As I was getting my tent up at NeoTribal The Gathering, folks started setting up on my left. They left a nice big space between my tent and theirs, and the space stayed empty most of the day. Late in the afternoon, it seemed as if people were hanging out between my tent and the next one, maybe doing something interesting, so I popped out to see what was going on.
I met three people who were spreading the word about a place Eliphante. I had never heard of Eliphante, or Cornville, Arizona, where it is located. (Cornville is reached via Interstate 17. It is about 97 miles north of Phoenix and about 20 miles south of Sedona.)
The folks had a book called Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter by Lloyd Kahn. (Find out more about Home Work here http://www.shelterpub.com/_home_work/HW-book.html and here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/381862.Home_Work?from_search=true.) In Home Work, there were multiple pages dedicated to Eliphante. I looked at the pages and became entranced. I could tell immediately from the photos I saw that Eliphante is a magical place.
(You can go here http://www.shelterpub.com/_home_work/_kahn/_122-123/kahn_122-123.html to see images of and text about Eliphante as they appear in Home Work.)
It turns out that the three people lounging next to me are caretakers at Eliphante. They are artists who live in the “kaleidoscopic, hand-built, sculptural village” to help maintain and restore what was built there by “the artist Michael Kahn and his wife Leda Livant over a 28 year period beginning in 1979.” (Thanks to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliphante for basic information.) The folks were at the festival to spread the word about Eliphante and to invite people to the series of events happening there in a couple of weeks. I immediately wanted to go and see the place for myself.
(You can also learn more about Eliphante, see more wonderful photos of the place, and watch a trailer for a documentary called Eliphante: Where Life is Art and Art is Life at http://www.theshelterblog.com/eliphante-michael-kahns-sculptural-village-arizona-desert/. Watch for the goat in the trailer.)
I talked for quiet a while to the two guys who were representing Eliphante. They told me the county won’t give the place a permit to host events there (because of the zoning, I think), so all events are open to members only. Memberships are for a lifetime, and folks get membership cards. (One of the guys whipped out his membership card to show me.) I knew I wanted to be a member even before I visited.
Here’s what the Eliphante website (http://www.eliphante.org/) has to say:
Eliphante is a private residence looked after and cared for by the 501(c)(3) non-profit Eliphante, Ltd. We are volunteer run and member supported, on an invitational basis to organizational members. Together, we are working to preserve and restore the work of the late artist Michael Kahn and his wife Leda Livant.
After the festival, I looked at my schedule of dental and van repair appointments and decided I could make the trip to Eliphante on the Saturday before I started my temp job. I went to the Eliphante website to find out contact info, then sent an email explaining who I was, how I’d heard of the place, and saying when I wanted to visit. Within a couple of days, I got a message from one of the guys I’d met. The message said, “So glad to hear from you. You were a great neighbor at the gathering. You are on the list for Saturday…”
On the day I visited, there was an accident on I -17 that brought traffic to a complete standstill. (I was listening to the Grateful Dead, so I just danced in my seat and didn’t let myself be bothered by the delay.) I got to Eliphante later than I had planned, but still with plenty of time to look around during the period when they were receiving
The directions I’d been sent were very good, and I only had to stop to consult the map once, when I thought I’d missed a turn. Actually, I hadn’t gone far enough to get to that turn. Once back on track, I found the place easily, although no one in a vehicle could stumble upon the place. There are no signs directing drivers to the property.
Upon arrival, I found the creek still flowing. I didn’t realize there were rocks arranged above the level of the water on which I could have walked across, so I just lifted my skirt and waded through. ( I was glad I was wearing my sturdy, all-terrain Keen sandals).
As soon as I walked up to the outdoor kitchen, a little kid (probably about four years old) introduced himself and his brother. Then I saw one of the fellows I’d met at NeoTribal. We were happy to see each other, and he took me to sign the disclaimer that said I wouldn’t hold Eliphante liable if I got hurt or died while I was there. I like the way they got it right out there that anything could happen, and I was responsible for my own damn self.
After I signed the liability waiver, I was on my own to walk around and look around and poke around. I put my camera in my pocket and went exploring.
The first building I explored was the Hippadome.
When I walked in, there were several people sitting around in the main room of the dwelling. I was greeted by Leda Livant Kahn herself. Wow! What a wonderful person. She told me later that she was born in 1925, and met Michael Kahn in 1979, at which time she left her husband of 24 years and her nearly adult children. (One child was a freshman in college and the other was a senior in high school.) She was 54 when she started the new chapter of her life with Michael Kahn, which definitely gives me hope for my later years.
The folks in the Hippadome were preparing to leave when I arrived, so I soon had the place to myself. I explored the many little nooks and crannies and took several photos.
The next two photos were taken by me and are details of the mosaic on the wall next to the wooden bar.
The Hippadome has a second room, with a ladder and what I think is a sleeping loft. On the ground floor of this room were two desks, so maybe it was a work room too. On the second level, just beyond the ladder, there is a small door leading outside. I climbed the ladder up to the loft. That was a precarious endeavor. I thought better of it, but I really wanted to go through that small door, so I heaved myself up at the top. I should have taken my backpack off. I’m glad I didn’t fall.
When I tried to go through the small door, I realized two things.
#1 Eliphante should add to the liability waiver that the institution has no responsibility if a person gets stuck trying to go through a door too small for his/her body. (Yes, I almost got stuck. Again, I should have taken my backpack off. Later Leda told me the door I went through had been the dog’s door.)
#2 The Hippadome is built into a hill, because when I stepped through that door, I was standing on the ground.
To be continued at http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/08/24/eliphante-part-2/.
All photos in this post were taken by me.