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 - Director Emeritus/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.
Desert Research Library
The Desert Research Library is a community project that aims to construct a collective history of our region through a centralized, publicly accessible collection of multimedia materials and related public programming. The content and thematic emphasis of the collection is driven by artists in our local community, as well as HDTS’ mission to provide and support experimental, public engagements with art in the High Desert.
Our growing collection comprises books (including many antique and rare volumes), periodicals, brochures, zines and other ephemera, and we hope to someday include films, videos, physical objects, audio recordings and more. The library covers such topics as site specific art and architecture, desert ecology, sustainability and permaculture, utopian communities and visionary environments, the history and ethos of the American West, the settlement of the Mojave Desert, Indigenous histories and practices, and fiction and poetry set in the desert. The library also includes books that may not directly mention “the desert,” yet nonetheless address timely topics with broad resonance in our unique community such as mental illness, Earth building, racial justice, contemporary art made in rural communities or “how to live in a car or van.”
Part of the library’s mission is to place a special emphasis on marginalized histories and experiences. The desert has provided refuge and resources for Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities in the past and present, but these roots are less visible in the predominant narrative of the desert as a frontier free to be colonized by the American mainstream. By searching for examples of how marginalized peoples have lived together in the desert in the past, we seek answers to the question of how we can thrive today.
The Desert Research Library is located at our new long-term site in North Joshua Tree, the Copper Mountain Mesa Outpost, where we occupy a 1,200 square foot building that previously served as a fire station. Stay tuned for library public hours!
Click here to view our current library catalogue (this list is continuously being updated and expanded).
The Desert Research Library Cohort
In order to ensure that the library continuously reflects the experiences and interests of our community, we have formed the “Desert Research Library Acquisition Team,” a rotating cohort of ten local artists who meet regularly to discuss the collection, use library funds to expand the collection based on their individual areas of interest and develop publications and public programming inspired by the library. Together we will build the Desert Research Library into a well-versed, comprehensive collection that encompasses a wide array of geographies, histories and experiences falling under the broad term “desert.”
The 2021 Desert Research Library Acquisition Team cohort includes:
Desert Research Library Acquisition Team members are currently thinking about…
California Desert WildflowersEarth ArchitectureMental IllnessMining / What’s UndergroundQueer Desert RomanceChemehuevi MythologyDesert ArtistsDIY Living Other Deserts
- Administrations of Lunacy, Mab Segrest, The New Press, 2021
- Adventures with the Mojave Phonebooth, Godfrey Daniels, 261pgs, 2018
- Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Angela Davis, 416pgs, Intl Pub,
- Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel, 224pgs, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
- Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, The, Pico Iyer, 96pgs, Simon & Schuster/ TED, 2014
- Asdzáá Beat, The, Amber McCrary,
- Battleborn: Stories, Claire Watkins, 304pgs, Riverhead Trade, 2013
- Before the Wilderness: Environmental Management by Native Californians, Harry James, Malki-Museum Press,
- Billionaire Wilderness, Justin Farrell, 392pgs, Princeton University Press, 2020
- Cactus Thorn: (A Novella) (Western Literature Series), Mary Austin, 163pgs, University of Nevada Press, 1994
- Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition, Marc Reisner, 608pgs, Penguin Books, 1993
- California Fault, Thurston Clarke, 417pgs, Ballantine Books, 1997
- Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture: How to Build Your Own, Nader Khalili, 233pgs, Cal Earth Press, 1996
- Chemehuevi Indians of Southern California, Ronald MIller, Malki-Museum Press , 2069
- Chemehuevi Song, A, Clifford Trafzer, 328pgs, University of Washington Press, 2015
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.10. Numbers. 1,2,4,5,7 & 8. 1973-75, The, George Tassel, 102pgs, Independently Published, 2020
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.11. Numbers. 4,8,& 10. 1977-78, The, George Tassel, 54pgs, 2020
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.8. Numbers. 7, 8 & 10. 1968-69, The, George Tassel, 54pgs, 2020
- Collected Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom Vol.9. Numbers. 2,3,5,6,7,8 &13. 1970-73, The, George Tassel, 118pgs, Independently Published, 2020
- Colony High, David Brin, 218pgs, 2021
- Degas and the Dance, Jill DeVonyar, 303pgs, Harry N Abrams Incorporated, 2002
- Desert Memories, Ariel Dorfman, 304pgs, National Geographic Books, 2011
- Desert of the Heart, Jane Rule, 222pgs, Open Road Media, 2013
- Desert Pilgrim's Bestiary, A, Anthony West,
- Desert, The, Brandon Shimoda, 192pgs, Song Cave, The, 2018
- Desert Underground, The, Robin Kobaly, 52pgs, Summertree Institute, 2019
- Digna; Reclaiming Dreams, Blanca Villalobos, 12pgs,
- Dune, 40th Anniversary Edition (Dune Chronicles, Book 1), Frank Herbert, 544pgs, Ace Trade, 2005
- Each of Us a Desert, Mark Oshiro, 332pgs, Tor Teen, 2020
- Easy Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Southwest (Easy Field Guides), Rick Harris, 32pgs, Primer Pub, 1995
- Empire of Sand, Tasha Suri, 496pgs, Orbit, 2018
- Enduring Seeds, Gary Nabhan, 225pgs, University of Arizona Press, 2016
- Erosion, Terry Williams, 336pgs, Sarah Crichton Books, 2019
- Faded Sun Trilogy Omnibus, The, C. Cherryh, 784pgs, Penguin, 2000
- Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession, Craig Childs, 304pgs, Back Bay Books, 2013
- Gardening with Less Water: Low-Tech, Low-Cost Techniques; Use up to 90% Less Water in Your Garden, David Bainbridge, 128pgs, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2015
- Gathering the Desert, Gary Nabhan, 221pgs, University of Arizona Press, 2016
- Gobi Desert, The, Mildred French, 320pgs, Virago, 1984
- Gold Fame Citrus: A Novel, Claire Watkins, 352pgs, Riverhead Books, 2016
- Goodbye to the Sun, Jonathan Nevair, 292pgs, 2021
- Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, A, William deBuys, 384pgs, Oxford University Press, 2013
- Half and Half, Claudine O'Hearn, 288pgs, Pantheon, 2008
- High Desert, Noah Purifoy, 134pgs, Gerhard Steidl Druckerei und Verlag, 2015
- His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina, Danielle Steel, 336pgs, Delta, 2000
- House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, Craig Childs, 512pgs, Back Bay Books, 2008
- How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom, Bob Wells, 178pgs, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014
- I'm in Charge of Celebrations, Byrd Baylor, 32pgs, Simon and Schuster, 2014
- I Rode a Flying Saucer., George Tassel, 54pgs, 2020
- It's Hot Today, Zack Lee,
- Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin, 116pgs, Applewood Books, 2000
- Luna Arcana: The Alchemy of Earth & Sky: Volume 1, ed Walker, 52pgs, 2021
- Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, Michael Moore, 368pgs, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989
- Mirages and Speculations: Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Desert, Lyn Worthen, 272pgs, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017
- Mirror and Pattern: George Laird's World of Chemehuevi Mythology, Carobeth Laird, 374pgs, Malki Museum Press, 1984
- MNRL CVLT Field Report, Nxoeed Nxoeed, 24pgs, Fluke,
- Musicking, Christopher Small, 238pgs, Wesleyan University Press, 2011
- Nature Poem, Tommy Pico, 128pgs, Tin House Books, 2017
- On Foot in Joshua Tree National Park: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide, Patty Furbush, M. I. Adventure Pubns, 2005
- One Hundred Desert Wildflowers of the Southwest, Janice Bowers, Western Natl Parks Assoc, 1987
- Other Desert Cities, Jon Baitz, 57pgs, Dramatist's Play Service, 2012
- Plants of the Cahuilla Indians of the Colorado Desert and Surrounding Mountains, Robert Hepburn, 216pgs, 2012
- Pottery by American Indian Women, Susan Peterson, 224pgs, 1997
- Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions (P.S.), The, Winifred Gallagher, 256pgs, Harper Perennial, 2007
- Prickly Words for Wounds, Amy Tea,
- Queer Ecologies, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands, 424pgs, Indiana University Press, 2010
- Red Deal, The, The Nation, 144pgs, Common Notions, 2021
- Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature, The, Geary Hobson, 429pgs, University of New Mexico Press, 1981
- Rest Is Noise, The, Alex Ross, 640pgs, Macmillan, 2007
- Rise Up! Good Plant Witches Summer Solstice Zine 2021, Corinna Rosella, 2021
- Rise Up! Good Plant Witches Winter 2020; No Maidens, No Mothers, Corinna Rosella, 32pgs, 2020
- Serrano Indians of Southern California, The, Francis Johnson, Malki-Museum Press , 2069
- Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera, 128pgs, And Other Stories, 2015
- Smell of Rain on Dust, The, Martín Prechtel, 184pgs, North Atlantic Books, 2015
- Staying with the Trouble, Donna Haraway, 304pgs, Duke University Press, 2016
- Stories from the Country of Lost Borders, Mary Austin, 312pgs, Rutgers University Press, 1987
- Sunbelt Justice, Mona Lynch, 280pgs, Stanford University Press, 2009
- Tainted Desert, The, Valerie Kuletz, 368pgs, Routledge, 2016
- Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, James Baldwin, 496pgs, Vintage, 1998
- Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants, Lowell Bean, 225pgs, Malki Museum Press, 1972
- Turquoise Ledge, The, Leslie Silko, 336pgs, Penguin, 2010
- Undoing Gender, Judith Butler, 288pgs, Routledge, 2004
- Undrowned, Alexis Gumbs, AK Press, 2020
- Unsettling the Commons, Craig Fortier, 100pgs, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2017
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, 272pgs, St. Martin's Press, 2018
- Woman Artist in the American West: 1860-1960, The, Phil Kovinick, 59pgs, Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1976
- Women and Indians on the Frontier, 1825-1915, Glenda Riley, 352pgs, University of New Mexico Press, 1984
- Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and the Betrayal of the Navajos, Judy Pasternak, 336pgs, Free Press, 2011