High Desert Test Sites is a nonprofit arts institution that supports and stewards experimental artwork in the Joshua Tree region. We support programs that intersect contemporary art with everyday life, creating intimate exchanges between individuals, artworks, landscape, and community, challenging art to be relevant both to a region and beyond.
Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites—cofounded by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—has hosted the work of more than 450 artists, 11 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects. Long directed by Andrea Zittel, HDTS leadership was recently handed over to Vanesa Zendejas, Zittel’s longtime administrator and program manager.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, email@example.com
Elena Yu - Assistant Director of Programming and Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, email@example.com
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
Elena Yu, Emily Endo, Emma Palm, Sydney Foreman and rotating A-Z West Work Trade Residents. Thanks to Elizabeth Carr and Zena Carr at the Sky Village Swap Meet! RIP Bob Carr.
WEBSITE AND DESIGN
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Knaus - Chair
Andrea Zittel - Founding Director/Treasurer
Brooke Hodge - Secretary
Marilyn Loesberg - Member
Susan Lubeznik - Member
Aram Moshayedi - Member
High Desert Test Sites is grateful to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Tides Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation - Arts Regranting Program/Inland Empire at The Community Foundation, Strengthening Inland Southern California through Philanthropy, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Ranch Projects, California Arts Council, Sky Village Swap Meet, Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association and our generous donors for their support over the years.
When HDTS was founded in 2002, part of the original mission was to run on a zero budget. The idea was to support artistic visions in practical terms—provide help, guidance, tools, a cot, and infinite space. For many years this worked and it produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.
Over the past ten years, HDTS has been working towards building a more substantial funding structure for artists’ projects. This has included hosting recurring fundraising projects such as our Artist Painted Rock Auction, Gem/Mineral Expo, pop-ups at art fairs and art museums, and producing limited edition artworks for sale.
But these endeavors never quite add up to what we need—to pay our artists fairly, for venue rentals, for staff, liability insurance, the bookkeeper, to feed our volunteers, pay for all-terrain forklift rentals, and so much more.
As our programs grow every year, so does our budget. And although we make every effort to raise the money that we need with Andrea’s self-sufficient spirit in tow, we still rely on support from donors to make it all happen.
HDTS has been a registered 501c3 since 2013. Please consider a gift in any amount to help us in providing access to engaging, experimental, contemporary art in the high desert region.
Donate via PayPal, via Venmo (@hdts_azwest), or via check:
PO Box 1058 Joshua Tree CA 92252
Many past HDTS projects have only been temporarily sited, but some are permanent and scattered throughout the Morongo Basin. The best way to find these works is to follow the directions on our current HDTS driving map. This map also includes sites we’ve partnered with in the past and admire as independent projects. Most HDTS works are located at sites that we regularly activate and operate out of. Those sites include:
Our new base of operations, A-Z West is Andrea’s lifelong project, where she lived and worked for 20 years before handing the keys to HDTS in 2022. Located a few minutes outside downtown Joshua Tree, this 85-acre compound includes four restored homestead cabins, several experimental living structures, permanent sculptures, 4,000 square foot studio space, and pristine desert landscape.
Public tours of A-Z West are offered every 2 weeks, alternating between 1-hour outdoor only tours, and 2-hour tours that include most interiors. Tickets for these tours can be purchased through the West Works store. All funds raised from tour ticket sales support HDTS programming and general operating expenses.
HDTS office hours at A-Z West are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 am–5 pm. Our office is not open to the public during these hours, but by appointment only. Please email Sydney if you have an inquiry regarding A-Z West.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left, then the next right. At the hanging wooden signs, go straight to park in the Encampment lot, or make a left to go to the house, cabins, or studio.
Behind the Bail Bonds
Sited on this 10-acre boulder strewn parcel adjacent to A-Z West are several works that may take a few hours of exploring to divulge: Morongo by Nathan Lieb, Surveillant Architectures by Julia Scher, and CA Truck Heads by Sarah Vanderlip. Feel free to visit this site sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking and do not block the road.
Directions: Head east down Hwy 62 past downtown Joshua Tree. About 1 mile past Park make a right at the “Bail Bonds” sign onto Neptune. When the road hits a “T” make a left. Follow along power lines, park just before the turnaround area.
Andy’s Gamma Gulch
Co-founder Andy Stillpass has generously allowed countless HDTS projects to take place on this wildly beautiful 100-acre parcel north of Pioneertown off of Pipes Canyon Rd. Several works are sited here, includingGradually/We Become Aware/Of a Hum in the Room by Halsey Rodman, Trail Registry by Scout Regalia and Tapwater Pavilion by Tao Urban. Andy’s is also available to visit from sunup to sundown but make sure you park in our designated parking or if you do need to park off the side of the road, be careful not to end up in soft sand.
Directions: From Hwy 62 turn right at Pioneertown Rd. Drive about 7.5 miles. Turn right on Pipes Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to Gamma Gulch Rd, turn left (respect our neighbors – do not drive above 20 mph on this road!) Drive 1.6 miles to God’s Way Love (if the sign has blown off look for Dave & Jeannie’s sign), turn right. Drive 0.4 miles.
Purchased from a tax sale back in the early aughts, this 40-acre site is surrounded by BLM land. Located at the most eastern edge of Wonder Valley, in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness area, this site is a commitment to get out to, and feels like the end of the California high desert before being clearly on the way to Arizona. This flat, sandy, washy land is home to several permanently sited works, including Dineo Seshee Bopape’s HDTS 2022 work, and a mostly “invisible” project: Bob Dornberger and Jim Piatt’s Secret Restaurant. On the opposite side of Ironage Rd and slightly to the north is a work by Kiersten Puusemp (Untitled) that you will probably need to get out of your car and explore a little in order to find. Also accessible from sunup to sundown, be very careful when parking off the side of the road as the sand is very soft here.
Directions: From 29 Palms continue east on Hwy 62. Drive forever (23 miles) and turn left at Iron Age Rd. Drive a mile or so until you see something. (Iron Age Road connects both Amboy Road and Hwy 62, so you can reach it using either access road.)
HQ at Sky Village Swap Meet
The HDTS HQ is a visitor’s center and creative hub where artists, craftsmen, visionaries, and friends engage with the high desert community through creative projects and performances. You can pick up a copy of our driving map to HDTS projects and other local sites of interest at the HQ every Saturday from 9 am–12 pm (closed July-August)—and please check our Instagram page regularly to see what special events we have on the calendar. More on the HDTS HQ here.
Directions: 7028 Theater Road (just off Hwy 247, right behind Barr Lumber), Yucca Valley, CA 92286; 760-365-2104
One of our favorite community partners is Copper Mountain Mesa Community Center, where we’ve hosted many past HDTS programs and events. CMMCC is located in North Joshua Tree, about 15 minutes north of A-Z West. On the property is an old firehouse that served the neighborhood in the 80s, and now HDTS rents for community programs, public exhibitions and events. Currently HDTS is working on siting our Desert Research Library at the Firehouse Outpost and later opening this resource to the public. Stay tuned for project updates!
The Firehouse Outpost is currently open to the public only during public events. Please email Elena if you have questions about the space or are interested in Firehouse Outpost programming.
Directions: 65336 Winters Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252; Driving west on Hwy 62 into downtown Joshua Tree, pass Park and make a left on Sunburst. Right on Golden, left on Border, past Aberdeen and make a right on Winters. Take Winters past where it turns to dirt road, CMMCC is on the left.
The Palm Talks
James Owen Weatherall
M. Cay Castagnetto
Community has become a buzzword for everything from right-wing fraternities, ecological collectives, and Silicon Valley burners to gentrification activists. The very notion of the term brings people together as much as it divides them; it creates a sense of belonging and a case for segregation, shared sets of beliefs and prejudices. More than likely, we are all voluntary and involuntary members of different communities, with contradictory values and conflicting agendas. Therefore, it might be more relevant to think of a non-community, where each and every one of us can be left alone together. But is this possible in today’s political climate? Is there anything left of the social infrastructure that supports operations of the self?
The Palm Talks wants to know what the future of our non-community looks like. How can we not belong to a group that would likely take us as a member? How can there be the acceptance of difference without otherness? These are some basic ideas. The Palm Talks affords an opportunity to think about the groups to which we belong. Particularly in the context of the High Desert and the convergent ideologies represented there, it becomes ever more important to address the notion of community—as well as non-community—through personal anecdotes and oral histories, as well as critical methodologies. There is perhaps no better place to ask these questions than Wonder Valley, where some come to create communities, others to escape them, some a combination of both, and where all rely on the land, water, trees, animals, and everything else that is seemingly common to all.
This “pseudo symposium” includes both local and non-local thinkers and musicians at our favorite desert bar, The Palms. Speakers include: Fiona Connor, Trinie Dalton, Gary Dauphin, Steve Kado, Alexander Keefe, Nancy Klein, Annelies Kuiper, Cailin O’Connor, Litia Perta, Linda Sibio, Laura Sibley, Bobby Jesus and Frances Stark, Sam Thorne, James Owen Weatherall, Aurora Tang, and others. With music by The Renderers and M. Cay Castagnetto.
OCTOBER 21, 2017 - OCTOBER 22, 2017
Since 2002, High Desert Test Sites has organized a semi-annual series of roving events that bring together local, domestic, and international artists whose contributions have responded to Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and the surrounding areas. The nature of these works have been for the most part ephemeral, yet even those projects imagined with more solidity and structure have had trouble enduring the elements. For the most part, the history of High Desert Test Sites is preserved in the memory of the participants and the viewers of each edition rather than the landscape.
This year’s iteration of High Desert Test Sites is built around An Ephemeral History of High Desert Test Sites: 2002-2015, a month-long exhibition focused on the project’s history. In addition, a pseudo-symposium titled The Palm Talks compliments the exhibition with live music and presentations on the topic of non-communities.
The Palm Talks includes both local and non-local contemporary thinkers, historians, writers, and artists, whose contributions culminate in a momentary glimpse into our collective state. Set within the context of the legendary Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms and presented with live musical accompaniment by M. Cay Castagnetto and The Renderers, there will be a negotiation between language and sound, noise and meaning, music and speech. Participants in The Palm Talks include Fiona Connor, Trinie Dalton, Gary Dauphin, Steve Kado, Alexander Keefe, Nancy Klein, Annelies Kuiper, Cailin O’Connor, Litia Perta, Linda Sibio, Laura Sibley, Bobby Jesus and Frances Stark, Sam Thorne, James Owen Weatherall, and others.
An Ephemeral History of High Desert Test Sites presents an incomplete and partial look at the organization’s fifteen-year history, based on the artifacts, ephemera, and facsimiles that have been recovered by High Desert Test Sites and past participating artists. It has prompted a desire to document the organization’s history, to create a living archive of contributions that were otherwise ephemeral and temporary, and to observe the narrative of the gathered material in order to tell the story of the organization, the vast community of artists involved, and the landscape that has witnessed these activities.
High Desert Test Sites 2017 is complimented by new projects and contributions by Fiona Connor, Bob Dornberger and Sarah Witt, Neil Doshi, Edie Fake, Glenn-Murray & Co., Oliver Payne, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, and Ry Rocklen.
A publication for the exhibition will be available as part of the Saturday, October 21 edition of the Hi-Desert Star, a local newspaper that has served the community since 1957.
High Desert Test Sites 2017 is curated by Sohrab Mohebbi and Aram Moshayedi, with Tatiana Vahan, Elena Yu, Vanesa Zendejas, and Andrea Zittel.