Elena Yu started making trips to the desert with her pre-school classmates and their climbing dads.
She recalls loving their regular trip to Coyote Corner to pick out rocks. Placing them in a little velvet back made it seem like rocks were something important to collect.
A competitive swimmer in her youth (discussed in the Diary Unlocked portion of the interview), Elena studied various mediums of studio art at UCLA from 2012 to 2016. After graduating in the spring of 2016 with her summer internship in the arts ending, Elena came across a job listing to work for Joshua Tree non-profit High Desert Test Sites (HDTS) and artist Andrea Zittel in Joshua Tree. As a one year paid internship with housing, Elena felt this would be the perfect way continue her work in the art world and to re-connect with Joshua Tree and explore it in a deeper way.
All of the sudden, she was in a house in 29 Palms w/out any neighbors and a mountain for a backyard. At that moment, she never expected she would have stayed for four years - and has no current plans to leave.
In this episode, Elena gives us a brief overview of HDTS (a non-profit formed by artist Andrea Zittel and others), A-Z West, Andrea Zittel’s personal practice and the roles Elena continues to play in the various organizations. Early on in her first year, Elena recognized that though she had a great deal of interaction with the HDTS resident artists, she hadn’t really inserted herself in the local community. After about a year, Elena said she started to feel a bit lonely and began to make a conscious effort to reach out to folks in the community who were pursuing similar interests to form deeper connections.
One of those activities was rock-climbing. Elena recently had the opportunity to go out and climb again with some folks she hadn’t connected with in a long time. The art and climber community doesn’t typically intersect in the desert. This recent experience has motivated her to reach out to a few folks she knows in the arts community that do climb and perhaps tag along with them to renew her skills and make more intimate friendships.
We also talk about the economic advantage of living here, particularly for folks in her age group who also work in the arts.