Built in 1918, the Curley School was converted into a live/work apartment complex for artists in 2007 as part of an International Sonoran Desert Alliance project. Today, it houses a gallery, a print shop and performance venues. Tracy Taft, the executive director of the alliance, says the campus has become a destination for cultural tourists.
Tell us about the school’s residents.
They bring a wide range of skills and practices. They’re culturally diverse. We have some artists who are painters and some who are photographers. We have a man who does rock art. Our interpretation of the arts is really broad.
What are the apartments like?
In the main historic building, the apartments have 8-foot windows in every room, so there’s a lot of natural light. They have hardwood maple floors, and they’re all designed with an open floor plan, so there’s maximum flexibility for how the artists can use the space.
What’s one of the more unusual shops on the campus?
There’s a shop on the plaza called Repeat Performance, and the artist does three things: She sells gently used designer clothing that she brings in from the East Coast, she sells artwork from local artists, and she does her own consulting. She’s a painter, too.
How have the Curley School residents assimilated into the community?
The campus brings 30 or more productive, creative people into town. We have a policy that everyone who lives at the Curley School has to volunteer at least five hours a month in the community. Curley School artists become part of the community and contribute in many ways. They start shops on the plaza.
Curley School is located at 201 Esperanza Avenue in Ajo. For more information, call 520-387-6823 or visit www.curleyschool.com.
— Danielle Grobmeier
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