Co-founded in 2002 by Andrea Zittel, Andy Stillpass, John Connelly, Shaun Regen and Lisa Anne Auerbach—High Desert Test Sites has hosted the work of more than 460 artists, 12 expansive site-specific programs, and 25 solo projects.


Aurora Tang - Director
Vanesa Zendejas - Director
Alexandra Wetzel
Tatiana Vaughn
Brad Hudson Thomas
Elena Yu
Sydney Foreman
Connor Schwab
Wills Brewer
Tellef Tellefsen
Neil Doshi
The Sibley Family
Bob Carr
Zena Carr and Sky Village Swapmeet
Copper Mountain Mountain Mesa Community Center
Kip Fjeld

The Experiment

High Desert Test Sites is dedicated to “learning from what we are not” and the belief that learning from the high desert community can offer new insight and perspectives, often challenging art to take on new areas of relevancy.

For twenty years HDTS was best known for its roving biennial events featuring artworks installed in diverse desert locations, and its programs that include performances, workshops, film screenings, publications, residencies, excursions, as well as community-based programs such as Kip’s Desert Book Club and Sarah Witt’s High Desert Test Kitchen.

At the time of it’s founding in 2002, part of the original HDTS mission was to run on a zero budget and to support artistic visions in practical terms: To provide help, guidance, tools, a cot, and infinite space. For many years this worked and produced self-driven projects that were ambitious and independently spirited.

Since then the country has changed, the desert has changed and the art world has changed. In 2002 it would have been impossible to predict the many shifts and evolutions that would take place in our desert region - but it is the spirit of these generating principles that we want to preserve from the original conception of HDTS:

The Original Experiment:

  1. To challenge traditional conventions of ownership, property, and patronage. Most projects will ultimately belong to no one and are intended to melt back into the landscape as new ones emerge.

  2. To insert art directly into a life, a landscape, or a community where it will sink or swim based on a set of criteria beyond that of art world institutions and galleries.

  3. To encourage art that remains in the context for which it was created - work will be born, live, and die in the same spot.

  4. To initiate an organism in its own right-one that is bigger and richer than the vision of any single artist, architect, designer, or curator.

  5. To create a center outside of any preexisting centers. We are inspired by individuals and groups working outside of existing cultural capitals, who are able to make intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant work in whatever location they happen to be in.

  6. To find common ground between contemporary art and localized art issues.

  7. To contribute to a community in which art can truly make a difference. HDTS exists in a series of communities that edge one of the largest suburban sprawls in the nation. Many of the artists who settle in this area are from larger cities, but want to live in a place where they can shape the development of their own community. For the time being, there is still a feeling in the air that if we join together we can still hold back the salmon stucco housing tracts and big box retail centers. Well maybe.