“I went to the Yuma Art Symposium and all I got was this life changing experience” Day One Part 1

     As the 2013 chair of the East Carolina University “Material Topics” Metals Symposium I know first-hand what is possible when a few passionate and innovative individuals come together for one goal: To invite makers from all over to participate in a gathering that emphasizes emerging talent, new interdisciplinary techniques and the future of our field while still staying small and intimate. It takes months to coordinate an event like this. With changing locations, presenters, participants, and demonstrators to wrangle each year, the ECU metals graduate and undergraduate students get a crash course in programs management, curating, fundraising, grant writing, event planning, and patience. It seems the hardest thing to stick to is keeping the gathering intimate. We all want our symposium baby to be a success but that baby could easily get too big for its britches and end up running out of steam and funding before year ten.   Being part of such a well-oiled and well-intentioned machine is an experience I will cherish forever and none of it would have been possible without another symposium on the South West.

For those who are unaware, here is your history lesson for today. “Material Topics” actually has a parent symposium called The Yuma Art Symposium and this little shindig has existed for a little over a third of a century!! Now in its 35th year (possibly more, the first few years no one was counting) The Yuma Art Symposium explodes onto the streets of Yuma, Arizona for three days and three nights every year. By their own admission “The Yuma Art Symposium is comfort food for hungry artists” If you are looking for a low key, delicious, and breathtakingly beautiful place to make true friends not just connections, you might want to consider adding a trip to Yuma in February to your bucket list. For details and a more in depth look at the history of this shindig click here

Three other ECU students and I booked our flight and hotel in January. I highly recommend teaming up, everything becomes super cheap!!!  Then we impatiently waited until February 20th, 2014.  Registration is a reasonable, $80 for students and $120 for general admission.  They also provide a work-study program for FREE registration! In order to save a few extra bucks and experience the Arizona desert landscape up close (this being my first time traveling this far west) we flew into Phoenix, then acquired an electric rental car to drive the three hours to Yuma. 

Aside from the biblical traffic jam we got stuck in while trying to leave Phoenix, the drive was amazing.  After being freed from the bonds of bumper to bumper we put the pedal to the metal.  We flew past Date land U.S.A, abandoned motels, the Best Western space lodge, hilarious metal reptile sculptures and thousands of waving cacti on Interstate 8 (we would stop by all of them on the way back) in order to make the highly anticipated pin swap at the infamous Lutes Casino on the first night.

Built in 1901 right in the heart of old downtown Yuma Arizona, it looks old, like old places should. It was built as a general store with a hotel located on the second floor, with the hotel balcony overlooking Main Street and some illegal gambling halls in the basement. Every corner of Lutes is covered in neon, old tin advertisements, kooky paintings and even kookier taxidermy. This is where the Yuma Symposium attendees start their engines, welcome old friends, make new ones, and catch up on gossip.

After the pin swap it was time to organize and file into one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited for opening remarks.

Please Click HERE to read Part 2

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