“Homestead is where the art is.”

April 7, 2008

Development of the idea

Filed under: Festival, Shack Attack — magicgroove @ 1:59 am

The idea of a “festival of the cabins” was first broached by me in 2004 on-line on the High Desert Community Forum, during a discussion of the attitude of shame that surrounded the homestead cabins and their consequent invisibility and vulnerability to destruction. The concept generated some interest, and several of us met at the Crossroads in Joshua Tree on a snowy morning in November 2004 to explore the possibilities, including Eames Demetrios, David Dodge, Ellie Greenwood, Perry Hoffman, Deborah Iyall, Mark Soden, Andrea Zittel, and myself. A number of ideas were put forward and a nebulous plan for a Basin-wide event, a Website, etc., developed that day and in ensuing on-line discussion. However, after a brief while interest seemed to peter out, and when a couple of months later I brought it up again, stating that I was too busy to lead the effort and that anyone else who wanted was welcome to take over the leadership, there were no takers and the concept seemed to die.

In 2007 I developed The Plan: Claims of Territory in the High Desert, an ink-on-paper series that explored the clashing interests in the Morongo Basin as population pressures were beginning to come our way and that included some works about the cabins. Through the exhibition of that series I met Scott Monteith and Andy Woods of Wonder Valley Arts, who shared my interest in the cabins and seemed to understand how they were fundamental to the character, materially and culturally, of Wonder Valley. In our conversation I once again brought up the idea of a festival, and the idea began to take a new direction.

At the time the concept had first come up on the Forum the concern had mainly been one of the disappearance of the cabins through the instrument of shame, such as with Shack Attack. However, in the period since then the Morongo Basin had seen an explosion of development that was fundamentally threatening to its unique rural character. Even my own far-out community of Wonder Valley was experiencing a surge of real estate activity. At the same time, the Marine Base began making expansion plans that contained real potential threat to Wonder Valley. My own strategies of environmental and community organizing began to undergo a change in response to these pressures, and I felt an aggressive move to protect my community was called for. A cabin festival within Wonder Valley could potentially accomplish a great deal in terms of demonstrating the ongoing existence of an authentic cultural and physical community character and of fighting an insidious invisibility that had become dangerous. At the same time, highlighting the history and cultural importance of the cabins could also potentially assist other communities in the Morongo Basin that shared the homestead history and current vulnerabilities to speculation and exploitation.

Scott Monteith, Andy Woods, myself, and fellow Wonder Valley resident Ellie Greenwood (who later had to drop out) began to meet and formulate ideas in late summer of 2007.  Together we formulated a mission of “Discovering the history, celebrating the culture, and strengthening the community of Wonder Valley.” The name we finally decided on was the Wonder Valley Homestead Cabin Festival, highlighting the twin foci of Wonder Valley and the homestead cabins. We also considered whether “festival” was really the right term for what we had in mind, but the association of the word with a time of celebration for special observations and cultural events seemed to best describe what we were doing.

Scope was the subject of much discussion. We ultimately decided that we needed to limit ourselves to a pair of exhibitions, one at Fi-Lox-See and one at The Palms in Wonder Valley. For the flagship show at Fi-Lox-See (“Homestead Obsession“) we decided to hew as closely as possible to a framework of featuring only Wonder Valley artists for whom the cabins were already a central subject. The exception was an invitation for participation to special guest from San Diego Kim Stringfellow, whose research on the cabins for her upcoming book was to be an important educational component of the Festival. At the same time, we wanted to be sure the Festival included as wide an artistic view of the homestead cabins as possible, so we made the show at The Palms (“Homestead Show ‘n Tell“) open to anyone, from anywhere, with work that concerned, included, or was inspired by the cabins. – Chris Carraher

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