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.
Who We Are
PO Box 1058
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-5pm PST
Vanesa Zendejas - Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elena Yu - Assistant Director of Programming, email@example.com
Connor Schwab - Facilities and Grounds Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sydney Foreman - Director’s Assistant and Visitor Services, email@example.com
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Shaun Caley Regen
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.)
Center for Tactical Magic—The Tactical Ice Cream Unit
Frosty Treats & Food for Thought!
The ice cream vendor has long been synonymous with a roving oasis - a well-spring of refreshment; a reprieve from the heat; a cool intervention. In this regard, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) is no different. The TICU emerges at a time when most channels of distribution, communication, and social interaction are mediated and constrained by the fervor of financial exchange. Incorporating an alternative strategy of utopian potlatch, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is envisioned primarily as a mobile distribution center for ice cream and information.
More than meets the eye -
The Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) rolls through the city in an act of intervention that replaces cold stares with frosty treats and nourishing knowledge. Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch, Indymedia, infoshops, etc) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter-ego of the cops’ mobile command center. Although the TICU appears to be a mild-mannered vending vehicle, it harbors a host of high-tech surveillance devices including a 12-camera video surveillance system, acoustic amplifiers, GPS, satellite internet, a media transmission studio capable of disseminating live audio/video, and of course, ice cream. With every free ice cream handed out, the sweet-toothed citizenry also receives printed information developed by local progressive groups. Thus, the TICU serves as a mobile nexus for community activities while providing frosty treats and food-for-thought.
Integrated Technologies -
In these times of “heightened security” the TICU takes a Do-It-Yourself approach in confronting the rhetoric of “Big Brother”. More than creating an undercover, Mission: Impossible aesthetic, the TICU’s full surveillance suite provides grassroots access to mobile communications technologies. Whether used to produce independent community news or to monitor such “un-American” activities as corporate dumping or police brutality, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit will investigate the limits of “neutral technologies”. Equipped with a mobile satellite internet system, the captured video can be viewable in real-time and recorded via a remote website. Additionally, the various surveillance technologies are used to accumulate recordings which will provide a unique audio/video account of the local geography. As such, the vehicle’s GPS unit helps determine the routes taken as the Tactical Ice Cream Unit maps out the urban landscape through its daily tour of duty.
Community Experience -
At various times the Tactical Ice Cream Unit invites visitors to explore the interior, view documentation of the street operations, or collaborate on “missions”. Local community groups may also suggest uses for the TICU (i.e. support a strike, a beach clean-up, protest, or a neighborhood block party). Whether lurking in a corporate parking lot or chillin’ in a neighborhood park, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is sure to attract people from all walks of life.
Always Prepared -
The TICU is prepared to augment any event. Should the Tactical Ice Cream Unit wander into the vicinity of a rally, protest, or civil uprising, it is equipped to provide a valuable service by supplying activists with various, in-demand items (water, first-aid, film, gas masks, water balloons, etc.). In addition to offering delicious frozen desserts, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit serves as a mobile oasis where activists can quench their thirst, replenish their energy, reload their cameras, document unfolding events, protect themselves against various crowd dispersants, shield themselves from the elements, and arm themselves with educational materials - all without having to leave the protest vicinity. In short, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit seeks to protect, provide, energize, invigorate, and educate its audience.
The TICU is divided into a “mother ship” (Central Command Van) and a “scout” (Tactical Ice Cream Cart) to better facilitate a range of operations in a wide variety of public spaces. Acting both as a transport and as a re-supply vessel, the Central Command Van (CCV) offers valuable support for the Ice Cream Away Team. By adopting the form of the nomadic street vendor, the TICU can successfully navigate through zones of increasingly privatized public space in a manner which is only encouraged by the authorities’ request to “move along.” In so doing, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is sure to encounter yet another citizen in need of nourishment. Providing food and food-for-thought, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit merrily activates public space with wholesome information and good humor.
HDTS 5 (2006)
MAY 6, 2006 - MAY 7, 2006