Sedona has long served as a lure to the artistic and religious community who found inspiration and guidance in the red rocks for their activities. The theme of arts and religion is a prominent one in Sedona for the period following World War II.
At right: Sedona Arts Center, Inc., late 1950s
One person responsible for initiating the emphasis on spirituality for which Sedona is known today was Margurite Brunswig Staude. An artist by inclination and training, Staude was a devout Catholic and found herself inspired to capture her spirituality in a church patterned after the cross. A frequent visitor to Sedona in the 1940s, she decided to build the Chapel of the Holy Cross in memory of her parents.
Working with designs inspired by her vision and of an earlier work by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, Staude collaborated with the architectural firm of Anshen and Allen to design the structure. After getting permission to construct the Chapel on government land with help from Senator Barry Goldwater, and approval for the plans from Bishop Espelage, William Simpson Construction Company broke ground in April 1955. The Chapel was completed one year later. A remarkable work of art and architecture, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of Sedona's most visible landmarks today.
The Chapel and its magnificent surroundings inspired others to construct religious monuments in Sedona. In 1961, Barry Goldwater dedicated the Shrine of the Red Rocks on Airport Mesa as a monument to cooperation and religious beliefs. The idea originated with Walter Nelson and Howard Miles of the Sedona Masonic Club who started the project in 1957. This shrine constructed of native red rocks is a popular location for Easter sunrise services.
The spirituality of the Sedona area also encouraged less traditional practitioners of religion. As early as 1958, alternative personal development and self-help religions called Sedona home. In 1974, Lester Levinson founded the Sedona Institute to help others improve their self-awareness. In the early 1980s, the Sri Aurobindo Center for "Indian religious thought" opened in Sedona. By the last half of the decade, Sedona had become known as a center for "New Age" consciousness. Mary Lou Keller, who moved to Sedona in 1957, dates the beginning of the New Age movement in Sedona to 1963 when the "Ruby Focus" arrived in their quest for energy. They, and many others later, found it in the "vortex" energy centers here. The New Age movement hit its peak in Sedona in 1987 when thousands of believers descended on the town to witness the "harmonic convergence" of the planets.
Sedona serves as a location for all kinds of artistic interpretations. Hundreds of well-known artists have called the red rocks home. One of the first was Nassan Gobran of Egypt who arrived in 1950. Gobran was instrumental in organizing the Summer Art Institute at the Sedona Arts Center. In the 1960s, cowboy artist Joe Beeler arrived in Sedona and provided a different emphasis. During an organizational meeting held at the Oak Creek Tavern in 1965, Beeler and artists Charlie Dye, George Phippen, Robert MacLeod, and John Hampton formed the Cowboy Artists of America. Other internationally known artists who worked here in the 1940s-1960s included Max Ernst and Bela Horvath. By 1986, Sedona had dozens of art galleries.