The idea of a desert arts festival came about like many great ideas do—chatting and throwing ideas around with friends. 

“A handful of artists [and I] were sitting around a campfire in the desert in front of the bonfire, just thinking, ‘Are we going to get in trouble for using this firepit?’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to have artists out here doing something?’” said Sierra Slentz, Las Vegas-based artist and co-creator of the Bullfrog Biennial, an arts festival outside of Beatty. “We were just steps away from the Goldwell Open Air Museum, and all we had to do was ask.” 

Along with multi-disciplinary artist (and Double Scoop contributor) Brent Holmes, Slentz was impressed with the varying attractions around Beatty, including Death Valley National Park and Rhyolite, a neighboring ghost town. They chose the Goldwell Open Air Museum and Red Barn Art Center because the locations are hubs for artists and art enthusiasts. 

“You’re basically in this open air desert environment,” Slentz said. “As you walk around, looking at the shards and debris from other pioneers, it was inspiring—like ‘Hey, we can make something happen here.’” 

In 2019, the Bullfrog Biennial explored flux as its first theme. This year, they artists are exploring biological and cultural desert diversity through a myriad of mediums, including painting, photography, installation, performance and video.

“Originally, the founding members of the Goldwell Open Air Museum were kind of outsiders,” Slentz said. “There were a lot of gay and queer members, and the actual founding artist was from Belgium, so he was kind of a transplant. We’re all just transplants, and [the theme is about] being open-minded and being inclusive.”

When planning the first biennial, Holmes and Slentz had an open call for artists. However, they took a hand selection approach this time, hoping to showcase up-and-coming, diverse artists from California and Nevada. 

“We tried getting recommendations from artists and just looking at the community and artists that weren’t necessarily established yet,” said Slentz. “We were also inviting people who were not only diverse in their persona but to also give them the opportunity to be diverse in their work, give them the freedom to branch out of their comfort zones.”

Heidi Rider’s Garbage Pile Babiez performance was part of the 2019 Bullfrog Biennial. Photo: courtesy Sierra Slentz

As the three-day arts festival approaches, Slentz has a lot of hopes for this event and its attendees. One of them is to remind the world that artists are a persevering bunch. 

“Artists are still making work,” said Slentz. “Although we may have felt alone during these last 18 months, people have still been risk takers, working and creating artwork to share with others. This is an opportunity for those risks and pieces to be shown.” 

The Bullfrog Biennial takes place Oct. 29-31 at the Goldwell Open Air Museum & Red Barn Art Center, six miles outside of Beatty. 

The Featured Artists are Adrianna Chavez, Alec Jones-Trujillo, Ali Fathollahi, Antwane Lee, Christopher Reitmaier, Dan Hernandez, Geovany Uranda, Heidi Brueckner, Heidi Rider, Ian Racoma, James McClung, Javier Sanchez, JW Caldwell, Keith Beverly, Nanda Sharif-Pour, Natalie Delgado, Ross Takahashi, Scott Gordon, Shahab Zargari, Tiffany Lin & Saskia Krafft, and Trevor Ganske.

The event is free, and camping is free. More info here.

Cover image: The Implosions performed in front of a mural by JW Caldwell at the inaugural Bullfrog Biennial in 2019. They’re also slated to play this year. Photo courtesy of Sierra Slentz.

Posted by Crystal Lugo

Crystal Lugo studied journalism and English writing at the University of Nevada, Reno. She enjoys writing nonfiction and poetry and dabbles in film photography. When she isn’t brainstorming or photographing, you can find her journaling or daydreaming about travel. She lives in Las Vegas with her kitten, Oliver.