Revival of tradition: Arcofest 2023

The Arcosanti Arts Festival was founded in 1975 with the intention to make Arcosanti a cultural center for the region. Our stages were graced by the performances of Jackson Browne and David Lindley, McCoy Tyner, and Steven Stills just to name a few. The festival was a weekend full of games, music workshops, dance performances and more. There were craft sales and demonstrations in glass, metal, and woodworking, ceramic, fibers, batik, and jewelry making. Otto Piene, Tal Streeter, and Rockne Krebs were some of the many talented artists whose works embellished the site and landscape. Arcosanti Festival 77’ and 78’ featured academic conferences around the themes of ‘a celebration of health and healing’ and ‘art in the environment’. The speakers covered topics still very relevant today. Bill Dalton, Carl Hammerschlag, and Herbert Talaheftewa spoke on Indigenous traditional healing methods, techniques, and philosophy. Bessie Morris discussed Black attitudes toward mainstream health care and how they are based off of strongly different cultural roles and beliefs, Bill Stillwell and Alton Wasson used guided fantasy and dream theater to encourage participants to explore and experience the creative possibilities and connections which flow from the non-linear centers of our brain. Betty Friedan spoke in the Vaults on the role of institutional and environmental structures in transcending the polarized and unequal sex roles in individuals, families, and work. The Arcosanti Festival connected burgeoning academics and creatives to each other as well as the land, exercising the true potential of an Arcology. 

This weekend, Arcosanti resident and foundry artisan, Jesse Fernandez, and alumni, Kinuye Koide, set out to recreate this magical event, hosting Arcofest 2023. The weekend set off Friday evening with a potluck where we celebrated Jesse Fernandez and our COO Jean Tuller’s birthdays with an ice cream cake that was excited to melt in our Arizona summer heat. Dinner was followed with a poolside screening of Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Community members enjoyed the film while resting on air mattresses floating within the pool, an event Jesse has hosted previously featuring the film JAWS. Saturday morning was met with sun salutations as festival goers met for yoga in the Vaults. The day was spent by the poolside, taking a leisurely stroll around site, and enjoying delicious meals provided by our Café, special thanks to our hardworking Café manager Chris Kleine.  

Pinto Lebrun, our previous workshop and volunteer coordinator, kicked off the festival with an original Ukulele performance. A monsoon lurked behind the ceramics apse stage. Lightening painted the sky as our performers sonically filled the space. We were fortunate enough to not be rained out, and acoustic performances continued from various community members. Our foundry artisan, Addison, made his debut performance. Aric Coyote played original songs, a blend of cowboy, new-indie, folk rock. Yakov followed suit, playing two indie folk rock songs. Boy Butt performed a cover of “The Bug Collector” by Haley Heynderickx with acoustic guitar and trumpet. 

One of our newest Arcosanti community members, Dakota Yazzie, performed with his band, indigenous collective,  Earth Surface People, whose sound is a fusion of lo-fi balladry, contemporary R&B, art rock, slow jams, synth-pop, jazz fusion and field recordings. Their creative process, use of language, and storytelling are vehicles for reclamation of culture as well as creative expression and collaboration.

Kinuye Koide’s band,  Decent Action electrified the stage with their combo of punk indie rock, drawing inspiration from mannequin pussy, le tigre, and more. Kinuye met her fellow Decent Action bandmates a year ago at UC Davis after Kinuye’s workshop and volunteership at Arcosanti had come to a close. The bandmates were all exploring music on their own. Upon meeting, they realized through collaboration, they could push their sound much further. 

Image courtesy of Forts

The crowd shifted to the Vaults where Forts, an electronic pop trio from Phoenix, performed their darkly melodic, brooding vocals, and trance-like sound amidst an original lighting design that transformed the vaults into a new ethereal space where the crowd danced to their drenched vocals, primal drums, and imperial synths. 

“Arcofest 2023 was an unforgettable experience for us. Everything about the space draws you in, and seems to bring everyone together and closer than ever. We were a little worried when right after we set up our stage, dark clouds and lightning began to quickly creep in. To our surprise though, we found ourselves suddenly surrounded by so many people with tarps and helping hands. With everyone’s help, we were able to make it through and play our favorite show to date. The storm ended up adding to the magic of it all, and the crowd was truly just as electric as the lightning. Thank you to everyone who made Arcofest 2023 possible, and to everyone that works to keep Arcosanti so alive.” 


This energy carried over to the roof of the Vaults, as the crowd convened at Sunset Club (the best place to watch a Sunset at Arcosanti) where DJ Sethithy made his debut performance, playing hypnotic and peak-time techo with a funky tech house flare. Ace of Space picked up where DJ Sethithy left off, playing a set of bass forward down tempo beats, moving into Dirtybird style tech house and breaks. The evening was closed out by Sadhu, playing a blend of electro breakbeats and psychedelic minimal techno, stemming from genres popular in southern California’s underground desert scene.

“Originally it started as a birthday party / going away / Decent Action secret show. We started planning the festival back in April or May, but as we kept working on it, the bigger it got. I found Forts on instagram sometime in early june, and once we had them I knew I wanted to make it a bigger production. The other activities came pretty naturally with what our favorite things to do at Arcosanti were. Plus I was bringing people from home, and I wanted to share some of my favorite experiences at Arco with them. I honestly couldn’t have imagined it going better, even the unexpected lightning storms made the temperature nicer and the scenery more beautiful. It surpassed all expectations and I would love to do it again, now that we know how!”

Kinuye Koide

Featured image by Seth Winslow

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