Spires of sun-struck red rocks, fringes of green forest and eye-searing azure skies create an instant painting. Sedona, ever-changing in the light, has mesmerized artists for decades, challenging them to capture its splendor.
The dramatic setting has proven to be a powerful lure for artistic types who move to the region to live and work. Max Ernst, a surrealist painter, sculptor and pioneer of the Dada Movement, arrived in 1946. Egyptian sculptor, Nassan Gobran, along with a handful of local artists founded what would become the Sedona Arts Center in 1958. A group of western artists who were as handy with a horse as they were with a paintbrush—Joe Beeler, George Phippen and pards—sat in a local saloon one summer afternoon in 1965. There in a back booth over cold beers they formed Cowboy Artists of America.
That kind of diversity continues to fuel Sedona’s vibrant art scene. Today, Sedona is home to hundreds of artists of every medium and aesthetic bent. It is an arts community of ruggedly individualistic expression, from cutting-edge contemporary to visionary, Native American to modern realism. This robust level of cultural activity helped foster Sedona’s reputation as a destination. Sedona rivals Santa Fe in its richness of the arts.
A highlight of any visit to Sedona is prowling the 80-plus galleries that showcase contemporary, representational and traditional artists who are known nationally and internationally. You’ll find the largest collection of galleries in Uptown and others strung along Arizona Highway 179 in such clustered concentration it’s become known as Gallery Row.
Visitors wanting to maximize their artistic explorations can time their visit. Every first Friday of the month, several of Sedona’s prominent art galleries host an evening of openings, demonstrations and receptions known as First Friday Art Walk. Gallery patrons sip wine, nibble hors d’oeuvres and enjoy live music. The event is from 5-8 p.m. but often lasts longer because the locals tend to swoop in late. No one parties like art lovers party. For more information and a map of participating galleries, go to www.sedonagalleryassociation.com.
Every season brings another artistic gathering. Annual events include the Sedona Arts Festival, Sedona Plein Air Festival, Sedona Jazz on the Rocks and Sedona International Film Festival to name just a few. Sedona Arts Festival, a fair featuring both art and crafts, takes place every October. Proceeds support arts programming in the community and provides scholarships to students pursuing an artistic career. Sedona Jazz on the Rocks attracts music lovers from around the country and has featured noted headliners such as Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, and Diane Schuur.
With Hollywood’s long love affair with Sedona as a dazzling movie set, it’s no surprise that the Sedona International Film Festival has blossomed into one of the premier events on the celluloid circuit. Launched in 1995, the eight-day festival screens features, documentaries, shorts and animated films. Educational workshops are designed to teach and inspire burgeoning filmmakers. Guests and honorees have included some of Hollywood’s elite.
Even jet-setting celebrities appreciate a few days in Sedona.