will be set up, and operating throughout your residency, at the heart of the Verde Valley School campus. We’ll have staff on hand to assist with needs like groceries, banking, medical care, places of worship, mail and shipments, phone or fax communications, meal requests, and the organization of excursions. There will be a ride board or shuttle scheduled to assist residents in getting to town for supplies and off-site necessities.
How do people send mail or supplies to me?
Mail and boxes can be picked up in the Sedona Summer Colony HQ. To receive mail or shipments while in residence, use the following address format:
Verde Valley School
Attn: YOUR NAME, Sedona Summer Colony
3511 Verde Valley School Road
Sedona, AZ 86351
How do I contact key local staff and Sedona Summer Colony coordinators while there?
Your orientation/welcome packet will include contact information for Sedona Summer Colony personnel and coordinators. To enquire about anything in advance, call Eric Holowacz, Sedona Arts Center: 928-282-3809 or 917-720-5029 or email him.
About the residency, campus, and environs
What is the campus housing like?Can I get a king-size bed?
Dorm rooms are basic and configured in single, double, or triple bedrooms with common bathroom and walk-in closet. Most are furnished with single beds and bunks. We will try to place you in a private room (single or double), so you have your own living space—unless you are coming with a partner, family, or close collaborator. For those with special needs, group residencies, or families, housing will be in double or triple dormitory or in a faculty house. There are several dormitory buildings on campus, and each has a common (lounge) room inside, a patio area outside, as well as a connected faculty house. Everything is a short walk from the dining hall and other facilities.
Can I camp in the wilderness?
Yes, there are trails right from the campus to various parts of the Coconino National Forest and tent camping is permitted in some places accessible from Verde Valley School. Campfires are not permitted in most locations, however. It is best to consult the Sedona Summer Colony HQ on campus, before planning an off-site adventure.
What is weather like in June and July?
Because of its 5000 ft elevation and unique ecosystem, Sedona does not suffer from the constant high summer temperatures of Phoenix and the lower elevation valley. In the hottest summer months, temperatures go from low 60s in the evenings and morning, to low 90s in the afternoon. Our summer high temperature is usually 10-15 degrees lower than at the same time in Phoenix. Sedona receives an average of 330 days of sunshine in a year, and with relatively low humidity.
Is there Air Conditioning?
Most of the accommodations at Verde Valley School have an evaporative cooling system, also known as “swamp cooler.” These are used in low-humidity environments, and cool the rooms slowly but surely. Some of the faculty housing have standard electric air conditioning, as does most of the campus buildings.
Is there WiFi and Internet? How is the cellphone coverage on campus?
Yes, the campus has WiFi and Internet connections throughout. Because of the red rock landscapes, mobile service can come and go based on location. Depending on your carrier, coverage may not be possible in all locations on or off campus—but all major providers service the area.
Will there be a kitchen to cook meals?
Dorm rooms do not have kitchens, but meals are provided in the campus dining hall. In some cases, by special arrangement, group/family residents may be placed in a faculty house, which has multiple bedrooms and a kitchen.
What are the meals like?
Chef Michael Briggs and his kitchen staff at Verde Valley School will be preparing and serving meals in the dining hall for all Sedona Summer Colony residents. Michael trained at the Culinary Institute of America and uses healthy ingredients, with many sourced from the campus farm. We will try to accommodate any special dietary needs identified in advance.
Do I need to bring sheets and pillows, a bike, a car?
Linens will be provided in your room, but you are welcome to bring your own if desired. The campus has a supply of mountain bikes, which will be available to residents. There is plenty of parking on campus, should you drive in or rent a car for your residency. We will provide a shuttle and some regular local transportation, to support residents’ needs and optional excursions to local points of interest, trails, Sinaguan ruins.
Should I bring my favorite towel?
“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.” So yes, with a nod to Douglas Adams: always bring a towel.
Can my family join me?
Yes, partners and family are welcome, if identified and approved in advance—and if suitable accommodation can be confirmed. There is no on-site child care.
Can I bring my pet?
We discourage pets during the residency, but can approve them if the owner is able to ensure adequate care and attention. Pets need to be on a leash when outside, at all times. And care must be taken to ensure that pets do not disrupt the other residents or the campus.
Can I barbecue / cook out on the campus? Are there outdoor grills?
You are welcome to cook outside, providing you supply a grill. The campus does not have community outdoor grills.
Is there a laundry room / washing machine on campus?
Yes, all of the dormitory buildings have laundry facilities in them, and some of the faculty houses do as well.
Can I drive the golf carts around?
Unfortunately, the school golf carts and vehicles are for approved drivers only. There is plenty of parking, should you bring a car, and the campus has a supply of mountain bikes that will be available to residents.
Are there computers and printers available?
Printers are available in several locations, and there is a campus facility with several workstations. If you think you might need use of a school computer during the residency, just let us know, and we will set things up.
Can I help out on the campus organic farm?
Residents are welcome to support and work on the small but growing organic farm, located next to the campus equestrian facilities. Work on the farm should be approved by the school’s farmer, Michael Spielman, who will welcome any interest in his work and produce.
Is there a gym or exercise room on campus?
The campus fitness room is currently under renovation. The good news is that the upgrades are expected to be complete by mid June, meaning the answer to this questions is yes.
I have a special need, limited mobility, am under a doctor’s care, or require unique accommodations?
Sedona Summer Colony and the Verde Valley Campus aim to accommodate the needs of all residents. In some cases, we may not be able to do this, so it is important that you let us know in advance if you require anything specific in order to participate. The campus and surrounding area, like trails and some vehicles, may not accommodate those with limited mobility. If we know what is needed in advance, the program will make every effort to overcome existing limitations. If you are under medical care or require regular access to a local physician, please consult your primary doctor about the time you will spend in Sedona and what might be needed for continuity and wellbeing. The nearest full hospitals are over one hour away, with specialist and tertiary care usually located two-hours away in Phoenix.
About supporting your creative work, projects, and collaborations
What kind of work space and creative facilities can I expect?
The campus has never been used as an artists colony, but during the school year is home to 120 students and several dozen faculty and administrators. The school has developed over the past 75 years into a self-contained, village-like community, set in a remote corner of Sedona, between the Village of Oak Creek (4 miles down the road) and the actual Oak Creek (a few miles in the other direction). It looks out to Cathedral Rock, Seven Warriors Mesa, and is surrounded on 3 sides by Coconino National Forest. Campus facilities include the dormitories and housing, as well as a performing arts hall and small gallery, library and computer room, art room, ceramics studio and yard, chapel, dining hall, equestrian facilities, organic farm, sports fields, small sound recording studio, and classrooms. To support residents’ creative needs, and work space, we will adapt and use all of the available facilities.
Consider the campus to be very basic, with vacant rooms to use, and the great outdoors in every direction. If the focus of your residency involves staying inside and working in a highly refined studio setting, please let us know what you require in advance. And if you need a dedicated studio space or equipment the entire time you are in residence, let us know so we can obligate what is available (and confirm before arrival). If you can make do with vacant classrooms, remain flexible during the residency, and share use of the art facilities and chapel and library, the campus should satisfy. Those who place a focus on connecting with the Sedona landscape and exploring the wonders of the world outside will thrive here this summer.
Where do I get art supplies while in Sedona?
We wish there was a good answer. The main local source, Sedona Art Supply, closed a few years ago. There is a gallery and frame shop called Cloud 9, located in West Sedona. They have a small section of art supplies. In Flagstaff there is a Michael’s and a store called Visible Difference. And as a last resort, the Wal-Mart in Cottonwood, about 30 minutes away, has a craft section. The best answer is: order online, or check Amazon.com and have supplies sent to you at the Verde Valley School address above.
What if I need off-site space, a dance studio, grand piano, 4K video projector, or a hot air balloon?
There are several options for dedicated off-site studio space and creative facilities outside the campus. The Collective Sedona, a diverse mixed development within the Village of Oak Creek, has agreed to offer vacant commercial space to residents. Sedona Arts Center’s facilities, thirty minutes away, will also be available when not in use. We have ongoing partnerships with Sedona International Film Festival and their Mary Fisher Theatre (independent cinema in West Sedona); local dance impresario and Sedona Chamber Ballet founder, Winnie Muench; the Melting Point glass studio and hot shop; the City of Sedona’s facilities; and others who might support resident artists. We even have access to local hot air ballon pilots, but cannot guarantee any air time.
I want to use a 5-foot 3D printer while there!
You may be in luck. The Collective Sedona, a partner property located in the Village of Oak Creek, recently installed a large-scale BigRep One 3D printer that will output objects almost 5-feet square. And the owner is a big supporter of the Sedona Summer Colony idea. If you have experience with 3D printing, and would like to propose a residency project involving the BigRep One at The Collective Sedona, please let us know.
What if I want to present work to an audience while in Sedona?
The focus of Sedona Summer Colony is on supporting the guest-host relationship with our 125+ inaugural residents.—and on supporting their time, space, and creative development on campus. While some may be supported this summer, we are discouraging projects that require a live audience, technical production, audience development, and presenting to the public. While we welcome public engagement opportunities—concerts, lectures, workshops, demonstrations, and performances—the summer program has limited ability to produce or co-produce these things during the residency season. With that said, we are happy to investigate and support these opportunities when possible.
Can I suggest a collaborator for this year, or a resident for next year?
You sure can. If you’ve been invited, and wish to suggest or bring a colleague or collaborator, just let us know. We are eager to support new cultural production and the collaborative process. And if you want to propose a potential resident for next summer, we would be happy to throw them into the mix as the Sedona Summer Colony develops.
Can I come in the fall, winter, or spring instead?
Maybe. Sedona Arts Center is working to build the capacity to invite and host residencies throughout the year, possibly within the City of Sedona. At this stage, we are focused on the Sedona Summer Colony and the excellent residency infrastructure at Verde Valley School.
How do I credit the Sedona Summer Colony?
If you would like to thank, credit, or mention our residency program in any way, here are the various names to use: Sedona Summer Colony; Sedona Summer Colony for Artists and Cultural Managers; Sedona Summer Colony—a new American residency program established in 2016 by Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School.
Other things you might want to know
Where is Sedona Arts Center?
Sedona Arts Center is located at the end of the main street (Highway 89A North) in Uptown Sedona, just before the drive into Oak Creek Canyon. It is about 8 miles from the Verde Valley School campus, along Highway 179 and then Highway 89A North. The campus includes the historic Art barn, acquired in 1961 as the original small town cultural center site, as well as an active ceramics studio and program, a fine art gallery that represents the work of 110 local artists, several classrooms, and a black box theatre/event space. The drive between Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center takes approximately 30 minutes.
How far is the campus from downtown Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and Jerome?
It is 8 miles from the Village of Oak Creek to the downtown areas of Sedona, connected by a dramatically beautiful red rock drive along the slow and meandering Highway 179. Downtown Sedona is split into two locations: the touristy Uptown (where Sedona Arts Center is located) and West Sedona (where most non-tourist related commercial businesses, recreation areas, super markets, cinemas, and local restaurants are). Camp Verde, where most of the Yavapai-Apache Nation is located, is about 15 miles South along Interstate 17. A major Sinaguan ruin, Montezuma’s Castle, is located off the Camp Verde exit. Arcosanti, the intentional community and urban laboratory founded by Paolo Soleri, is about a half hour further South and welcomes visitors and overnight guests. Other nearby high desert communities include Cornville (down Beaverhead Flats Road, and home to the folk art environment built by visionary artist Michael Kahn called Eliphante), Cottonwood (about 20 miles from the Village of Oak Creek), and Jerome (a former copper mining town located on the mountain high above Cottonwood and its neighbor Clarkdale). Oak Creek Canyon, often referred to as a mini-Grand Canyon, is the gorge that begins after Uptown Sedona and continues up to the 7000-ft elevation city of Flagstaff.
Did you say you’ve never done this (a residency program) before?
To be more specific, both Eric Holowacz of Sedona Arts Center and Paul Amadio of Verde Valley School have indeed founded, developed, and managed artist residencies before. Amadio is a trained actor, toured nationally in Grease, and was a driving force at Ojai Playwrights Conference. Holowacz was founding director of The Studios of Key West, established residencies in New Zealand and Australia, and created the Pritchards Island Artist Retreat in the late 1990s. Between them, they have also directed festivals, managed cultural facilities, produced new works, and run nonprofit organizations for the past few decades. But here, in Sedona, this idea of a live/work colony supporting hundreds of creative people is new.
Is there anything on the Internet about the Sedona Summer Colony?
No, not yet—we’ve intentionally kept the development of the program quiet during the incubation stage. We have begun soft announcements about the inaugural program, locally, and expect to more formally announce the establishment of Sedona Summer Colony after this summer. You will have an opportunity to help us shape and refine the idea of an ongoing residency for artists and cultural managers here in Sedona.
Who else will be in residence during the inaugural Sedona Summer Colony?
Nearly 200 of America’s most interesting artists, cultural producers, and creative leaders were invited to be part of the upcoming inaugural Sedona Summer Colony—as well as a few from other countries. We anticipate 125+ will be in residence between 19 June and 10 August, staying between 1 and 4 weeks. The roster of confirmed residents is not public information yet.
Will I meet the local community, and my fellow residents?
Sedona Summer Colony residencies can be inwardly focused, like a hermitage filled with solitude, or they can be about finding new connections and inspiration in the high desert and red rock environment. We intend to support the requirements of each resident, whether that is anonymity and minimal public interaction or heavy community engagement and local participation. And while the campus environment will not be open to the public in an announced way, there may be visitors and school alumni at the school from time to time.
As a Sunday afternoon ritual, we are planning weekly Summer Colony potluck dinners where members of the community can bring dishes and share a meal with residents. These optional gatherings will also provide a casual platform for interaction with other residents, as well as a place to present ideas, discuss projects in development, and find potential support and collaboration.
What are some of the possible excursions that will be offered to residents?
During your residency, we will offer optional excursions to connect with trails and natural features like Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, Cathedral Rock, Soldier’s Pass, Red Rock Crossing, and Oak Creek Canyon. Other opportunities might include a trip to the Grand Canyon, Sinaguan ruins, local energy vortexes, Jerome and the Gold King Mine, as well as the Lowell Observatory and Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. For residents with specific needs, if identified in advance, we will try to accommodate research needs, possible local collaborations, and creative interests.
I'm very private. Will you publish my name or use my participation to publicize the program?
We will respect any request for privacy and anonymity—and we will also welcome those who wish to help us promote and advance Sedona Summer Colony. If you would prefer not to be listed, quoted, or mentioned, please just let us know. Likewise, if you are interested in helping the program with a quote, interview, photo opportunity, or any form of external relations, we would be grateful.
How did you find me, why was I selected?
You were invited because of the work you do, either as an artistic practitioner, cultural manager, or as a leader in a creative industry. Besides the usual artistic disciplines, we’ve also invited theoretical thinkers, technologists, activists, political pundits, television and comedy writers, bloggers, culinary figures, fashion designers, and astronaut instructors. The process we used to identify potential invitees and residents—and the primary rubric involved—is cryptic and abstruse and not likely to be revealed.
What if I am arriving from abroad or am not a US citizen?
If you are a foreign national, we will provide a letter of invitation in advance with details about the residency and what is provided. You are responsible for obtaining any necessary visas or travel permits, and ensuring that you can legally enter the country as a tourist. Please consult your nearest American consulate or Embassy for current requirements.
What is a Vortex?
According to contemporary tourism literature: A vortex or vortexes are areas of concentrated energy rising from the earth, often accompanied by supernatural phenomenon and considered to be places of heightened spiritual and metaphysical energy . Some consider them to be a portal for celestial and terrestrial spirits, and others report the sensation of a slight tingling on exposed skin, or vibrations emanating from the ground when encountering a vortex. A common sign of vortex energy is tree branches growing together, as if fused by a concentric force. Seeking the vortexes, and their earth-borne power sources, is a popular past-time for residents and visitors in Sedona. Some just call it hiking. You can find vortexes (or just a fabulous hiking trail) at the Airport Mesa, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Boynton Canyon, Munds Trail on Schnebly Hill Road, and Spaceship Rock at Courthouse Butte. If you ask us: the vortex is inside you!
Should I be careful when hiking or exploring?
Yes. When you hit the trails or climb Bell Rock or go deep into Boynton Canyon, there are no safety nets. People sometimes get lost and meet a tragic end while doing these very simple things. Be mindful of the terrain, and the weather conditions, and the fact that you can get immersed in natural beauty here. Understand that you share Sedona with snakes, coyotes, bobcats, large furry spiders, elk, and other native animals. You may never encounter these critters, and they almost never attack people…but you may hear some of them at night, while in residence or if camping in the wild. If you know that you are part of their world, your exploration will be even more respectful of their environment.
Tell me about Indigenous cultures and Native Peoples.
Evidence of human presence in the region begins around 4000 BC, when hunter-gatherers roamed through the Verde Valley. As early as 300 BC the dry desert land was being farmed by the Hohokam people, who created a systems of irrigation canals around 700 AD. They mysteriously abandoned the area, possibly as a result of the volcanic eruption in 1066 AD. The agrarian Sinagua Indians followed, and farmed, built pueblos and cliff dwellings, and may be linked to the more sophisticated (and still mysterious) Anasazi Indians. They made baskets, pottery and jewelry, and established trading relationships with tribes from the Pacific coastal regions and northern Mexico, including high-grade copper mined in the areas west of Sedona. Early in the 15th century, the Sinaguan people disappeared from the area (another great mystery). About this time the Yavapai and Apache Indians began to settle along the sides of Oak Creek canyon.
Traces of the Sinagua may be found in the remains of their ruined pueblos scattered around the Sedona area. Sites such as Palatki, Honanki, and Wupatki had dozens of rooms in double story buildings and were decorated with intriguing pictographs and petroglyphs of clan affiliations, mythological beings and astronomical observations. If ancient ruins and petroglyphs interest you, just let us know. We are eager to share them with our residents.
Can you connect me to the Yavapai-Apache Nation? Hopi? Navajo? Zuni? Anasazi?
We can make an effort to connect you with the leaders of the local Native American tribes. Our region of the Colorado Plateau is home to the combined Yavapai and Apache cultures, with Navajo, Hopi, Ute and Zuni nations several hours away (beyond Flagstaff and into the Four Corners). The Ancestral Pueblo peoples (Anasazi, Sinaguan, Hohokam) established agrarian communities then left the area between 600-800 years ago. But the Sinaguan ruins and pueblos can still be found in nearby cliffs, creeksides, and caves. The cultures that migrated away are now known by the Hopi as “Hisatsinom” (“people of long ago”). Near the campus, Sinaguan ruins that can be easily visited by car include Montezuma’s Well and Castle, Wupatki Pueblo, Tuzigoot, Palatki, and Walnut Canyon.
Tell me a Yavapai story.
The Yavapai (People of the Sun) have been settled in this area for over 600 years. Spanish explorers identified three groups naming them Cruzados (because they wore crosses in their hair), Nijoras and Tejuas. To the Yavapai, Sedona’s red rocks are the bodies and blood of huge monsters. One epic story tells that Shaman and hero Skatakaamcha protected the area by slaying these monsters, including a giant eagle. A nest of massive birds then lived on a red rock mountaintop (present-day Cathedral Rock) and often attacked the Yavapai who passed below. Skatakaamcha enlisted the aid of a dove, a mouse and other small creatures on the ground, and enticed a giant eagle into carrying him off to its nest. There, Skatakaamcha killed the family of monster eagles and fledglings, but was left with no pathway back down. Below the cliff, he spotted the bat (Kampanyika) collecting seeds. "Grandmother, come up here and take me down," he called out. The bat swooped up to the top, and brought with her the first burden basket. "My grandson, if you will sit in this basket and not open your eyes, I will take you down". During the descent, Skatakaamcha could not resist a look as they neared the base of the mountain—and both went crashing into the earth. Luckily, the basket saved Skatakaamcha, so he could go on slaying beasts and making the surrounding land a better place for Yavapai. When you look North from the Verde Valley School campus, Cathedral Rock will remind you of this story.
Do the Yavapai have an origin story?
Of course. Yavapai oral tradition tells that the people first emerged from the underground through a large hole called Ahagaskiaywa (now known as Montezuma’s Well, located about ten miles from Verde Valley School). Komwidpokuwia (old stone woman), originally came from the hole in the earth, where the Yavapai had been living. As the great flood approached, the elders placed her inside a hollow log, along with a woodpecker, some food, and a white stone for protection. Then they sealed the log with pitch so she would float to safety and create the next world. Komwidapokuwia landed in a high place in Boynton Canyon, on the other side of present-day Sedona. The Woodpecker freed her from the log and guided her as she traveled to the summit of Mingus Mountain, bearing the white stone from her people. There, she met the Sun, who fell in love with Komwidpokuwia and followed her back to an enchanted pool in Boynton Canyon. Soon afterward, she gave birth to a daughter who became the mother to all Yavapai people. The three sites: Montezuma Well, Sedona/Boynton Canyon, and Mingus Mountain make up the Yavapai’s “Sacred Triangle” of Sedona.
When and what is Monsoon season, and what is a haboob?
From about mid-June, our high desert landscapes also see the annual phenomenon known as Arizona Monsoon, caused by winds shifting from a Northern Source to a Southerly origin across the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Monsoon season here brings short afternoon rains and sometimes dramatic thunderstorms, which also cool the environment and make for magical skies above the red rock horizons. Every now and then, the shifting winds also bring a dust storm phenomenon known as a haboob, which can darken the skies and seem like a tornado is coming. And then they are gone.
What is a riparian zone?
The area around Sedona has several creeks and rivers running through it: Oak Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, and the Verde River are primary waterways that feed the life of our community. While the high desert landscapes of Northern Arizona are mostly dry and brown, the waterway landscapes around theses rivers are known as the riparian zone. Here you will find entirely different trees and plant life, migratory birds, amphibians and mammals, and a feeling very different to the outside desert landscape. In spring and summer there are lush grasses, cottonwood and willow trees, wild flowers, waterfowl and songbirds throughout the riparian zone.
Red rocks everywhere? Geologically, what am I looking at?
Sedona’s monolithic rock formations and canyon walls show nine layers of stone from different geological periods. These strata span hundreds of millions of years. You will notice six layers of sandstone, two thin layers of limestone and atop all of these, one igneous layer of basalt stone. The sandstone and limestone layers, literally all around you, were formed by wind blown sand dunes or mud deposited by inland seas over millions of years. The red colors of some of the sandstone layers are the result of iron oxide staining the rocks over eons. The uppermost igneous layer was deposited by volcanic eruptions 14.5 million years ago, and this once covered the entire Verde Valley several meters deep in lava.
What are all those stacks of small rocks, piled on top of one another?
Some people call them cairns. Go to any vortex site, and you may find dozens, even hundreds of small rocks stacked single file—some defying gravity. Down at Buddha Beach, at the bend in Oak Creek, they pop up out of the water and line the edge of the river. On formal trails, cairns are encased piles rocks used to mark the path. In the wild, or where the vortex energy is most inspiring, you’ll find a stack of rocks—one on top of the other—balancing to almost impossible heights. Some find peace in making them. Others are perturbed and antagonistic about the man-made stacks imposed on the otherwise innocent landscape. Whether you find spiritual bliss or want to kick them all over: you will encounter carefully balanced cairns as you explore the red rock landscape.
What’s with all the hummingbirds?
Several species of hummingbirds can be found year-round in Sedona. Beginning in July, migrant hummingbirds begin to arrive after completing their nesting season from regions to the north of Sedona—bringing a diversity and a distinct buzzing to our backyards. Some of the summer species are Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous, Broad-tailed, and Calliope Hummingbirds. You are likely to see and hear them while in residence.
What other creatures inhabit the area?
The Coconino National Forest, and the area around Verde Valley School, is home to elk, black bear, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes. You may also encounter tarantulas, snakes, lizards, skunks, and roving bands of javelinas (also known as peccary). Even if you don’t encounter the thin-legged boar-like javelina, you will likely smell its musky scent—which comes form a powerful gland on the top of its rump used to mark territory and scent the other members of their group.
Verde Valley, Mogollon Rim, Sinaguan, Javalina. How do you pronounce them?
Locals say “Vur-dee” instead of “Vair-day.” And Mogollon is pronounced like “Moe-ghee-yon.” Sinaguan, which is from the Spanish for “without water,” is pronounced either “sin-ah-gwin” or “sin-ah-when.” The New World pig you might encounter while here, the javelin, is pronounced “Have-uh-lee-nuh.” Now you know.
Can I make a donation in support of the Sedona Summer Colony?
Certainly. Both Sedona Arts Cetner and Verde Valley School are nonprofit organizations, and gladly accept charitable contributions. If you would like to provide support for the Sedona Summer Colony, or other programs and operations, simply let us know.
What are kachinas?
A kachina (or katsina) is a Native American spirit being—personifications of things in the real world—found in western Pueblo religious beliefs (particularly Hopi, Zuni, and Tewa Village). These spirits are believed to visit the Hopi villages during the first half of the year, and there are three manifestations: a supernatural being, masked dancers who represent kachinas at ceremonies, and small carved dolls given to children and in the likeness of kachinas. There are more than 400 different kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture, including spirit figures that represent the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, and character traits.
What is a kachina doll?
Hopi katsina dolls, called tihu in Hopi, are carved representations of the katsinam, the spirits essences of ancestors, plants, animals, clouds, and, indeed, everything in the Hopi universe. They are carved from the root of the cottonwood tree and traditionally given to young girls by the katsimam at the time of the ceremonial Bean Dance (Powamuya) in February and the Home Dance (Niman) in late July. When katsina dolls are presented, they are given as prayer gifts for the girl to grow, be happy and healthy, and to have a long life. Infant girls receive their first doll in the form a flat or “cradle” doll (putsqatihu) that represents Hahay’wuuti, the “mother of the katsinam,” who is said to embody all the qualities of a good mother. In some villages, infant boys may also receive this flat doll, although they then receive no other. Little girls receive these cradle dolls for several years and then when they are older they begin receiving katsina dolls with arms, legs, and carved bodies.
How can I learn more about modern-day Native cultures?
The Museum of Northern Arizona, in Flagstaff, is a collections and research institution, and has significant ethnographic resources. On July 2 and 3, 2016, the museum will present the 83rd Annual Hopi Festival of Arts & Culture. A July 4th tradition since the 1930s, the event features more than 80 award-winning artists and presenters from the Hopi villages in northern Arizona. The festival includes jewelry, katsinas, pottery, paintings, woodworking, baskets, textiles, traditional music, dancing and Native American food, as well as insightful lectures. The Sedona Summer Colony works in partnership with the Museum, and can arrange a guided tour of its collections and exhibitions for our residents.
What is a prickly pear?
A member of the Cactaceae family, prickly pear cactus are found all over Sedona and the Verde Valley. Also known as nopal, they grow in clusters of pads that form asymmetrical shapes and have both thick protruding spines as well as smaller harder to see spines called glochids. The pads and fruit of the prickly pear cactus are edible, and the fruit (often called the tuna) can be peeled and eaten raw or made into candy, jelly, juice, or wine. From early spring to summer, the cactus blossoms with red, yellow, or purple flowers, which later become the fruit (which are ripest from September to November). Parts of the prickly pear have long been used by Native People for their healing properties, and remains popular as a local treatment for cuts, insect bites, sunburn, and windburn.
What is the VOC?
VOC stands for Village of Oak Creek, the small hamlet located along Highway 179 a few miles form the Verde Valley School campus. Also known as “The Village” or its earlier name Big Park, Arizona, the VOC is not to be confused with Oak Creek Canyon (the gorge and higher elevation canyon located to the North of Sedona).
What kind of restaurants and grocery stores are in Sedona and the VOC?
The region sees several million tourists a year, and recreation, adventure, spiritualism, and leisure pursuits are the major industry. Sedona has a diverse range of dining options—from Thai to Middle Eastern and from New York pizza to fine Southwestern dining. There are also restaurants that specialise in vegan, paleo, and farm-to-table menus. The Weber IGA is the only super market in the VOC, located about 3 miles from campus at the town end of Verde Valley School. West Sedona has many more options, including a Whole Foods, Safeway, Bashas’ (Arizona-based grocery store), and a Natural Grocers.
Can I find psychics, crystals, metaphysics, and New Age spirituality? What about yoga, tai chi, massage and pilates?
If you are looking to get metaphysical, and explore alternate forms of spirituality, Sedona has plenty to offer. Discover Atlantean wisdom, learn about the Ascended Masters, Reiki, Shamballa and Theosophy, Shamanic ceremony, and get to know Kryon of Magnetic Service. It’s all here, all around us, just like the fabled Energy Vortexes that tourists seem to constantly enquire about. Local establishments that offer readings, supplies, and spiritual pathways include Center for the New Age, Sedona Crystal Vortex, the School of Wholeness, Sedona Awareness Healing Center, Sacred Light of Sedona, University of Metaphysics, and the International Institute of Advanced Metaphysics. Sedona also has plenty to offer in the way of yoga, massage, and movement. Some local sources include Sedona Meditation Center, Light Body Pilates, 7 Centers Yoga Arts, Vortex Yoga Hiking, and Vita Pura Yoga.
Will I be able to see the Milky Way?
Both Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek are Dark Sky Communities, and join a dozen other US cities in preserving and protecting the night sky. The special designation means an intentionally low-level of light pollution at night and along streets and urban environments. The result is a town that gets dark soon after sunset, giving way to robust views to the Milky Way and the heavenly bodies above. This makes our region one of the best for star-gazing and hobbyist astronomers, and this summer we will connect interested residents with opportunities to view the night sky, visit the Lowell Observatory, or meet with local stargazing groups.
How did Sedona get its name?
In 1900, about 15 homesteading families called the area home. T. C. Schnebly, an enterprising young man from Gorin, Missouri, was one of them. He had married Sedona Miller and moved here after his brother, Ellsworth, had settled in Arizona for health reasons. Finding a unique place to live, Ellsworth convinced T. C. and Sedona to join him in red rock country. The Schnebly’s built a large two-story home that also served as the area's first hotel and general store. The brothers saw a need for regular mail service, and T. C. organized the village’s first post office.
He suggested the names Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station, but the Postmaster General in Washington had a prejudice for one-word names for postmarks. Ellsworth advised him, "Why don't you name it after your wife?” and in 1902, the town of Sedona got an official name.
When Sedona Miller was born in 1877, in Missouri, her mother "just thought up" the name Sedona for the child—because she thought it sounded pretty. So, even though the name sounds like it could be Spanish, Native American, or derived from Latin, it is an entirely made-up name.
Tell me about the Cowboy Artists of America
On June 23, 1965, at the Oak Creek Tavern in Sedona, a handful of notable cowboy artists gathered for a drink and conversation. They were Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton, George Phippen and western writer Robert MacLeod. As the cold beer flowed, the four founded the organization of artists that would become a full-blown cultural phenomenon. A few days later, in Charlie Dye’s Sedona studio, they met again to formalize their ideas for the new organization: Cowboy Artists of America. Their objectives were simple: To perpetuate the memory and culture of the Old West as typified by the late Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and others; to insure authentic representations of the life of the West, as it was and is; to maintain standards of quality in contemporary Western art; to help guide collectors of Western art; to give mutual assistance in protection of artists’ rights; to conduct a trail ride and campout in some locality of special interest once a year; and to hold an annual joint exhibition of the works of active members. Their efforts and art soon became known around the country, and helped galvanise a national interest in Western art.
About them Charles Goodnight, the consummate Texas cowman, once wrote: Most of the time we were solitary adventurers in a great land as fresh and new as a spring morning, and we were free and full of the zest of darers. The zest of the Western darers remains implicit in, and fundamental to, the paintings and sculpture of the Cowboy Artists and in their lives as well. They have created a collective celebration of life in a land like no other. And each spring or early summer, the group still gathers somewhere in the West on a real ranch at roundup time just for fellowship and fun.
What about Hollywood and the Western film genre?
In the 1940’s and 50’s Hollywood began filming western movies here, setting features amidst the red rocks—Billy the Kid, Apache, Johnny Guitar, and Comancheros, and Broken Arrow. Many of Hollywood's classic westerns of that era were filmed in or near Sedona, because the red rock buttes and desert landscape provided a striking setting for the genre. Famous actors who have appeared in movies filmed in Sedona include Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford, Rock Hudson, Gene Autry, Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Ryan O’Neal, Elvis Presley and Robert De Niro.
What’s up with the Max Ernst / Dorothea Tanning connection?
As the story goes, soon after Max Ernst left Peggy Guggenheim for Dorothea Tanning in 1943, the pair drove cross country from New York. As they meandered through the Sedona landscapes, the Dada and Surrealist pioneer realised he had found the environment dreamed of in his pre-war paintings. The two decided that here, between the red rocks and high desert landscapes, they needed to stop, build a hoe and studio, and settle. And they did. By 1946, Ernst and Tanning settled and built a small wooden house in Brewer Road, near the Forest Service ranger station. The following year, Herni Cartier-Bresson visits and records their wild West existence. In 1948, Ernst begins working on the sculpture Capricorn, a masterpiece and lasting legacy of his Sedona years. Yves Tanguy visits them, and other modernists and intellectuals knock on their door throughout the early 1950s. The pair move to Paris, but visit Sedona off and on throughout the 1950s.
Egyptian sculptor Nassan Gobran—then head of the art department at Verde Valley School—moves into their Brewer Road home and uses it as his studio. It is there—at a time when there were very few residents, no resorts or super markets, and no other significant artists—that Sedona Arts Center is born. In 1958, at the Ernst / Tanning home, Gobran gathered the town’s business and civic leaders for a “gourmet chicken dinner.” He charmingly pitched the idea of establishing Sedona as an artists’ community, and laid the groundwork for the establishment of a new cultural facility. Everybody agreed to the vision. Five years later, Sedona Arts Center acquired the Jordan Apple Packing Barn and found a new home for classes, lectures, and exhibitions. It opened in 1961 with a party for most of the towns residents and an exhibition of works by Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning.
Can I return to Sedona later, and bring or present a project?
Certainly. We are very interested in partnerships and projects that proceed from and go beyond the inaugural Sedona Summer Colony. Both Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center are led by visionary creative people, producers, and impresarios. Feel free to think longer term, and propose any kind of future partnerships that might benefit your work and impact our small town in some way.
What about driving and speed limits in Sedona?
Be mindful that the speed limit is 35mph for most of the way between the Village of Oak Creek and Sedona. It can seem slow going, and you will want to go faster,—but most of us are in no hurry. And besides, the local police frown on speeding through our red rock paradise. Also be mindful that Sedona has roundabouts, lots of them, instead of stop lights. This is partially a beautification thing, but also eliminated the need for stop signs—which theoretically keeps the traffic flowing. This is often defeated, however, by tourists form Phoenix and out of state who have no idea how to proceed through a traffic circle, or when to yield. The rule is, keep driving through a roundabout (do not stop) if there is no oncoming traffic on your left. If so, yield until they have passed your entrance point. The most problematic series of roundabout is between Uptown Sedona and West Sedona, where Highways 89A and 179 come together. Known as “The Y” by locals, this intersection is now a series of roundabouts that flummoxes visitors and is likely to get you heading in the wrong direction early in your Sedona driving career. Don’t worry, just go to the next roundabout and circle all the way back. A final note about traffic: on holiday or summer weekends, the Y and highways around it can get backup up for miles, with out-of-state cars and people escaping Phoenix. The result is a slow crawl into Uptown.
Can I smoke, do drugs, raise hell, party in the desert?
Smoking is not permitted indoors on campus, and only allowed in designated areas. If you’d like to do anything deemed illegal by local state, or Federal authorities, we’d prefer that you not do it while in residence. Period. And, if you chose to while on the Verde Valley School campus, we reserve the right to ask you to leave, permanently. Not to seem harsh: parties and social gatherings and wild expressions of happiness are encouraged during the Sedona Summer Colony.
I need a local swimming hole: where do I go?
Our favorite place to jump in the water, closest to campus, is at the end of the dirt portion of Verde Valley School road. Turn left from the school entrance and go for a few miles towards Cathedral Rock, until you get to the trailhead parking area. Across the street take Baldwin Trail over the red rocks and into the lush and green riparian zone.This is where Oak Creek flows, and a trail to the left takes you to Red Rock Crossing and an excellent swimming hole. The trail to the right takes you under Cathedral Rock and to several swimming holes and eventually to the bend known as Buddha Beach. If you can’t find it, don’t worry: we’ll take you there.
I want to ride horses!
While Verde Valley School has an equestrian facility, ring and resident horse population, the equestrian manager is away during the summer. The campus horses are boarded about 15 miles away in Camp Verde. We can’t guarantee that riding will be available during the Sedona Summer Colony, but let us know if that is something you are interested in: as we may be able to connect residents with horse-riding activities during the residency season.
Contact Sedona Arts Center
Eric Holowacz, Executive Director
Sedona Arts Center
15 Art Barn Road
Sedona, AZ 86336