In the late 1960s — a period brimming with social revolution — a group of professors at the University of Arizona set out to create an art colony.
In their dream community, adults would spend their days in the quiet and beauty of their art studios while children frolicked outside. The freedom to experiment with art, they believed, would lead to creative breakthroughs.
Forty years later, Rancho Linda Vista in Oracle is, indeed, a place of inspiration. Its residents and visitors through the years have gone off to make marks in the realm of art.
This month, the colony celebrates its over-the-hill birthday. Festivities throughout May will include concerts, art workshops, exhibits and food.
Rancho Linda Vista may have begun its life as an art colony in 1968, but the old ranch had brushes with creative greatness long before that.
In 1924, the writer Harold Bell Wright found himself in need of inspiration for an Old West novel he was writing, so he asked the property’s owner at the time — a cattle rancher — to rent him a living space.
His book, “The Mine with the Iron Door,” took off and attracted attention from a big-time producer. The next year, movie stars Pat O’Malley and Dorothy McKale arrived at the ranch to film scenes, and the place had its first brush with Hollywood.
The cast returned to the spot for a bit of cowboy-style leisure, and the ranch eventually played host to Rita Hayworth, Brian Ahearn and, for a brief visit, Gary Cooper.
When the counter-culture crowd bought 80 acres of the ranch decades later, they had as their inspiration Black Mountain College — a North Carolina school that emphasized music and fine arts as an integral part of life and required students to help with farming and constructing buildings.
They raised their children on the ranch with a beautiful view, and some of their children returned in adulthood to raise their own children on that land.
In 1998, the second generation started RLV Summer Youth Workshop, a program that provides arts to underprivileged children in Oracle’s surrounding communities. In 2005, came RLV OracleArt, an organization to bring arts to adults in the surrounding communities. In 2006, residents bought a barn, which they are dedicating during birthday festivities to serve as a workshop and performance space.
The facility is 4,000 square feet and consists of two studios, indoor and outdoor performance spaces and a workshop area.
“For me, this is like a second birth,” said Maggie Rush Miller, a resident at the ranch. “First was the creation of the art community, and the second birth is the creation of this next step in reaching out into the community. We now have so much to give back.”
Rancho Linda Vista will celebrate its 40th birthday throughout May with a host of workshops, performances and exhibits. To get to the ranch, take the Oracle exit off Route 77 onto American Avenue and turn right onto the unmarked road directly opposite the first Circle K. Turn left onto Calle Futura, bear right at the fork in the road, and turn right onto Linda Vista. The ranch is across the street from a pink rammed-earth gate.
For more information, call 444-0822.
• At 5 p.m. Saturday, May 10, hear readings by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams and Gerald Stern, the first poet laureate of New Jersey. Tickets are $20.
• From 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 17, attend Family Fun Day, a free event with workshops on African drumming, Native American flute playing, clay work and linoprints. At 5 p.m., enjoy a barn dance with music provided by The Valiants. Dance tickets are $30.
• At 6 p.m. Thursday, May 22, listen as Bryony Stroud-Watson and David Dunn give a free classical concert. Also, catch William Pitt Root, the first poet laureate of Tucson, reading his work.
• At 5 p.m. Friday, May 23, attend a free art reception at RLV Gallery that will include an experimental jazz performance with the Oracle Art Ensemble, poetry and a potluck dinner.
• At 2 p.m. Saturday, May 24, learn about the history of Rancho Linda Vista at the Acadia Ranch Museum, 825 Mount Lemmon Road. At 4:30 p.m., attend an auction of work by Rancho Linda Vista artists that will benefit RLV OracleArt. Call for ticket prices.
• At 10 a.m. Sunday, May 25, enjoy brunch and listen to live classical music with original compositions by Jacob Stern. Call for ticket prices.