The sun had reached its highest point of the day, and temperatures hovered at slightly more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. After a wrong turn and an additional eight miles on our borrowed bikes, we were finally on the right path to Kayenta, Utah, and its little known art village known as Coyote Gulch.
There is a distinct lack of shade along the roads in southern Utah, and we stopped frequently to drink water to avoid dehydration and overheating. But even with these frequent stops, the ride from Red Mountain Resort (located in Ivins) to Kayenta was a remarkably beautiful one. The landscape consisted of those striking over-sized red mountains that define Southern Utah and several flat, angular adobe homes tucked down hidden roads marked by large, artistic street signs.
After a five-and-a-half mile cycle up a slight incline, we pulled into the Coyote Gulch Art Village. Like the homes we’d passed along the way, the buildings in the art village were low to the ground, stacked with the landscape so that it was both accessible and hardly there at all. It was quiet, uncrowded and unassuming. We tucked our bikes into the bike rack, completely unworried that they were unlocked. My hair stuck to my head with sweat when I pulled off my helmet. We were desperately in need of air conditioning and something to eat.
There is one cafe in Coyote Gulch Art Village, the Xetava Gardens Cafe. It was past lunch time, but we gravitated toward the all-day breakfast section of the menu. As we were visiting Kayenta during a wellness retreat at Red Mountain Resort, it worked well that the menu was packed with fair trade, organic, free range, local and natural meal options. I opted for the Earth Waffle, an organic blue corn and whole wheat Belgian waffle with blueberries, organic agave nectar and melted butter. My travel partner stepped it up a notch with the Heaven Waffle, which came with all that plus organic peanut butter and more fresh fruit. It was utopia on a plate.
After lunch, we headed out to explore the village. It had that Sedona-esque artsy vibe to it but was much more understated with fewer than a dozen shops and galleries in the whole area. The focus wasn’t on mass producing items for the average traveler but rather creating and sharing a love of art with whoever happened to pass through.
On one side of the cafe, we happened upon the Zia Pottery Studio. Inside, a woman in an apron was working on a ceramic piece at the counter. She explained that the ceramic studio was a co-op, where artists shared space and sold their goods at an impressively good price. The work was beautiful, but clearly they aren’t in this for the money.
Across the way we happened into Purple Sage Studios, which had colorful, mainly landscape paintings covering nearly every inch of the wall. I poked my way through the work, drawn to the bright yellows and vivid purples, while my travel partner discussed the possibility of purchasing a painting from one of the artists. Next door, in Blue Raven Studio, we met Jerry Orban, one of several artists who works and sells art in that co-op. One of the things that intrigued me about Blue Raven was the classroom space, where Canvas A la Carte, a one-night art class for beginners, was held. It’s the kind of thing I would sign up for if I lived in the area.
After a quick rehydration break, we headed to the other side of the cafe, where we found a sculpture garden and more shops than studios. Photography, jewelry, metal pieces, sculptures and other artistic renderings from the local area and west of the Mississippi River were for sale. I’m not much of a shopper, so I walked away empty handed, but some of the pieces were very creative. Tucked in among these shops were galleries and a theater, where live music and plays are produced.
It didn’t take more than a couple hours to take in everything offered at Coyote Gulch Art Village, but the side trip into Kayenta was one I likely wouldn’t have encountered without some guidance, as it’s not widely known about in the general public like other arts communities are. It’s that anonymity and desire to create instead of impress that really appeals to me though.
We refilled our water bottles and put our bike helmets back on. The sun was still hot, and we had nearly six miles to go before reaching the pool at Red Mountain Resort.