Are you interested in using the arts to build community? Or tapping into the transformative power of the arts to advance social change? That’s what “community artists” do according to organizers of this first bi-annual Community Arts Gathering in Ajo, AZ this March 14-18. Everyone is invited to come participate!
This 5-day event begins the afternoon of Saturday March 14
th at the brand new Sonoran Desert Conference Center operated by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA). The Conference Center is located on the historic Curley School campus (now an artist community), just west of the highway in Ajo’s town center. Those coming earlier can register at a booth at the Authentically Ajo Food Festival in the Ajo Plaza Park on Saturday.
The International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA), a tri-national nonprofit organization working to preserve and enrich the environment, culture and economy of the Sonoran Desert, hosts the Community Arts Gathering. ISDA
is committed to fostering communication, understanding and cooperation among the diverse cultures residing in the borderlands of the Sonoran Desert and uses the arts and creative placemaking for this purpose.
In addition to lodging, ISDA’s new Sonoran Desert Conference Center facilities include several multi-purpose meeting rooms, a large auditorium with an indoor/outdoor stage, a clay studio and woodworking shop, and many outdoor workspaces, all on the historic Curley School Campus. A block away in the Ajo Plaza is a recreation hall and stage, plus the plaza park and bandstand area.
This Community Arts Gathering will be a coming together of artists diverse in culture, discipline, and practice, held at the intersection of three nations – the U.S., the Tohono O’odham Nation and Mexico. Artists will occupy this unique place in the Sonoran Desert as a framework for a larger national and international dialogue on socially engaged practice and community based arts. This is an opportunity for renewal, connection, sharing, and inspiration between artists working within community: Emerging artists, professionals, and those practicing contemporary as well as traditional arts.

Featured each day at the Community Arts Gathering will be performances by local and visiting community artists, along with workshops, demonstrations, and opportunities to work with others on creative projects, practicing honed skills or learning new ones. Performances will be open to the public with some being held at the new Sonoran Desert Conference Center and some in the Ajo Plaza. Artists and non-artists alike are welcome to participate.
In addition to regional actors, poets, dancers and musicians from Tucson, Phoenix, the Tohono O’odham Nation, Puerto Peñasco, and Ajo, the line-up of performers and presenters also includes dynamic artists who will be traveling to Ajo from San Pablo, Seattle, New Orleans, and Columbus NC.

Some of the highlights include:

  • The extraordinary Los Cenzontles Performing Ensemble presenting a lecture/demonstration of live Mexican music and dance and the role of traditional cultural arts in the evolution of identity and engagement.
  • José Torres-Tama (Performance Voices Across Borders Project) performing “Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers.” Torres-Tama will also conduct workshops in Sonoyta, Mexico exploring stories of migrants.
  • Marc David Pinate, Director of Borderlands Theater, conducting an interdisciplinary, site-specific performance based on oral histories of Ajo residents. Community Arts Gathering participants will have the opportunity to generate audio and choreography to infuse into the final performance.
  • Storytellers Tay and Val will provide an interactive multimedia presentation, sharing inspiration, hopes, and dreams via media films, photo, live music, spoken word performances and traditional oral story telling in collaboration with local artists. They will also create a Dream Mural made up of dream portraits of community members and Community Arts Gathering participants.

Street artists have organized a major mural painting project during the event. This will take place in an alley on the south side of the Ajo Plaza where artists will be found painting large murals on the walls on both sides of the alley and where everyone will gather to observe and celebrate their work.
Organizers promise these five days will include time for visitors to see Ajo (don’t miss the new Community, Public, and Outsider Art brochure which offers a self-guided tour of many unusual art sites in Ajo), to hike and bike in the desert and to share conversation around fire pits.
For information on the daily schedule of workshops, demonstrations, and performances and to register for one or more days of this unique event, watch ISDA’s website: