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Community Arts Gathering is for everyone to enjoy

Ajo Copper News of Ajo, Arizona

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The Community Arts Gathering that starts this Saturday is an ambitious undertaking filled with events, seminars, music, performances, meals, gatherings, and even street art and bonfires. While many artists and performers are coming to Ajo to attend, it's something everyone in the local community is welcome to enjoy, whether they create art or just enjoy it.

There are too many activities to list in a newspaper article, or even in the ad on page 5, so organizers have made brochures that are available at the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce, Ajo Resale, and the Print Shop. Information can also be downloaded at

The 5-day event begins the afternoon of Saturday March 14th at the brand new Sonoran Desert Conference Center operated by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance. The Conference Center is located on the historic Curley School campus, said Tracy Taft of ISDA.

It will officially begin with an opening general session at 1 p.m. in the Curley School auditorium with Maribel Alvarez of Southwest Folklife Allicance as the keynote speaker.

Registration can be handled online or at a booth at the Authentically Ajo Food Festival in the Plaza. While there is a registration fee, organizer Morgana Wallace emphasized "Ajo residents pay what you can. If the cost is prohibitive then we want Ajo residents to come anyway and join in at no cost. If you are able to pay we encourage you to support this event and the artists sharing their work, and by doing so you make it possible to have this event again." Dinners are separate ticketed events.

"The gathering offers morning, afternoon, and evening presentations, workshops and performances presented by more than 30 artists and practitioners," said Wallace. "Each morning offers a tour of the local area - biking mountain trails, walking the historic district, hiking off the scenic loop, a bus ride to more than 10 public art sites, and a visit to community gardens. Yoga and meditation are also offered. Our clay studio and wood shop will be open to all participants to stop in and use. There is also space in the schedule to connect more deeply with Gathering participants through facilitated group discussions in a process we are calling Connections, as well as bonfires at the end of each evening.

"This will also be the first year of a Street Art Happening. Street artists and muralists will be transforming an alley between two historic buildings in our downtown area, painting throughout the Gathering and leaving behind works of art related to the Sonoran Desert, this southwest region, and imagery about place and tradition," she said.

"We spent a few weeks meeting with artists in our region to discuss what an event like this could look like. In each of those meetings, artists expressed their desire to be with each other, to connect with other artists doing similar work. So we hope that this Gathering will support community building among our Southwest artists and practitioners. And by bringing in artists from outside of the region we hope to expand this community of artists and explore our practice in the greater community arts field. We have presenters coming from as far as South Carolina, Washington state, Louisiana, and Mexico. And the opportunities to work collaboratively across borders, and across nations even, are exciting and available and this Gathering will help to ignite some of those new connections and reaffirm familiar ones.

"Additionally this Gathering is very much about place. Ajo is uniquely situated near two distinct and very controversial and culturally rich borders - the border between the United States and Mexico and with the Tohono O'odham Nation. So besides the community building that we intend to take place between artists, we see very dynamic and important things happening with our local community and in the interaction between community artists and those who identify as non-artists. The Gathering is also a wonderful opportunity for fine artists and those artists working mainly in their studios, to explore opportunities to take their practice out into the community.

"This Gathering was crafted by many voices in the field and is in many ways a beautiful experiment. Volunteer work teams have put in tremendous amounts of time and effort to make this an event that our community will be proud of and excited about, and that our visiting participants will not want to miss," Wallace concluded.

The Community Arts Gathering is funded by NEA Artworks, Art Place, and the Ford Foundation. The Gathering logo used in promotional materials was designed by Tony Johnson of Nolic on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Copyright 2015 Ajo Copper News, Ajo, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: March 10, 2015

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