Living in Arcosanti : the story
Flashback to winter 2014. I was sitting in a bar in the lower east side for a friend's birthday drinks. I knew maybe one other person there (and that was the birthday girl ::rolls eyes:: ) so I attempted my most inviting smile and did what New Yorkers hate to do : talk to strangers. A girl, much older than me, who obviously was also desperate to not be the girl in the corner on her phone not knowing anyone sat with me. Somehow through the graces of the Small Talk Gods, we got on the topic of the southwest. I had been to the southwest so many times so I was rambling on and on (and on) about New Mexico this, Arizona that, when she said "Have you been to that bell making community?". Me:
Fast forward to May 2015. I landed in the Phoenix, Arizona airport with a vintage green army backpack (thanks Dad!) with a brown wool cowboy hat (thanks random NYC thrift store!) dangling off the back (because like, if you're going to be living in the desert, you gotta play the part).
I was on my way to live in this bell making town, which I found out to be called ...ARCOSANTI
So I quit my corporate job at Ralph Lauren with the only excuse of "well, I'm going to go live in a desert commune now...see ya when I see ya....) and when people asked what I would be doing exactly I kind of just made up an answer and hopped for the best because there was so little information on the program that I actually didn't even know myself. But I waved goodbye and promised everyone I'd make them a bell (lol! how many times do you get to say that in a lifetime).
I spent the next 1.5 months living, learning, building, eating, with this community of about 60 residents. And let me tell ya, it was such a wide range of interesting people. There were:
- The lifers: the older generation who had helped to build Arcosanti in the 1970's who pretty much ran the show there.
2. The long termers: People who were in their late 20s - 50's who have really made Arcosanti their homes. They lived in the nice rooms and Arcosanti was their normal way of life. There was even a family with kids. What a life to grow up there as a child.
3. The Campers: mostly the younger crowd who lived down the hill in "Camp" which was this development of concrete cubes that they lived out of. The campground had its own kitchen area, showers, and the nights were filled with camp fires, music sessions, and a cute little pet duckling and an occasional peacock. This crowd typically worked in the foundry or in construction/landscaping. As a workshopper, it was an honor to be invited down to "camp".
4. The Workshoppers : the lowest on the totem pole. We were the newbies but everyone looked forward to having us because well, we were new faces to mingle with in the small community. You had to be a workshopper in order to eventually be a resident.
So like, what the hell even is Arcosanti you ask? Ok. Here it goes.
Arcosanti was designed by the Italian Architect Paolo Soleri. He studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at his architecture school Taliesin but he had his own idea of what a city should look like so he coined this term "Arcology". Which basically is the combination of Architecture and Ecology. He hated urban sprawl and thought cities should be compact, walkable, sustainable, and environmentally conscious (working with the land instead of against it), and practiced minimal living. So with the help of volunteers who believed in his vision, he built Arcosanti. It is far from "done", but each year volunteers (workshoppers) from all over the world come to help build more of his vision. Another workshopper, Shannon, did this amazing thesis project that really goes in depth about the ethos of Arcosanti. She explained it 1000 times better than I ever could. So, hop on over there for more in-depth "what is Arcosanti" info.
So I know what you're thinking....I thought you said this was a bell making town? Where are the bells?
Well, Arcosanti has two bell making facilities. One is the foundry, which is where the bronze bells are made and the second is the ceramics studio where they make the amazing cast ceramic bells.
Unfortunately, you had to give a 6 month commitment in order to work in either of these places, so all of those friends I promised hand made bells to were a little disappointed.
SO the next 1.5 months. I got to dabble in all the different jobs that run Arcosanti and was able to pick a focus. So of course, the lesbian in me chose the Welding and Metalwork focus with my BFF Jen. Every morning at 6am we reported for duty in the metal shop where our instructor Paolo taught us to make these bad ass metal and wood planters.
Day to day activities varied. The mornings were always reserved for your "job". Whether it was construction, landscaping, working in the kitchen, giving tours, or working in the office. Everyone started at 6am and ended around 2:00pm. Lunch was at 12, and at 11:45 every day, there was a community meeting in the vaults to discuss the happenings of Arcosanti. Other random activities included foraging kumquats, butchering a chicken for dinner, extracurricular electrical work, chilling with pet baby ducks named Lucifer, beating the desert heat in the pool, drinking a beer at the Arco-mart, and watching the most majestic sunsets on top of the vaults.
After 6 weeks of living and breathing Arcosanti, I was ready to move along. I had become insanely tan, muscular, and become way too accustomed to the 6am - 2pm working lifestyle. Most of the other workshoppers stayed back and took up jobs there and lived in camp with all of the other newbies. It's been two years now since I have been back there so I would like to just take a moment to appreciate how pretty this place is: