Harrison House serves as a Joshua Tree haven for artists and conservationists

Creativity and environmental stewardship converge in an artistic symphony at Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology. The Joshua Tree Haunt, a residency and performance program for international artists and environmental activists, was the former home of Lou Harrison, considered one of the greatest American composers of the 20th century.

Harrison died aged 85 in 2003. The man was revered for using world music influences and new instruments, helping to introduce the percussive splendors of gamelan music – traditional ensemble music Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese – in America.

Today, Harrison’s former retirement home is generating significant ripple effects in arts and environmental circles.

“Being in the desert makes you feel like you’re part of a bigger picture,” said Eva Soltes, founder and director of Harrison House. “It opens you up. There is less inhibition. You can sing loudly, run far, look at the sky, look at nature. That’s part of why, after many years of being Harrison House Music & Arts, we’ve added ecology to our mission.

The organization’s permaculture courses and permaculture design certifications stand out, existing alongside a variety of innovative arts-based events and courses. Together they provide a unique space for artists of all kinds to explore the intersection of art and ecology.

“I feel like we can be a positive example,” Soltes said. “Without land, there can be no art. The whole idea of ​​regenerative life, of creating living soils, of growing food, of using the water we have is important. We say, “Grow it, spread it, pour it, keep it on your land.” And hydrate your soil. I consider this a pioneer, because there are going to be more deserts, we all know that.

Visitors Jakiah Smith Evans and Natalie Henry enjoy the view and a mural by Dana Moody, after a tour of the Joshua Tree Foundation for Arts and Ecology's Dryland Permaculture Gardens.

Soltes’ journey to and through Harrison House is remarkable. She had long been Harrison’s partner and attorney before his death. After the death in 2001 of Harrison’s life partner of 35 years, William Colvig, the composer, at the age of 84, built a straw bale artist’s retreat in Joshua Tree. It quickly became the house of his dreams, designed as an ideal sound environment.

When Harrison died several years later, Soltes relied on her creative prowess as a producer, director and performer. She designed a program inspired by Harrison’s creation and purchased the building, furnishing the house with Harrison’s own artwork and possessions.

Today, Soltes says, Harrison House is something of a monument to Harrison’s lifetime of experimentation, activism, concern for the environment and commitment to fostering creativity.

Soltes says the organization launched the Joshua Tree Foundation for Arts and Ecology, with his home at Harrison House. “We really think regionally about where we are and how to use our resources, she adds.

Recently the Joshua Tree Foundation for Arts and Ecology received a grant from the Amazon Environmental Literacy Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. Soltes says the funding will greatly benefit the organization’s ongoing efforts to optimize creativity and cultural development with each of its residencies and public offerings, especially those with an ecological focus – such as conferences, courses and other events. .

An upcoming event is a screening and panel discussion of the film “Saging the World” on September 24.

Raffaella Bona waters the vegetable patch while Jamie Dinser brings straw mulch to the garden beds at Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology.

The film sheds light on the sanctity of white sage among indigenous peoples, noting that it is an “endangered plant in an endangered ecosystem.” It draws parallels with the endangered status of specific fish and the Great Barrier Reef. Filmmaker Rose Ramirez will be on hand, alongside Craig Torres of Chia Café Collective in a panel moderated by Soltes.

“Sage has been an important part of the spirituality and beliefs of Native American people for generations,” says Soltes. “It’s a very specific thing in their culture, but their fields are raped with sage because all over the world people want to have a smudge stick, right? We need to start talking about these things. I’m someone who says, ‘Well, what resources do I have? What can I throw at it? »

Other upcoming events and workshops, such as “Introduction to Permaculture” are scheduled for September 30-October 30. 2, and from March 31 to April 2, 2023. And on November 15, Composer-in-Residence Gabriella Smith will unveil a work in progress.

“You know, once in a while, I open my eyes at night and I see the ‘galaxy’ and all the stars, and I start to really integrate into my person that we’re on a rock rolling down through space, all together. , and that we’re part of a much bigger whole,” Soltes shares. “That’s what I love most about the work we do here.

For more information about Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology, visit louharrisonhouse.org.

The Inland Empire Community Foundation strives to strengthen the Southern California interior through philanthropy. Learn more about iegives.org.

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