Dawn of the Sedona Summer Colony Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School Partner to Establish
a New American Residency Program for Artists and Cultural Managers
The Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center boards of directors are excited to announce the establishment of a new American residency program for artists and cultural managers. The inaugural Sedona Summer Colony will begin on June 19, when over 125 creative people begin arriving to will inhabit the campus and become part of our high elevation desert community.
"They are musicians, ceramic artists, choreographers, poets, film-makers, organization directors, and documentarians," said Eric Holowacz, Executive Director of Sedona Arts Center who co-founded the program with the Head of Verde Valley School, Paul Amadio. "Our summer guests come representing significant 21st century cultural production—from as far away as Hobart, Tasmania; Helsinki, Finland; Auckland, New Zealand; and Manitoba, Canada. While here, Sedona will be their host and summertime home."
The idea for Sedona Summer Colony was inspired by the original artist retreats, like Yaddo, MacDowell, Hambidge Center, Villa Montalvo in California, and the American Academy in Rome. Those organizations—emerging from the early 20th century—were built upon a strong belief in the power of interdisciplinary associations of artists. They built communities based on the regular gathering of cultural visionaries, the provision of creative resources, and the sharing of meals, excursions, spontaneous interaction, and daily life.
"Our goal is to do something similar in Sedona, and build a 21st century model for the most interesting creative people we can find—without imposing or demanding much from them," said Amadio.
While in residence this summer, visiting artists will be provided with opportunities to explore the unique red rock landscapes, connect with Southwest heritage, engage with our active creative community, and become immersed in Sedona's modern-day sense of place.
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"At the very heart of the idea is a guest-host relationship providing time and space—and ready support for the creative process—here in our village-like desert environment," said Amadio. "Sedona Summer Colony residents will also have the simple opportunity to get away from their familiar home routines, and find quiet contemplation and solitude in one of the most beautiful places on Earth."
Sedona arts supporters can get involved by volunteering, providing charitable support, or donating materials and much needed items. Verde Valley School and Sedona Arts Center will host a Launch Party and Open House on the campus quad on Tuesday, May 31 from 5 to 7pm. The public is invited to attend, learn about the inaugural Sedona Summer Colony and the incoming artists, and celebrate the beginning of this cultural development partnership.
When asked why build a major new residency program for artists and cultural managers in Sedona, Amadio and Holowacz answer in unison: Because artists and producers are active ingredients in 21st century American culture—they reveal who and what we are, in endlessly magical and challenging ways. What they do, in essence, is advance our humanity. And because Sedona deserves an entity and legacy like the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, Aspen Institute, Yaddo in Upstate New York, Hambidge Center in Georgia, and Chautauqua. Those legacies can be cultivated here
The seed for the Sedona Summer Colony was first planted in November 2015 with the first meeting between Holowacz and Amadio. Both had arrived in Sedona a few months before, taking over well-established, but staid organizations. Both came with a vision for change and community-building—and both had boards and trustees that were ready for big ideas.
Holowacz, with a background in festival production, arts facilities, and cultural engineering, proposed the idea of using the vacant summer campus to invite and house creative people from all over the world. Amadio, who also had experience with summer residency programs and an earlier career as a stage performer, saw a ready partnership that would enhance local identity and build new relationships.
"By playing generous host, we saw the opportunity to offer our Sedona Summer Colony residents a life-long relationship with our community and its unique environment," said Holowacz. "If we get it right, they'll go home with new discoveries, unimagined inspiration, and a deeper knowledge of the Verde Valley's undeniable sense of place. That is the underlying spiritual goal and the basis for this partnership."
In early 2016, the two local organizations continued working on the model for the inaugural program, adding volunteers, like local performing arts impresario Winnie Muench and arts management interns, Claire Pearson, Amber Engelmann, and Talya Reynolds. Project manager Carol Holyoake was recruited to join the leadership team in late May, and will oversee campus and residency logistics this summer. Creative people and potential residents were researched, invited and selected from all corners of North America and a few from abroad. And finally, resources and grant funding were put in place this spring to support start-up operations, excursions, and program needs.
"This is a major step for both our organizations, and for the way that the world looks at Sedona," said Holowacz. "We invite our local creative community to join us, contribute in some way, and help Sedona Summer Colony become the next great American artist residency program."
To learn more about this Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School partnership, become a volunteer, donate housing or services, or support Sedona Summer Colony in any way, contact Eric Holowacz at (928) 487-0887.
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How You Can the Public Support the 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 the first ever Sedona Summer Colony. In order to make this inaugural effort a success—and to help us establish this model as an ongoing annual effort—we welcome participation from local artists, civic leaders, sponsors, and community members.
There are several ways that Sedona and the Verde Valley can help this partnership. Click below to learn how to become a charitable sponsor, volunteer your time and local knowledge, or donate unused housing, studio space, or hotel rooms in support of visiting artists....
Who are Some of the Inaugural Sedona Summer Colony Residents?
To begin this new program, Sedona Arts Center and Verde Valley School have invited over 100 fascinating creative people from around the world to join us and build a new cultural development model for Sedona. Their time here this summer will be free of obligation, self-directed, and supported by our efforts to provide work space and local community connections. Here's just a sample of the extraordinary guest-host relationships we will foster with your help...
Tasmanian artist and cultural manager, Dave Edgar, will use his time in Sedona to explore geological phenomenon, continue a series of drawings based on rock structures, and build connections between his home city, Hobart, and Northern Arizona. Learn about Dave's work here and here.
New Zealand-based playwright and documentary producer, Julie Hill, will spend much of her summer in Sedona researching American culture and working on a collection of satirical non-fiction essays about national stereotypes: how they came to be formed, whether there is any truth to them, what their function is, and why we categorize particular groups of people. Read more about Julie here and here.
Brad and Amanda Kik, agricultural activists and co-founders of the Crosshatch artist residency program in Michigan, will bring their bioneer spirit to the campus, and share practical environmental stewardship solutions and ecological community-building efforts with Sedona. Watch their TED talk here.
Miami-based Brazilian artist Ernesto Kunde, will explore landscapes and painting, and find new influences in the red rock and riparian environments surrounding Verde Valley School. Read an interview with Ernesto here or learn more about his work here and here.
Playwright D. W. Jacobs works at the intersections of art, literature, and the sciences. He was co-founder and long-time artistic director of San Diego Repertory Theatre, and now writes for theatre, film, and digital storytelling formats. His play R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe premiered in 2000, and has since played around the world. As our guest, D.W. will return to the desert, where his past work found much inspiration.
South Carolina conceptual artist, Michaela Pilar Brown, creates profound installations and visual statements about the female body, African-American experience, and the making and interpretation of objects. While in residence, she will continue her latest work, an exploration of home and memory, and connect with our own sense of place.
New York-based Belgian artist, Vahakn Arslanian, will head West to change scenery from his familiar streets of Brooklyn to our expansive desert landscapes and red rock monoliths. A self-taught artist, he uses found objets and repurposed materials to generate collage, sculpture, and installation works. A fascinating protégé of Julian Schnabel, Vahakn has an extensive online profile here.
Author and Astronaut Teacher, Mike Mongo comes to Sedona from Key West, Florida. While living at Verde Valley School, he will gain a new appreciation for the night sky and our view to the Milky Way, and work on his latest project, Icarus Interstellar. Mongo is the author of The Astronaut Instruction Manual for Pre-Teens, and is a fierce advocate for STEM education and the potential for young people to explore and inhabit other worlds.
Choreographer JoAnna Mendl Shaw is founder of The Equus Projects, an integration of dance with humans and horses. While at Verde Valley School, she will bring a collaborating choreographer, 2 dancers, and a videographer to research and workshop a new performance piece inspired by local high desert settings.
Jessie Schlosser Smith, Director of Public Programs at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, will be one of our inaugural Cultural Managers in Residence. She will use her time in Sedona to complete research towards her Master's Degree in Public Humanities at Brown University. She will focus on finding connections between contemplative practices and artistic experiences, and explore ideas about art and nature.
As a special experiment for Sedona Summer Colony, we have formed partnerships with several of America's most productive cultural proving grounds: the formidable AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island; the multi-site artist studio provider Radiant Hall in Pittsburgh; and the Masters of Arts Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University. They will send small groups of their artists and cultural managers to our inaugural Sedona Summer Colony and help us explore longer-lasting connections and creative opportunities across the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
How did this partnership begin? Is there a fee for participating artists? Will resident artists produce or present work for a local audience? Will they explore the region with excursions and tours? Is there a Sedona Summer Colony website? Will visiting artists need housing or studio space off-site? Can I come to the Sunday Afternoon Artists-and-Community Potlucks? What's a javelina? How are Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning connected to all this?
These questions and more are answered in our Sedona Summer Colony FAQ—a guide for invited and incoming artists and cultural managers. You can view this extensive question-and-answer document—intended for our inaugural residents—by clicking here.
About Verde Valley School
Established after WWII with a unique global outlook, Verde Valley School is located on 300 acres in a rustic setting eight miles south of the City 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 war 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.
This quote, from Hamilton Warren, sums up what they set out to do in a remote patch of 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, organic farm, dining hall, library, ceramics studio, performing arts hall and gallery, equestrian facilities, and dormitory and faculty housing. It is framed by monolithic red rocks, the Oak Creek riparian ecosystem, and high desert landscapes of Coconino National Forest. During the school year, it is home to 125 private high school students who care for the land and the campus, work towards an International Baccalaureate degree, and sustain the founding vision of cultural understanding and togetherness. This summer, it will become home to Sedona Summer Colony.
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, 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 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, 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.