An Artist Retreat

Home An Artist Retreat

With her warm hospitality, Louise Lincoln Kerr opened her home to artists and musicians from all walks of life, providing an intimate, relaxed space for creative exploration and discovery. Her vision was to create an artists’ retreat, a home for creativity and expression in all forms, from local indigenous artists to world renowned musicians from across the globe.

To this day, the Kerr home provides a space for creation and performance, bringing artists and audiences together in the pioneering spirit of the Southwest.

Since its inception, young artists working on their craft have found their way to Louise’s house, from many creative luminaries of the 1950s and 1960s to trail-blazing artists of today. Louise laid the foundations of an emerging cultural scene in the Valley with an open salon atmosphere made for creative experiences.

These adobe walls have witnessed a rich tapestry of artists. Iconic and internationally celebrated string musicians like Spanish cellist Pablo Casals and American violinist Isaac Stern performed and socialized on Louise’s property, often spending days or weeks on her 47-acre haven. The home was littered with stacks and stacks of sheet music that Louise shared freely. One of the few female composers of the time, Louise prolifically worked on her own compositions, playing with string quartets into the wee hours of the morning simply for the joy of it. Shifts of players would swap into the string quartets, with Louise usually holding it down all night on viola with her endless energy.

Guest houses for artists

The Kerr property included six guest houses, affectionately nicknamed “The Shacks,” specifically to house any friends and creative collaborators during their visits. These spaces were designed for artists to feel welcome, to stay and explore their own craft and talent in Louise’s relaxed yet ambitious atmosphere. From chamber music to jazz and more experimental forms, the Kerr studio was conceived as a place for music of all kinds where young talents could “claim a shack,” utilize Louise’ instruments and amenities and have the artistic space to further their own musical journeys.

Notable friends, artists, and collaborators over the years

  • Will Durant (1885-1981) and Ariel Durant (1898-1981), Pulitzer Prize-winning historians and writers – “The Story of Civilization” [photo, attribution Bill Murphy, Los Angeles Times, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]
  • Charles Lewis, American jazz pianist, with Louise
  • John Henry Waddell (1921-2019), American sculptor, Louise statue (courtyard) Earth & Space study (studio) [photo, Carptrash, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]
  • María de la O Lejárraga García, pseudonym Maria Martinez Sierra (1874-1974), Spanish feminist activist-politician and author of “The Cradle Song”
  • Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist
  • Isaac Stern (1920-2001), Polish-American violinist [photo, attribution Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL , via Wikimedia Commons]
  • Will and Ariel Durant, Pulitzer Prize-winning historians, frequent guests.
  • Charles Lewis, jazz pianist, with Louise.
  • Isaac Stern, violinist, frequent guest.
  • Jimmy Kewanwytewa (1889-1966), Hopi artisan, dear friend of Louise and part of her inspiration for her “Enchanted Mesa” piece; credited as first Kachina carver to sign his work.

Trailblazing artists of today

Today, Louise’s vision of peace and productivity live on at ASU Kerr though the spirit of the salon. 

In addition to the wide variety of shows and musicians hosted in our studio, artists visit Kerr for crucial residencies, often staying several weeks to work on their craft. Tony-winning actor Daniel J. Watts (“Hamilton,” “In the Heights,” TV: “Boardwalk Empire”), Egyptian writer and comedian Bassem Youssef and pianist/Steinway artist Ang Li are just some of the recent creatives who chose ASU Kerr as their retreat where they could let go and give their creative energy the space to expand and flow into new work. 

Bassem Youssef
Ang Li
Daniel J. Watts