Mojaveland MINI-GOLF COURSE Makes Art Accessible for All
By Denise Tanguay
Down a short stretch of dirt road near downtown Twentynine Palms lies a special creative space called Mojaveland: a 12-hole miniature golf course and art park developed by artist Anna Stump. This unique, free attraction just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and is becoming a popular destination for local families and tourists alike.
“I want to broaden the idea of what art is,” says Stump. “Art is not only about galleries and museums. At Mojaveland, we are combining the arts with sports to reach a broader group of people.”
As a former community college art teacher in San Diego, Stump noticed that her students wanted to be art majors, but their families pressured them not to because it wasn’t a practical way to make a living. After relocating to Twentynine Palms in 2018, she wondered how she could reach future artists and their families in this remote desert area.
The idea for creating Mojaveland came on a road trip, where Stump saw a mini-golf course designed by artists. She did some research and also found creative mini-golf courses in Europe that appealed to both adults and children.
“I thought, I can create a golf course designed by artists!” she exclaimed. “I want to show families and children that making art is a gateway to so many different things. A background in the arts can lead to careers in design, engineering, and other jobs that require creative thinking.”
Stump purchased a rustic, five-acre parcel of land formerly owned by Tookie Smith, the fun-loving nephew of Smith’s Ranch drive-in theatre owner, Deldee Smith. With former ponds, a homestead cabin, and numerous relics on the property, it’s the perfect place for creative exploration and mini-golf fun in the high desert.
To create Mojaveland’s unique course, Stump invites local artists to survey the space, create a theme and drawings, and design their own custom golf hole using mostly found materials. The artists are excited about the opportunity to create different work outside of a gallery space. Stump hires a contractor for the final design and testing of the holes to ensure they are secure, playable, and par for the course.
Visitors to Mojaveland are impressed with the effort and creativity put into each unique hole, such as “Sleestakland,” designed by Joe Alvarez as an homage to the 1970s show “Land of the Lost.” And “Space Escape” designed by Juan Thorp where players shoot through a destroyed spaceship into an enemy fortress. “Boom Bang Zip Pow,” designed by seven-year-old Harper Neveu, is a joyful journey with flying toy characters and surprise adventures that make it fun, yet challenging to meet par.
For those inspired to design their own golf course hole, “DIY” hole number five invites you to use existing materials to create your own path to putting the ball in the hole.
“The DIY hole is inspired by my mother, a former kindergarten teacher, who influenced me with her dedication to allowing kids to play,” says Stump.
Although Mojaveland is open as a “pop-up” event only one weekend per month, it’s gaining momentum as a family-friendly destination.
“Some of my favorite Mojaveland visitors are the multi-generational families,” says Stump. “I hear a lot of laughing as families and friends encourage each other on the course, and that makes me happy.”
Mojaveland also offers interactive arts experiences such as puppet shows, mural painting, and art installations, including Ben Allanoff’s site-specific sculpture, “Asterisk”, created using a bullet-hole ridden trashcan and branches from the property.
You never know what you are going to find at Mojaveland, but it will be interesting and fun.
For more information, visit www.Mojaveland.com and @mojaveland on Instagram and Facebook. If you’d like to support Mojaveland and get the inside stories, please consider joining Anna on Patreon at www.patreon.com/annastump.
All photos by Sandra Goodin