Ajo Arts Weekend: Splashes of Spring Color in the Sonoran Desert

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Ajo, Ariz. is a unique community in transition. A former copper mining community, through the support of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance nonprofit, the town is remaking itself with a community non-profit gallery, beautiful living/working space lofts, and the Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center, a former elementary school that is now a unique and beautiful destination inn.

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Above, a room at the Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center

Another part of the transition is a dedication to arts and culture, and the weekend of March 24-26th proved that undeniably with an arts program that included a stunning musical and dramatic performance by New Orleans-based Mondo Bizzaro and ArtSpot, three days of mural-painting in what is known as the town’s Artist’s Alley, and a buffet dinner of regional Tohono O’odham cuisine by Desert Rain Cafe.

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Above: performance, mural art, and Native American cuisine.

The mural painting was a profound aspect of the weekend: the vastness of the project, the beauty of the work, and the way it spread from Artist’s Alley into the facades of buildings facing the street, was as natural and as vivid as the striking desert sunsets.

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Above, Kat Anderson with her son – who contributed his artwork to one of her murals.

According to Kat Anderson who administered and coordinated – as well as participated in – the mural project, “It was amazing to watch this event take on its own energy and transform into something collectively that we would never have attained individually. We started with a budget of zero, a crazy dream, and a handful of artists with the dedication to organize and see it through. Now Ajo has 50 new murals and another impactful commUNITY experience to bond us closer, and empower our shared goals of revitalization.”

Muralists included:
Neoglyphix (a team of 8 led by Dwayne Manuel)
Porter McDonald
Micah Perry
Leanne Miller
L.T. Sparrow
Jah Rome
Caitlyn Allen
Nellie David
Amy Juan
Harriet Wood
Victor Garcia
Hop David
Kat Anderson
Silas Anderson
Delbert Antone
Maria Singleton
Harold Curtis
Ghazal Ghazi
Niki Ortiz
Jimmy Fennewald & Mitch Jacobs
Michael Schwartz
Valeria Hutchings
Izrael Rios Garcia
Mauriel Morejon
Catherine Ecker
Emma Bayne
Adan Alvarez
DaWolf Baker
Jake Boyd
Bike Ajo
Ajo CSA
Women Act Now

NCCC TeamKat

Anderson is an artist who lives in Ajo nine months of the year; the other three, in the height of the summer months, in Alaska. “I stumbled into murals. I’ve always been an artist, but never worked on anything bigger than canvas. Two years ago was the first street art happening in Ajo, and the first mural I ever painted. I got hooked on Ajo and on murals.”

Since that time, Anderson has created 12 murals in Ajo, Mexico, and Alaska, as well as continuing with her own studio paintings, poetry writing, and poetry readings. She describes her style as “a little surreal, a little abstract, vivid colors, some landscape and some my own imagination.”  She adds that “I really tend towards thinking about things in colors and a collage of concepts. My painting and my writing both just pop into my head in pieces and then I put them together to create a greater motif.”

For Ajo’s mural festival, she created five murals, including a collaboration with artist Leanne Miller, as well as curating the event. “The first one, I took ten days to finish two years ago. I knew I couldn’t undertake that and run this, so instead I did smaller pieces. I had to have a paintbrush in my hand,” she laughs.

“This is the first year for me being in charge of the murals. The International Sonoran Desert Alliance didn’t have a grant for us, but I was able to see the vision of doing something out of nothing. The grass roots community really came together to show we could make something beautiful out of nothing,” she attests.

Anderson feels that with this year’s festival, the town has “broken through the threshold” in terms of the location of its murals, and that the town will be looking forward to welcoming murals throughout the community.

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Artist Harriet Wood, based in Barcelona and previously from London, created one of the larger, most vivid pieces this year with her “Sonora.” The image covers an entire side of a two-story building.

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“This piece is based on the wild life I stumbled across visiting Arizona. I never saw anything like it before. There’s a nod to native history in the headdress of my female figure, which I made as colorful as possible. I paint female characters for female empowerment,” she notes.

In terms of technique, Wood uses primarily spray paint with some brush work, but says she would’ve used all spray paint if she’d had enough available to complete the impressive work.

“I started spray painting eleven years ago at age fifteen. My dad was an artist, so I’m lucky, it was an accepted goal. My oldest friend lives in Tucson, and when I visited him in September I was introduced to Michael Schwartz and the Tucson Arts Brigade, who got me a wall,” she explains. “I’m staying here just a week, but I don’t want to leave this magical place,” she says.3R1A2544

Wood could not afford the cost necessary for paint, and crowd-sourced the project, which was extremely successful.

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Wood’s participation in the arts weekend was long planned, but Mauriel Morejon merely drove by, saw the project, and wanted to join in. The professional muralist titled his swiftly and beautifully created project “Arizona Hurricane.”

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Morejon creates dynamic, sweeping landscapes and stories.

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Above, Izrael Rios Garcia created a stunning spray and air brushed acrylic work whose rich black background fills a large building corner and loading dock area.

Below, the muralists’ worked all day and into the night.  The festive, creative scene was open to the public.

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One of the strongest supporters of the mural project is Michael Schwartz, who brought Wood into the creation of murals in both Tucson and Ajo. He describes himself as being “all about community building.” A muralist and studio artist, he has gotten high school students involved in the artistic process, and is working on a multi-year collaboration between Tucson and Ajo involving young people.

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Above, Schwartz with a young artist, Val Hutchings.

He’s created 125 murals over time. “Here I feel like it’s taking on a life of its own, the mural project. It’s great to start a wind-up toy and let it keep going. I talked to ISDA early on as to what culture is, we talked it through, and Kat ended up handling 90% of it all, we just did fundraisers online. Really, this is a hundred grand project, but we just came together. Normally, you wouldn’t do something like this without a grant, but we needed to be re-energized to do something for the community.”  Schwartz believes that going “back to our roots” feels good particularly in our current political climate.

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Along with the incredible, large-scale art work, the New Orleans-based Mondo Bizzaro and ArtSpot performance, funded by the National Performance Network, offered an immersive outdoor/indoor show that was as profound as it was beautiful.

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Community artist and former ISDA community arts coordinator Morgana Wallace Cooper saw the performers in North Carolina and knew they would be a passionate fit for the festival.

Performing troupe member Monique Verdin noted that while their primarily outdoor performance is not usually done at night, creating their work at dusk “added a new quality. Everyone really let loose with the Fais de Doux.”

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The eco-performance combined historically-based drama with hauntingly magical music. The subject matter dealt with the Army Corps of Engineers reconfiguring the Mississippi, industrial pollution, and environmental racism, a subject that might have been set in Louisiana culture, but which still resonated for Ajo with its mining past.

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The group led its audience from Ajo’s town square indoors to the beautiful auditorium  at the renovated Curley School adjacent to the Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center. Haunting melodies were paired with floor to ceiling photographs of the Louisiana region, while the backdrop to the auditorium’s stage was the rolled-open loading dock, creating an amazing intermingling of Arizona sunset sky and Cajun melodies.

It would be hard to put into words both how powerful and how dream-like the performance was, and how well it fit the almost dream-like quality of Ajo itself: here is a town that is in the process of reinvention, painting itself into revitalized life with enormous murals, serving up a spring arts festival as beautifully realized as any in a much larger community.

Don’t wait to visit Ajo and view the murals and absorb the town’s special magic, from it’s sprightly farmer’s market to it’s art gallery openings; and do look forward to the town’s next Spring Arts Festival.

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Above and below: farmer’s market; opening at Under the Arches Gallery.

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Above, artists’ renderings of mural works; below a delightful crafts project.

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Below, another look at some of the beautiful murals created during the Spring Arts Weekend.

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  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke

 

 

 

 

Sabroso Festival: Tacos and Punk Rock On

Sunshine broke through the clouds at Dana Point last weekend, and with it came a bright expansion of the Sabroso Festival, this year featuring a taco eating contest, tastings of over 100 different regional craft beers, gourmet tacos, Lucha Libre wresting, and – music.

Sure, some people came to see whether Takeru Kobayashi could top his 2015 record of eating 144 street tacos, but most attendees were in it for the music. The crowd loved rocking out to punk and rock and Latin-edged acts. For the latter, it was Metalachi, for the punk it was Unwritten Law, Long Beach rock band Rival Sons, and Fullerton rock band Lit, straight up rock was well represented by Fueled by Defiance, and arguably the most renowned group on stage, Huntington Beach-based rockers the Offspring. Also on tap (pun intended): Canadian rock quintet Sum 41 whose set had a little pop sensibility.

Below, Fueled by Defiance commanded the stage with a blistering set.

Fueled by Defiance

Fueled by Defiance
Fueled by Defiance

Below, Metalachi added something primal and fun to a Latin edged set that was sexy, a little crazy, and totally intense.

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Metalachi

Below, Lit was on fire.

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Lit definitely preached to a crowd of music believers,  including a couple who got engaged right on stage. “Miss You Gone” – nope, these guys should stay and play.

Rival Sons, below, offered a powerful set that throbbed with rhythm.

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Rival Sons
Rival Sons

Sum 41 tore things up with a set that was both straight up rock and some pop-influenced material.

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Sum 41

And closing act The Offspring proved their potency, reaffirming their status as a late 90s era headliner. If “The Kids Aren’t Alright” you couldn’t tell it here.

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The Offspring
The Offspring
The Offspring

Along the way, the “Best of Taste” taco prizes were awarded…we were fortunate enough to taste several of the winners’ wares.

Taco Taste Winners

First place went to Mess Company Canteen food truck, second place Falasophy food truck, and third place went to Kroft.

And the taco eating competition unfolded – stuffed faces, full stomachs, and prizes. Above, entering champion Kobayashi.

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Molly Schuyler
Molly Schuyler

First place record holder Kobayashi  kept his spot, consuming 159 Chronic tacos.

Second place went to Molly Schuyler who devoured 139 Chronic tacos.

Wee Man – of Jackass fame –  promoting his Chronic Tacos.

The crowd around stage grew as the day faded into the night.

Samples of Gringo Bandito hot sauce were offered.
The crowd at the stage was exuberant day and night.
Above, attendees enjoyed a high-powered set by Metalachi.
Beer tasting on the beach drew it’s own crowd.
KLOS d.j.’s Frank, Heidi, Frosty work the crowd.
The KLOS crew raising their glasses.
Away from the stage KLOS also made its presence known: the radio station’s tent was home to swag and strong event support.
Sweet James – accident attorney. KLOS staff think highly of this legal eagle.
Beer tasting next to the main stage.

Strong music, strong brews, spicy tacos, and a beach front setting with great acoustics…who could ask for more? Flexing their musical and event driven muscles, the Sabroso festival is quintessentially Southern Californian,  a mix of music and marvelous madness.

  • Genie Davis; Photos – straight from the photographers’ pit – by Jack Burke.

A New Phoenix Rising

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Located on 3rd at its juncture with La Cienega is a reincarnation of the former Phoenix as – The Phoenix. And it’s a new bird rising. Sleek, French-bistro styling draws the eye to the  bar, while draft cocktails like the Dublin Donkey and La Paloma – as well as a wide selection of whiskies – draw the palette.

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While the food may be somewhat secondary to the beverages, it’s tasty too: below, Fusilli Marinara topped with a fried egg. The idea, our server tells us, is to mix the fried egg in with the basil and Parm cheese. The marinara sauce has a nice zing.
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Lighter fare is also present. The Phoenix House Salad adds feta cheese, pear, pepperocini, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and red onions to fresh mixed green. Toasty bread on the side.
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Below, Adolfo Suaya, partner in the restaurant, ready to help patrons enjoy the classy but cool European vibe.

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The very red-lit patio was our favorite spot. Hip, happening, sexy lighting, comfortable booths and the al fresco bar scene that LA needs a lot more of.

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Below, crisply well-seasoned fries are redolent of rosemary.

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Below: those well prepared draft cocktails.

The Paloma features Milagro Blanco Tequila, Giffard’s Pamplemousse,  plus lime and soda.

We loved the Dublin Donkey, a nicely spicy blend of Tullamore Dew, Giffard’s Ginger of the Indies, lime, and Ginger Beer.

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To sum up: a welcoming place for a drink and some food, The Phoenix is open late and stays stylish. Insiders tip: the patio is the perfect spot for a date night. The Phoenix rises to become your next occasion for celebration. It’s located at 8480 3rd Street close to the Beverly Center.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke

Fantastic Art Auction at Lyme Away Fundraiser

Copy of Nicole for flyer

March 19th 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. – save the date. Lyme Away: Help Nicole Saari Win the Fight Against Late Stage Lyme Disease

The beautiful art you see throughout this article are just some of the incredible pieces donated by artists for this event. 

Fundraiser Kristine Augustyn Heavenly Bodies $250

LA area residents, we invite you to a free art party/birthday celebration and most importantly of all, fundraiser, at The Neutra Museum Gallery at 2379 Glendale Blvd. in Silver Lake. There will also be delicious home-made Mexican food, store-bought cake :), cocktails, wine, and beer.

Fundraiser Susan Lizotte Mercury $900

The goal: to help raise funds for young mom and songwriter Nicole Saari’s treatment for Late Stage Lyme Disease — Nicole is the daughter of this ezine’s publisher, Genie Davis.

Fundraiser Robyrn Allatore Inverted Nipple $900 start $150
The event will feature an incredible collection of local artists, along with food, drink, music, silent auction items, and plenty of fun. Neutra curator Dulce Stein’s birthday is the 18th, and Genie’s is the 20th – and in lieu of gifts or lunches, we want YOU to come check out the fun, buy some art or a silent auction item, have a few drinks and dinner! 

Fundraiser Tracey Weiss

We have some absolutely incredible art donated by a wide range of wonderful artists – each of whom will be featured here in upcoming weeks. But of course, if you have art to donate, we would love, love, love to include your work, too.

Fundraiser Bibi Davidson Don't Tell Anyone $450

Please come and enjoy the evening, and if you’re not in LA but want something awesome to hang on your walls, please reach out – online purchases can be made, and careful shipping accomplished.

Fundraiser Aline Mare Darker Matters value $500 start at $150

Donations can also be made at https://www.gofundme.com/help-nicole-beat-chronic-lyme

Fundraiser Diane Cockerwill Stairway to heaven $200 bid $125

In Nicole’s own words: “I have a dangerous combination of tick-borne infections that have become chronic and incredibly difficult to treat – severely weakening my immune system and affecting every part of my body. Without knowing it at the time, a tick bite on a backpacking trip six years ago caused me to become infected with Lyme disease and the co-infections Babesia (a parasite) and Bartonella (a bacteria). For some people, typical presentation does not immediately occur and these illnesses can slowly wreak havoc destroying health over the course of years, as was the case for me. Due to my now compromised immune system, I also have a deeply rooted chronic staph infection called MARCONS (Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci), a digestive bacterial imbalance called SIBO, multiple types of mold (yes, mold) colonization within my body, Candida enteritis – a chronic fungal infection in my digestive system and other areas (which also tested positive for an unusual resistance to most typical therapies), as well as severe allergies which now require me to carry an Epi-Pen. Although I still look OK, these illnesses have at this point left me disabled in a plethora of ways, as I continue to lose strength and the ability to power through my day as time goes on. I can no longer hike, surf, dance, take long walks, or do many of the things I love best. Even playing my instruments for too long results in painful hand cramps. The scariest part is that it will only continue to get worse if left without prompt and proper treatment.

Fundrasier Dani Dodge Shared Grace 300 bid 75

Chronic Lyme patients can develop fatal cardiac infections, brain damage, increased risk for cancers and more. Symptoms change and spike in severity giving me some good days where though I don’t feel well I can push myself hard to do things and other days where I can’t get out of bed at all.To give you an idea of what this is like, just a few of the symptoms I battle with include: insomnia that prevents me from sleeping more than a few hours without interruption (even with medication), severe bone and joint pain, crippling fatigue, speech problems that come and go, nerve pain, difficultly breathing at times (which has forced me to carry an inhaler), painful rashesand itching (especially in sensitive areas,) memory loss, feeling “foggy” all the time, low white blood cell count, digestive hormonal imbalance, depression, anxiety, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, hypothyroidism, menstrual pain and abnormal cycles, muscle twitches and cramps, inability to heal fully from injury, severe and longer lasting infections from other ordinary illnesses, and more.My health is quickly getting worse and it is imperative that I start treatment as soon as possible. Considering the complexity of the situation, I’m seeing a leading specialist on tick-based infections who will craft a custom treatment plan to tackle everything in the best way possible, step by step. Unfortunately, this condition is not yet recognized by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and as such, we’ve been told that little to none of the treatments are likely to be covered by insurance.

Fundraiser Robert Costantza untitled

While we plan to pursue every resource and assistance program at our disposal, the treatments and medications could cost more than $1,000 a week upfront, and the doctors have told us it will take at least two years to beat this. Due to the difficulty of diagnosing this particular set of illnesses, we’ve exhausted our limited savings just getting to this point, so we are hoping and praying for your support. You truly can help save my life – every donation helps, no matter how small, as does sharing this page with your family, friends, and colleagues.Thank you so much for your time, your love, and all your support and generosity. Any help whatsoever that you can provide is truly a miracle and a blessing to our family!”

Fundraiser Dwora Fried Las Mayas $450 Fundraiser Chuka Susan Chensy Blue Marilyn $400, $150 bid Fundraiser Alana Marcelletti Fundraiser Terry Holzman Sailors Delight $75 value $35 start Fundraiser Samuelle Richardson Fundraiser Frederika Beesemeyer Roader Eaton Canyon July Afternoon $250 Fundraiser Glenn Waggner Bad Directions Value $150, bidding $100 Fundraiser Kate Carvellas What Goes Around $300 open $100