Isla Magdalena

The Vision

Somewhere in the high Sonoran desert of southern Arizona or New Mexico, at around a 3-5k ft elevation is a 40+ acre parcel of land that is waiting to become:

Isla Magdalena
Artist Retreat, Gallery and Campground

Throughout Isla Magdalena, is what is called The Gallery Trail. The trail provides connection to all points within. As well as meandering its way all through the property. At various, strategic locations along the trail are 10 Artist Retreats. Most of these locations are simple 10′ x 10′ shaded areas with park bench seating. Water and electricity are provided to as many retreats as possible. Each retreat offers artists a semi private area with a unique perspective of the landscape. Retreats lend themselves to either individual or group activities.

One of the retreats, known as The Barn, is a 40′ x 60′ steel shed that has water, 110 & 220-electric, a kiln and plenty of space for metal working and pottery.

The entire property of Isla Magdalena (short of the private residence & camping areas) is a Gallery. In particular, along the Gallery Trail, one will find Nee-Nee’s Place. And, here lies Evelyn “Nan” McCoy, my mother.
With her death the dream of Isla Magdalena is born, RIP.

A small shaded park bench offers seating near a a memorial that contains art & other memorabilia celebrating Nan’s life. In the center, Nan’s ashes are buried beneath a Palo Verde tree.

Other spots along the trail afford the opportunity for outdoor artwork to be displayed. The art might be a permanent fixture, or it may be for sale on consignment. Either way, each work of art is accompanied by details about the work and the artist.

The Barn will additionally serve as a gallery where larger non-outdoor works of art can be displayed. All developed sites within Isla Magdalena are a part of The Gallery. Sculptures, pottery, Paintings, Drawings are found all over the walls of The Cantina and The Amphitheater, and everywhere!

This 15 acre portion of the property is completely fenced with 6′ high perimeter fencing. Within, are 8 tent camp sites and 16 Skoolie sized camp sites. A children’s playground and public restrooms are located in the central area.

A large double gate [ala dog park] at the main entrance allows for school bus/RVs/cars to come & go. Smaller double gates at various locations in the perimeter fence allow pedestrian/bicycle access to The Gallery Trail.

Within the fenced area campers are free to let their pets, and children, off leash.

Outside the fence, campers can walk along the Gallery Trail to access all of Isla Magdalena’s other features.

The Mission

Take the equity from the sale of my property in Gilbert, Arizona to purchase the land. It will most likely be undeveloped land. I will need to dig one water well and 3 septic sewers. Initially, I will acquire my own RV or School Bus converted for living. I will be Isla Magdalena’s 1st permanent resident. I will purchase a bob cat, concrete mixer, and basic metal working equipment. Using these tools I will build my own personal living area consisting of a covered 40′ x 40′ concrete slab (ala a large parking structure) with a shipping container at one end for kitchen & bath related areas. My RV will go on the other end. Glass, or some transparent material buffers the sides. At this point I have also built the “Solar Grid”. A separate location, where all the batteries and power consumption routing & storage controls exist. This way solar panels can be erected anywhere on the property, and feed back into the central batteries. With myself protected from the elements, water , septic and electric now available throughout the property: Campground development begins. 


A Campground!

The first thing to be developed to revenue creating potential is the campground. This Campground will cater to the “Skoolie”. These are school buses that have been converted for living. Even though each site can be secured for a short term stay; the nature of the Skoolie is nomadic. Be it moving with the weather or with the opportunity, the Skoolie is an often discriminated against type camper. In reality, these are “My kinda people”. They want to get off the grid as much as possible.  Even though some of them work online and play electric guitar. They want to be self sufficient and keep things sustainable. Organic, Local and Natural are all keywords these folks tend to gravitate towards. Generally they are very creative people. Many are artists and engineers looking for a way of life that brings them closer to what many describe as The Great Spirit. In touch with the land. In touch with themselves. For me personally, it is an escape from all the downsides of modern society. 

I want to pick and choose the best parts that modern technology can provide in order to create the best world for my great grandchildren whom I will probably meet. That sense of responsibility seems to be a shared trait among the Skoolie Community. And Isla Magdalena is how this way of thinking is given a place to take root and grow. 

The acreage of the land dedicated to the campground will maintain a 5ft high perimeter fence. This affords campers they ability to let both their children and dogs off leash. The entrance to the campground area will include a 100ft driveway with a box gate system to ensure no critters get in and no critters or kids get out of the campground area.

Box gates at multiple locations around the campground perimeter provide pedestrian and bicycle access to the rest of the property. All gates lead to The Gallery Trail

The Gallery Trail

The Gallery Trail is a maintained pathway that meanders through the non campground part of the property and inter connects the campground with The AmphitheaterThe CantinaThe GardenThe Massage StudioThe Showers & Amenities. 

The Gallery Trail is like a circulatory system for Isla Magdalena. The trail is 1.5 times the width of my future Golf Cart that will transport me around the property when I no longer have legs. It will be kept nice. Aside from “driveway” developments that provide access to my personal property, other permanent resident property and a few distributed campground sites outside of the security fence, the Gallery Trail will serve as the means for all pedestrian, bicycle and Golf Cart traffic. Sign posts along the way will indicate direction to the primary destinations.

Along the meandering portions of the Gallery Trail are Artist Retreats and Displays. The retreats are maintained areas that afford comfort & shade for artists to enjoy a semi private location where they can be inspired by nature and the landscape to create in their desired medium. Retreats are where the magic happens! Each is like its own studio. Some are equipped with electric and or a water source. In addition to the retreats, are the displays. The displays are where outdoor creations can be showcased to the public. In addition to the art, information about the piece, the artist, the cost and contact information are available. As a revenue stream for Isla Magdalena, artists can simply pay a small commission when their creations are sold, should they be invited to occupy the Gallery Trail. 

One special Artist Retreat along the Gallery Trail is the Barn. A 20′ x 40′ concrete slab under a pole barn fitted out with electricity and water. Here in the Barn, those artists who need indoor space can create and work with electric and pneumatic tools for their creations. A pottery kiln and equipment for the potter to create. I see metal workers needing a space for cutting & welding to create masterpieces that are displayed along the Gallery Trail. Future functionality would be to support the glass worker. 

Is it possible Isla Magdalena will become the paramount location for sculptures of metal, glass and pottery to come and create, showcase and sell their work? If so, this is what Isla Magdalena would like to become. Without any of the pomp, pretense or exclusivity. To always cater to the Skoolie at heart. 

The Barn serves also as a gallery for some of those larger works that need an indoor space to be enjoyed. I say larger because every interior surface that is created at Isla Magdalena should be done with a mind towards “What will be showcased here?” Maybe it will simply be untouched  or modestly beautified nature. But if not nature, then it is welcome to be a showcase for the artists of Isla Magdalena.

Ever since moving to Arizona in 1993, I have been moved by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert Landscape. I want to secure a piece of that natural beauty and create my own small trail throughout. Then share that trail with others and encourage them to create art that can be left on the trail. The Gallery Trail is my offering to Isla Magdalena of both Indoor and Outdoor Art Studios for meditation, inspiration and creative manifestation. Over time, The Gallery Trail should, in and of itself become a sort of transient work of art. Art changes, locations of displays change. Surroundings are improved and beautified. The first year of Isla Magdalena should be like watching a blank canvas slowly begin receiving lines. And year after year more and more is added to the picture. Then, possibly like a Jackson Pollack, certain areas are re-visioned and recreated a new while always staying true to the core vision to create a community dedicated to the sustainability and beautification of Isla Magdalena. 

One stop along the Gallery Trail that will be marked by the signposts is the Amphitheater.

The Amphitheater

Like the Roman Amphitheathers of old, The Amphitheater at Isla Magdalena will be a place where audio art has the opportunity to be created and shared. As a lifelong musician, I need a place to create, record and perform my music. Since I play guitar, piano and drums (laughably) the amphitheater will definitely serve as my covered outdoor recording studio, that any of our musical guests are welcome to use. While certain personal belongings may be under lock & key, most equipment is simply bolted in place. Equipment like a sound mixer. A video mixer. Some of the basic connection components necessary to hook a guitar, microphone or camera up to an editing system are made available to the general public. That way users can plug in their own computers in order to record and manipulate using their own software systems. 

I love the thought of regular & long-term guests using the amphitheater as a way to draw in the public for free community performances.
And of course that means the amphitheater is for far more than just music. Besides performances and open mic, imagine plays, talent shows, readings, astronomy clubs? The list is limitless. 

With a section protected from the weather, the music studio can still be employed and enjoyed round the clock year round.

Near the Amphitheater, along the Gallery Trail is a bit of a showcase construction, known as The Cantina.

The Cantina

Not to broach on any copyright infringement, but I see a large social gathering area that reminds of a bar I saw in a movie that was on a planet called Tatooine. However, this  Cantina is for family food enjoyment. Establishing a working restaurant is not in the near future for Isla Magdalena. Creating a large, themed & covered Picnic & BBQ area for campground guest use, is.

More than just a bunch of picnic tables. The space will be amazing. Using COB building materials in a large semi subterranean area create an circular space that is collard by sub-pods or booths. Each booth is a round COB bench and a table. The booths are sized to accommodate 2 groups of 2, 2 groups of 4 and even 2 groups of 8.

Guests will provide their own everything. Food, utensils, beverage and fuel. An open hole in the center of the Cantina allows smoke from the 2 BBQ grills and 2 flat top grills used to cook food. One of the booths is actually a small kitchen area with a large sink, water and food prep surfaces. 

What a cool way to enjoy a family dinner! In a super cool environment reminisient of that place you’ve seen in the movies.

Not to mention that all of the walls in the Cantina are designed with alcoves for display of art, sculpture and other guest creations. Because every space is a opportunity to provide beautified function or improved form.

Away from the noise of the Amphitheater and Cantina, is the Garden.

The Garden

Over a half acre of traditional and experimental gardening methods employed to create as much self sustaining food as possible. The Garden is not just a food sourcing area, but also a place to enjoy and contribute.
The graden is bordered on 3 sides by fruit bearing trees. A couple of each grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, apple and peach ensure continual harvests. On the fourth side of the garden is where there will be the Sunken Greenhouse and the Chicken Palace! 

The sunken greenhouse is a way to grow foods in an earth insulated greenhouse environment that would not normally grow well in the elevated Sonoran desert. 

The Chick Palace! is going to be my best attempt at having vegetarians not hate me. I love chicken, what can I say? 

I eat more chicken than any man ever see! 
– Jim Morrison, The Doors

So, since I plan on stealing so many of their unfertilized offspring and their old for my own nefarious purposes; the least I could do was offer these modern day Velociraptors a wonderful life free from the fears of predators and access to all the delicious bugs and food they want. The chicken Palace will be sourced from a shipping container. Ten feet of the container will be closed in to provide full shelter for brooding. A more open air section of the container will allow for access to a larger shaded area. All of this area, all of it – is secured with chicken wire mesh. Additionally, the Chicken Palance will have chicken wire tunnels that extend to the Sunken Greenhouse. But also in a full perimeter of the garden along the base of the trees. This will provide natural pest control and fertilization for the trees as the chickens will have unfettered access all around the garden. 

Within the central garden area, raised gardens allow those confined to a wheelchair an opportunity to get their hands dirty. Wall gardens will demonstrate growing food vertically to increase growing space. All of the garden areas are irrigated using the collected rain water system and fertilized by implementing whatever composting, and even solar based waste treatment technologies are available.

In addition to vegetables and fruit, the Garden will produce peppers and spices and more. All edible things are encouraged to be grown. Imagine guests being able to harvest some fruit and vegetables. Then preparing and then enjoying that food  with their family together in The Cantina. Get on the grill and make stir fried potatoes with green onions, lemon zest and rosemary. All from the garden. Serve that with an apple, a peach or maybe some orange juice and you’ve just had a $60 Resort Quality Meal…for free. Your family harvested, prepared, enjoyed and cleaned up that meal, together. And that, is priceless.

Near the Garden, a little further away still, is the Massage Studio. 

Massage Studio

Being a licensed massage therapist, I want to be sure that I have the ability to further practice my profession and generate a small amount of income. The massage studio will sport a small waiting lobby, restroom with shower and a 14′ x 14′ private studio with the ability to open to the outdoors. Even though the studio will be designed and fitted to serve my needs as a massage therapist, there is no reason other licensed wellness practitioners and healing artists can’t also take advantage of being scheduled for services in the Massage Studio. While modest in scope, this massage studio will be one of the finest places to receive open air massage. Beautified by the landscape and the works of artists, the Massage Studio will certainly be a favorite place for healing.

That’s about the farthest reaches of the Gallery Trail in terms of proximity to the Campground. But back near the campground. That is where you will find one of the first stops along the Gallery Trail. The Showers and Amenities.

Main Office

Another shipping container based, semi-open design using COB materials & principals to serve as a catchall facility and location for management related activities.

The property itself will require many self sustaining components that will be repeated where ever it is necessary and makes sense. Examples of these items and structures are:

  • Rain Water Collection Stations
  • Solar Collection Stations
  • Waste Receptacles/Dog Shit Bags
  • Public Toilets
  • Septic/Sewer Systems
  • Emergency/First Aid Station
  • Equipment Storage

Showers and Amenities

Throughout the property, the use of shipping containers and COB building principals will drive the creation of all amenities to be provided to the guests. 

Male, Female and Family shower, toilets and dressing areas will exist between the campground and the amphitheater and cantina. The shower areas will have 3 private shower stalls in each of the men’s and women’s areas and one on the family area. 

The dressing areas in each of the men’s, women’s and family areas will have access to electric and water. 

The outsides of these facilities will be done with an attitude towards hiding in plain site. Using the landscape and COB materials the shower and dressing facilities will blend into the environment. 

Isla Magdalena - As Envisioned by AI

A Brief History

Ahoy Matey!
Thar’ she blows. Ol’ Cupcake Island herself. 

As a little kid, I loved the 1970’s Hostess Cupcakes commercial including Captain Cupcake and his fellow travelers on a voyage to the magical Cupcake Island!

Not sure why, but the practice of announcing my impending arrival at any destination as some variation of “Ahoy Matey! Thar’ she blows. Ol’ Cupcake Island herself.”  became a thing for me. An endearing way to mark the end of one part of a journey.

My kids loved it. No offense to the original, but my Captain Cupcake was a gruff old sea faring barnacle of a captain. And he was almost always brought to tears at site of his long lost love, Cupcake Island. So my boys & I would all start doing our own Captain Cupcakes saying things like “Good Ol’ Cupcake Island!”, “Garrr, Matey…”, “Oh, how I’ve missed her!” and “Let me feel the warm embrace of her sweet terra-firma against my booty full of treasure.”… Captain Cupcake arriving at Cupcake Island represented, to me, the end of a perilous journey fraught with planes, trains, automobiles and idiots. And once that is done, I can truly begin the enjoyment.

I’m older now. And Cupcake Island is not about summer vacations or a trip to see family. I’m ready to leave this suburban life and retreat away to my very own Isla Magdalena. Where I am responsible for myself. Where I can be myself, in all my glorious craziness. As well as a place to share community with others of a like mind.  A place where a true artist can come and simply live for the purpose of creating art.