Sonoran Desert Retreat Center & Residencies

International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA)

Funding Received: 2013
Ajo, AZ
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 19, 2013

Retreat Center commercial kitchen in process (the "work, not magic" part); photo by Jewel Clearwater

We continue to divide our time and attention between community arts programming and the gritty work of advancing our construction projects—such a swing of subjects and skills. Thinking one moment about a new Songs Without Borders program in Ajo and across the border in Mexico. And another moment about whether we're ready for an inspection in our commercial kitchen project (part of the retreat center we are building) or to go to bid on roof repair work in the plaza. Juggling scheduling and personality conflicts in the clay studio one moment and watching the apprentices learn to mud and tape drywall in the next.

This is the actual work of creative placemaking. It's going strong out here in Ajo, AZ where the collective vision of what is possible just keeps expanding!

Only a few years ago our town plaza was lifeless. This morning hundreds of people stopped at the Farmers Market under the arches where locally grown produce and eggs were for sale next to tables stacked with the work of local clay artists. About fifteen people went on the morning tour of the renovated plaza space, Memory Park, and the Curley School artist complex. There's a Holiday art show in the plaza gallery and a one-day winter art show today in one of the churches adjacent to the plaza. This afternoon two of our clay artists are giving a free workshop in the plaza gallery making holiday ornaments. Young people are setting up fire pits and sound systems in the plaza for people to enjoy a local band and seasonal songs tonight. All the while children are sneaking their skateboards under the arches for a quick spin, keeping us jumping. So, things are changing. Our public spaces are becoming vibrant.

Recent Wins
Ajo's quirky tradition of hosting stilt performers continues! Carpetbag Brigade from San Francisco has decided to spend a week this March rehearsing in our new retreat center space at the Curley School. Ajo Council for the Fine Arts has agreed to work with us to provide housing and meals for performers. The week will end with a performance of their new work either in the Curley School auditorium with its 30 foot ceilings or back and forth between the auditorium and our outdoor stage -- so come visit Ajo March 14, 2014. And stay through the next week for our third Tri-National Symposium Celebrating the Sonoran Desert to be held in the new multipurpose rooms at the retreat center (while construction pauses on the rest of the project).

Though it doesn't seem so, vibrancy results from a zillion steps and incremental changes—work not magic!