New American Residency for Artists and Cultural Managers Grows in the Desert
The Sedona Summer Colony experiment began nearly two weeks ago, and is now hosting fifty residents from all over the world. Since opening the Verde Valley School campus on June 19, the partnership between Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School has been growing a new American residency program for artists, cultural managers, and creative producers. They come from all over the world—and in the high elevation desert of Northern Arizona, they've found a new sense of wonder and inspiration. The following letter/op-ed piece, by Eric Holowacz (Sedona Arts Center executive director and co-founder of Sedona Summer Colony), looks back on the journey and how it began...
When Paul Amadio, new Head of Verde Valley School, and I first met over a bottle of wine late last year, it was like two long lost brothers reconnecting. We both arrived in Sedona in July 2015, and both came from other parts of the globe to settle in this red rock paradise. We unpacked suitcases filled with ideas and dreams for our organizations, and we both had creativity in our DNA. After a great dinner and a few hours of conversation, the seeds for a new American residency program had been planted. Before dessert was served, the quiet off-season campus of Verde Valley School had a nascent plan to become the Sedona Summer Colony for Artists and Cultural Managers. These past few weeks—thanks to hundreds of wonderful staff, volunteers, and creative people—our brotherly dream has become real.
The campus and our community at-large is now hosting an influx of choreographers, poets, musicians, painters, and cultural leaders. We have welcomed creative people from Rhode Island, New Zealand, Miami, Australia, Chicago, and other places currently unconnected to our high desert environment. And thanks to the Verde Valley School staff and board—and dozens of committed community volunteers—the program is housing them, feeding them, and providing platforms for new artistic work. We have begun introducing our guests to Sinaguan ruins, Oak Creek swimming holes, the Gold King Mine, flowering prickly pear, a hike up Bell Rock, and the majesty of monsoon season.
As we began telling people about this guest-host plan in early 2016, Sedona immediately responded. Our dream for an extraordinary creative place soon became a vision shared by all of the Verde Valley. Donors offered additional housing. Patrons volunteered to host receptions and dinner parties. Local artists donated supplies. Potluck dinners were planned. Volunteers and goodwill appeared where we never had them before. This past week and the month that follows, our reconnected organizations are combining all of those wonderful new ingredients to establish the Sedona Summer Colony as America's next great artist residency program.
Back when we shared that first meal in November, neither Paul nor I could have predicted the wonders of this experiment in creative placemaking. We planted the seeds, and can only ponder the beautiful harvest that is yet to come. It really did take a village of visionary thinkers and an entire community of fearless cultural supporters to nurture this partnership. As we welcome the active ingredients to Sedona—artists, thinkers, makers, and creative producers—the Verde Valley School campus is becoming the most creative place in the Wild West. And for that, we thank our community for playing host and for helping us grow something special in the desert. As the journey continues, we raise our glasses high into the air. Let the Sedona Summer Colony begin!
Meet the Inaugural Visiting Artists and Cultural Managers
The first ever Sedona Summer Colony has already welcomed the below artists, creative producers, and cultural managers to town. Those in Sedona can now find them out on the town, exploring trails and red rock vistas, cooling off in Oak Creek and Buddha Beach, and in studio spaces at Verde Valley School. You can also follow their experiences on the Sedona Summer Colony Facebook page. We salute the below June visiting artists (and the ones who will follow in July) for sowing the seeds of America's next great cultural residency program with us...
Teddy Cafaro Music, Los Angeles Rob Chidester Music / Film, Louisiana Maya Ciarrocchi Visual Arts / Film, New York Rebecca Edwards Photography / Yoga, Australia Bob Halstead Underwater Photography, Australia Autumn HIggins Visual Arts / Ceramics, Minnesota Vahakn Arslanian Visual Arts, New York Sean Illing Political Journalism, Washington DC Bob Kubiak Photography, Pittsburgh Kirtley Leigh Music, Australia Erick Miller Visual Arts, Philadelphia Michael Hoerman Poetry, Arkansas Elizabeth Pechacek Visual Arts / Ceramics, Minnesota Micahela Pilar Brown Visual Arts, South Carolina Katrina Rank Wine Making / Visual Arts, Napa Jessie Schlosser-Smith Cultural Manager, Boston Frank Scurlock Cultural Manager, New Orleans Michael Shields Cultural Manager, Key West Tiffany Tate Visual Arts, Philadelphia David Wells Cultural Manager, Wisconsin Ava Williams Visual Arts / Arts Education, Louisiana Ernesto Kunde Visual Arts, Miami SaraNoa Mark Visual Arts / Chicago Adara Meyers Theatre, Boston Bill Pendergraft Film, Washington DC Katrina Brees Parade Design and Production, New Orleans Rachel Garcia Shank Visual Arts / Culturla Manager, Boston Brad and Amanda Kik Cultural Managers, Michigan Brent and Mary Grace Wahl Visual Arts / Cultural Manager, Philadelphia Rachel Barker Dance, North Carolina Joe Lertola Visual Arts, New York Anja Marais Visual Arts, Miami JoAnna Mendl Shaw Choreography / Dance, New York Kimberly Prentice Theatre / Dance, New York Nellie Appleby Visual Arts, Key West Keoni Bigno Visual Arts / Carving, Hawaii Ella Edwards Music / Healing, Australia Kacey Katzenmeyer Dance, New York Seth Clark Visual Arts, Pittsburgh Matt Gilbert Sound / Electronic Arts, Los Angeles Ryan Lammie Cultural manager, Pittsburgh Adam Lehl Visual Arts / Typographic Design, Wisconsin Andrea Avery Visual Arts, Wisconsin Joelle Ryan Cook Cultural manager, South Carolina Blaine Siegal Visual Arts, Pittsburgh D. W. Jacobs Playwright, San Diego Elizabeth Nelson Small Space Festival, Las Vegas Tom Lascell Photography, Vermont Cat Murphy Painting, Louisiana Elizabeth Rose Photography, Pittsburgh Thomas Crouch Painting, South Carolina Rebecca Harmon Textiles, Rhode Island J.R. Uretsky Puppetry, Rhode Island Michelline Callicott Photography, South Carolina
More about the Inaugural Sedona Summer Colony
All of the great artist colonies—and every deliberate creative community we know of—were built with a combination of vision, people, infrastructure and community resources. Over the past six months, Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School have been gathering these ingredients and setting the stage for this first ever Sedona Summer Colony. To see images and posts from the inaugural program and residents, visit the Sedona Summer Colony Facebook Page here. To see the media announcement of the Sedona Summer Colony, click here. And to read the Frequently Asked Questions sheet for inaugural participants, click here. To enquire about the program or request photographs, interviews, or additional information, click here.
About Sedona Arts Center
In 1958, the Verde Valley School art department head, Egyptian sculptor Nassan Gobran, and a dozen 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, merchants, or from the Native American community. 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 in what is now Uptown Sedona. The first exhibition featured works by Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, and the early years included arts education, lectures, exhibitions, film screenings, and live theatre.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the barn and Arts Center became a hub of creative activity, artistic development, cultural events, and community-building. Today, it keeps that tradition and operates an expanded campus, a fine art gallery that represents 110 local artists, and a school that offers over 100 classes and workshops each year. The organization also presents innovative collaborative projects like Peace Paper Workshops, Loving Bowls, the 12 x 12 Project, Plein Air festivals, Sedona Ukulele Posse, and community projects like the VOC Arts Annex, and gatherings in keeping with Gobran's original vision. The most ambitious initiative in a long time is driven by a renewed partnership with Verde Valley School—and the desire to create America's next great artist residency program, Sedona Summer Colony.