Sedona: Beautiful, Mysterious & Seductive

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive.

Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These words describe Sedona.

But words alone cannot adequately describe this part of the country. Exhilarating nature! Scary excitement! Spiritual renewal! The sun and the moon! Incredible historic stories of wisdom and strength! The wild animals, birds, and flora! And of course, art! All are surrounded by azure blue skies and clean air.

The massive red-orange buttes and spires surrounding Sedona carry imaginative names reflecting their curious shapes—names like Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Coffee Pot, and Snoopy. Towering along the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, these monoliths lend an aura of mystery as well as incredible beauty to this landscape.

Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Uptown Sedona and Pink Jeeps heading out of town to tour into the more remote parts of the Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Uptown Sedona and Pink Jeeps heading out of town to tour into the more remote parts of the Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona is a four season, red rock playground where families can escape, romantic adventures materialize, and photographers’ dreams come true. Surrounded by stunning red rock formations and an abundance of activities for people of all ages and interests, it’s no wonder Sedona has been ranked as one of the most beautiful places on Earth by Good Morning America.

During the winter Sedona receives a bit of snow but daytime temperatures seldom drop lower than 40 degrees, making hiking a year-round activity. Summer can come as early as March. Summer arrives in May, offering a cool getaway for people living in the warmer desert regions, and then by mid-July the monsoon season brings rainstorms filled with dramatic lightening flashes. By the end of October autumn splashes the canyons with blazing shades of red and yellow.

Spring is our favorite time in Sedona. Bring your hiking boots and camera.

Drive through the 16-mile gorge of the Oak Creek Canyon. This winding two-lane road can be very crowded and is not for your big rig. This stretch of road was Arizona’s first officially designated scenic byway.

Set among stately sycamores and lush gardens, Tlaquepaque was built in the Spanish colonial style in the 1970s as a place for artists to live and work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Set among stately sycamores and lush gardens, Tlaquepaque was built in the Spanish colonial style in the 1970s as a place for artists to live and work. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You will want to stop at every lookout and hike some of the trails along the way.

Slide Rock State Park, about seven miles up the canyon from Sedona on Highway 89A, is famous for its natural water slide with cool water and warm rocks creating great swimming holes.

For maps and brochures and to purchase a Red Rock Pass stop at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, located in Uptown Sedona. Walking tours, trolley rides, and Pink Jeep tours introduce you to many historic areas and scenic back roads and vistas.

And then there is Tlaquepaque (Tla-keh-pah-keh), a beautiful artist colony and shopping area. Set among stately sycamores and lush gardens it was built in the Spanish colonial style in the 1970s as a place for artists to live and work. It has a lovely old-world feel with charming courtyards, fountains, balconies, and hidden niches. More than 40 shops, galleries, and restaurants offer some truly outstanding works of art.

One of the most popular activities in Sedona is to take a Jeep tour out into the more remote parts of the Red Rock Country. Our favorite of these trips is up and over the primitive Schnebly Hill Road (FS 153) which zigzags east from State Route 179 in Sedona, 13 miles to I-17.

Sedona and Red Rock Country as viewed from the top of Airport Road. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sedona and Red Rock Country as viewed from the top of Airport Road. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Named for Sedona Schnebly who sheltered travelers in her home during the early 20th century, the road twists and winds along massive cliffs as it travels the Mund’s Mountain Wilderness area. Each bend in the road offers incredible views of sandstone mountains in vivid shades of scarlet and cream. If you have a high clearance vehicle you can make this drive yourself, as we have done on several occasions.

Just a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, two hours from the Grand Canyon and 30 miles south of Flagstaff, Sedona is central to many of Arizona’s major attractions making it an ideal destination.

We always leave this part of Arizona reluctantly and know that you, too, are sure to experience the magic that is Sedona and Red Rock Country.

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

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Vintage Trailer Transformed into Art Museum

Three artists based in Methow Valley, Washington, that span three generations are working together to revitalize their once-thriving logging community.

Reclaimed vintage Spartan travel trailer a new home for local Methow Valley artists. (Photo credit: Don Nelson)
Reclaimed vintage Spartan travel trailer a new home for local Methow Valley artists. (Photo credit: Don Nelson)

One of their projects involves restoring a 1951 Spartan Imperial Mansion travel trailer to display unique and experimental work from local, regional, and national artists.

The project started, as many ideas do, with some people sitting around talking and wondering if there might be a way to find some space with low or no overhead “an empty room somewhere” to display local artists’ work, free and open to the public on an “honor system” basis, according to a news release.

The artists—Matt Armbrust, Jeff Winslow, and Steve Ward—recalled hearing about an Airstream travel trailer that had been converted to a mobile art display.

Ward, an admitted Craigslist prowler, knew where to find it. Online browsing led him to Malaga, near Wenatchee where a 36-foot 1951 Spartan Imperial Mansion travel trailer was available. A top-of-the-line Spartan like this once cost about $6,000 new. This deteriorated hulk was going for $800.

Ward and Armbrust drove down to take a look. On first inspection, it didn’t look like much of a bargain.

Artists Jeff Winslow, left, Steve Ward and Matt Armbrust in the gutted interior of the Spartan travel trailer they are turning into a mobile art gallery. (Photo credit: Don Nelson)
Artists Jeff Winslow, left, Steve Ward and Matt Armbrust in the gutted interior of the Spartan travel trailer they are turning into a mobile art gallery. (Photo credit: Don Nelson)

“It was pretty grim,” Armbrust recalls.

“I looked at it and said, ‘no way.’ Then we got obsessed with it.”

Spartan Aircraft All-Aluminum Trailercoaches, which resemble Airstream trailers because of their smooth, shiny exterior, were manufactured from 1946 to 1960 by Spartan Aircraft Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma. At that time, the company was owned by legendary industrialist J. Paul Getty. Spartans were high-end travel trailers noted for their quality.

That was last summer. The Spartan is now on display—far from finished, but looking much better.

Deciding to buy it and getting it to the Methow Valley were separate challenges. That was resolved when valley resident Steve Morse agreed to tow the trailer back to the Methow, rolling on temporary tires Ward removed from a truck he owns.

So far, they have gutted the interior, stripped the paint, replaced the sub-flooring, and purchased an actual floor. They also reclaimed kiln slats that were once used for drying lumber and have invested a good deal of their own funding thus far.

Their home base is on the TwispWorks campus, a former U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station commissioned during the Great Depression and built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Located in downtown Twisp, TwispWorks is a community-driven project with the entire site comprising 17-buildings over 6.5-acres. Its board of directors has systematically restored and revitalized this historic area into spaces for artist studios, nonprofit organizations, and local businesses.

“We view this 36-foot classic camper as both an inspiring and challenging space for art installations,” they said in a news release.

“We want the Spartan to be a platform for experimental art, and a space for artists to take chances. From the viewer’s perspective, we want to engender excitement about art and engage them on a new level. ”

Despite numerous skilled artists in their region, show space for experimental/edgy art is limited and there are few ways for local artists to take their work on the road.

“We feel this is a crucial niche for engaging people in art and for encouraging artists to create works outside of a traditional gallery setting. We want to fill this gap through the creation of the Spartan Art Project,” they added.

Spartan Art Project (Photo credit: Don Nelson)
Spartan Art Project (Photo credit: Don Nelson)

In order to bring the Spartan up to form, the artists need to wire the interior, replace the windows, patch aluminum, install walls, put in a solar lighting system, and make a few upgrades that will make the Spartan officially roadworthy.

“We are working hard to use reclaimed, local products and accepting the donated time of the Methow Valley’s very skilled and generous community to finish the Spartan Art Project by spring 2013,” they added.

Worth Pondering…

Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.

—Langston Hughes

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Abandoned Trailers Inspire Artist

Objects of desire for many of the Greatest Generation—travel trailers, campers, and motorhomes—often sit idle, sometimes for decades.

"Green Stripe" by MelisMa Kuntz in her solo show titled "Caravan" (Credit: Sidney Davis/Tribune-Review)

But these rusting hunks of steel and fading fiberglass hold an indelible appeal and have become an inspiration for Stanton Heights (Pennsylvania) painter Melissa Kuntz, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Driving 75 miles each way to her job as chair of the art department at Clarion University, Kuntz says she sees her fair share of travel trailers along the way.

“And I see all of these trailers in everyone’s backyard,” Kuntz says. “They have these grand aspirations to travel across America and live in the trailers. But most of them are just abandoned. There’s one on the way that has chickens in it, and I’m not even exaggerating.”

Kuntz is showing half a dozen of her travel-trailer paintings, as well as a few other related works, in her solo exhibit “Caravan” at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 709 Penn Gallery.

Each is in her signature style—large-scale oil paintings on canvas painted with large areas of flat, muted color. They are slightly reminiscent of the mid-20th-century painting style known as precisionism, in which the real world was transcribed into flat planes of cool color and solid, sometimes overwhelming, shapes that were anything but warm and fuzzy.

Despite the cool colors and clean lines of Kuntz’s paintings, she says her works are more personal than most viewers notice, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"Picnic and Stripes" (Credit: Sidney Davis/Tribune-Review)

“It’s just that they’re really subtle in how they are personal,” she says. “I spend a lot of time painting them, so there’s a lot of time to think about things while I’m painting them. I think a lot about the space that I’m creating and the space that they’re in, things that are happening in the background and all the little details in it. And so, the personal comes out in that.”

For example, pointing to the window in the front of the travel trailer depicted in “Green Stripe,” Kuntz says, “In some respect, I think of myself as making little abstract paintings in some areas of each painting. And when I stand back it becomes a representational painting. Like, in this area, I totally went wild and made it all up. I mean, I want to stay true to the photograph. I want it to be representational. I want the light, the shape and the form to be correct and everything, but there are certain areas in it where I want to allow myself to be expressive and make stuff up. I don’t like making abstract paintings. That’s not my thing at all. But I like the opportunity that a big painting like this affords in certain areas.”

Having taught painting over the last nine years at Clarion, Kuntz says she has had students describe her own paintings as “creepy.” It’s a compliment she rather relishes.

“I think there is a kind of creepiness to my paintings,” she says. “They are kind of cold. But when you get up close, you realize that they actually are a little bit subjective, or intimate, or personal. When you stand back, they are not.”

Each painting begins with a photograph of something that has caught her eye based on a certain perspective or pattern.

“When I’m taking the photos that I use for my paintings, I always see things in patterns, flat patterns,” she says. “And it’s, like, super important to me that it’s part of the overriding composition. It’s about shape, flatness and pattern.

"Ranchero Trailer Park" (Credit: Sidney Davis/Tribune-Review)

“When you stand back, this magical thing … happens where it becomes something three-dimensional. If you get the colors right, and the shapes right and the forms right it will work.”

Also included in the show are a few of Kuntz’s sign paintings, in which she depicts only a portion of a particular vintage sign that catches her eye when she travels.

The largest sign painting in the exhibit, “Ranchero Trailer Park,” is a perfect example of this type of work. Pointing to it, Kuntz says, “There was something really hyper-real and tacky about it. I think the colors in this and the fact that it says trailer park went more with what I’ve been doing with the other paintings.”


Caravan: Paintings by Melissa Kuntz

When: Through April 13

Hours: 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Sundays

Admission: Free

Where: 709 Penn Gallery, 709 Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburg

Phone: (412) 456-6666


Worth Pondering…
No matter what happens, travel gives you a story to tell.

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Art Galleries on Wheels

The whole notion of caravanning has been turned on its head by a Portsmouth couple who converted their vintage 1969 mustard-yellow tourer into a traveling art gallery; Annelise Atkinson, a designer, artist, and printer who uses a tourer as a traveling boutique from which to sell ‘zines; and Duckett and Jeffreys, a contemporary art gallery, who turned a fifty year old Sprite caravan into a touring art gallery.

Caravan Gallery

A couple have turned their vintage caravan into a touring art gallery. (Credit:

Having recently published their third book of photography, Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale spend their time travelling around the UK in their mustard-yellow caravan, taking pictures and displaying them in their caravan.

In their latest book, ‘Is Britain Great? 3’, they use weird, wonderful, and bluntly realistic photographs to pose questions about contemporary Britain, the News in Portsmouth reported.

Readers of their book will find photographs of pigeons enjoying a cream tea, graffiti scrawled to amusing effect on billboards, and grey photographs of second hand car yards, all of which are designed to get audiences thinking about Britain in the 21st century.

Travelling to an area, Jan and Chris will get a feel for the place, wandering around and snapping photos before returning with their developed images exhibited in their mobile gallery for the locals to enjoy.

“We take it to places galleries can’t reach and get all kinds of visitors,” Jan told the local newspaper.

“If we’re at an art event we’ll have artists and curators coming in, but we might also be at shopping centers or festivals.

“A lot of people come in out of curiosity and end up staying. Some come in just because they like caravans.”

Having bought the caravan for just £250 ($390), the artistic couple turned it into the Caravan Gallery in 2000 and have been travelling around in it ever since.

Despite converting the inside into a genuine art gallery, they decided to hold onto the brown curtains and flowery upholstery so that it keeps the feel of a vintage caravan.

Now the Caravan Gallery has become their full-time jobs.

Caribou Caravan

A one-of-a-kind vintage caravan has cropped up in Nottingham, with funky decorations and a big stack of ‘zines for sale from inside its cozy confines.

The Caribou Caravan features vintage magazines and various arts and crafts. (Credit: Samantha Gallagher Photography)

The ‘Caribou Caravan’ is the brainchild of Annelise Atkinson, a designer, artist, and printer who used the tourer as a traveling boutique from which to sell ‘zines—homemade magazines made by a global subculture of artists.

Having bought the caravan from a wheeler dealer in Bournemouth, Annelise brought it all the way back the Midlands to house her business, which is currently residing at the Hopkinson’s Gallery in Nottingham, reported.

“The idea of the shop is that it is a travelling boutique, and can bring artists’ work to a wider audience and spread the good word of ‘zines around the country,” she explained.

Determined to take hehr ‘zines to the wider public, Annelise will soon take the Caribou—a cross between caravan and boutique—on tour around festivals and markets and anywhere else she sees fit to travel.

Touring Art Gallery

This mini art gallery was made from a 1960s Sprite caravan. (Credit: Ryedale Art Fest 2011)

A fifty year old Sprite caravan has been given a new lease of life as a touring art gallery.

Converted by contemporary gallery Duckett and Jeffreys, this tiny tourer headed off on an 11-venue regional tour earlier this year, Caravan Times reported.

The purpose of the tour was to draw attention to the work of the gallery’s 23 local artists, including painters, sculptors, felt-makers, ceramicists, print makers, and even a blacksmith.

Stef Mitchell, founding artist at Duckett and Jeffreys, who is on the tour, said: “We aim to show artists that are brave, confident, and imaginative.”

Worth Pondering…
Recreational vehicles are wonderful… To travel by RV is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers, in fact, to see life.
—with apologies to Agatha Christie

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The City of Holy Faith: Santa Fe

The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, to the east of the Palace of the Governors, offers the National Collection of Contemporary Indian Art and a spectacular sculpture garden.

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two blocks south of the plaza is the San Miguel Mission Church. One of the oldest churches in America, this buttressed adobe building is a favorite with photographers who can snap away both indoors and out.

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi.

The cathedral was built in French Renaissance style and was the design and dream of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. Built between 1869 and 1886, this structure replaced an older adobe church built after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In the small chapel to the left of the Cathedral altar is a very beautiful willow sculpture of the Madonna called La Conquistadora. She is the oldest religious statue in the United States and is an enduring treasure and symbol of the Spanish heritage of Santa Fe. La Conquistadora has a wardrobe of over 160 garments, some of which were gifts from Indian Pueblos, the Pope, and the King of Spain.

Continuing past the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assis to the south, and behind La Fonda on the Plaza, is a small one-way street, Water Street. Go west one block to the intersection of Water and Old Santa Fe Trail. There stands a small chapel also built under the auspices of Archbishop Lamy.

The Loretto Chapel with its Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is a copy of his original parish church in Paris, La Sainte Chapelle. This Neo-Gothic chapel was built for the students of the Loretto Academy which was the first girls’ parochial school in Santa Fe.

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, its quarried stone facade and elegant stained glass stood out from the adobe churches common in this frontier town.

What draws the visitor is the spiral staircase inside that leads to the choir loft. The chapel’s small sized made access to the loft possible only by ladder.

When none of the local carpenters could build a staircase that wouldn’t encroach on the limited floor space, the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

Soon a mysterious stranger arrived, looking for work, and built an elegant spiral staircase. Without presenting any bill for payment, he disappeared as suddenly as he had come. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. The identity of the builder remains unknown.

In between and around these destinations near the plaza are shops with merchandise in all price ranges; art galleries showcasing art from around the world; and restaurants whose menus reflect the many cultures represented here.

Continuing south on Old Santa Fe Trail there is a simple but beautiful adobe church, the San Miguel Mission. It is the oldest church in the United States, built between 1610 and 1626. The church was built for the Indian slaves that the Spanish had brought with them. from Mexico. This part of town is called the Barrio de Analco, a charming area to explore, and is now home to many interesting galleries, restaurants, and shops dealing in Indian arts.

The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parking that can accommodate vehicles of all sizes is available in city lot 9 at Alameda, west of Paseo de Peralta. The parking lot is only two short blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza.

A visit to Santa Fe is not complete without a trip along Canyon Road. The narrowness of this road is a reminder of its past, for at one time it was a principal route from the Rio Grande to the Pecos area. The buildings are full of galleries featuring a variety of fine art. The galleries, along with the many others in Santa Fe, have made the city the second largest art market in the U.S.

Do not attempt to drive a recreational vehicle down Canyon Road, as it is far too narrow.

If you are traveling to Santa Fe from the south via Interstate 25, you can stop at the La Bajada State Visitor Information Center, 17 miles south of town, for maps, directions, and brochures. Similar information is available from the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Note: This is the third of a four-part series on Santa Fe, New Mexico

Part 1: The City Different: Santa Fe, NM

Part 2: Historically Significant Santa Fe 

Final article in the series: Historic Walks of Santa Fe

Worth Pondering…
Whoever designed the streets in Santa Fe must have been drunk, and riding backwards on a mule.

—Will Rogers

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