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Our History

Inspired by the natural beauty of Sedona, Egyptian sculptor, Nassan Gobran and a group of local visionaries recognized the need for a place where artists could work, teach, and learn together. In 1958, they established Sedona’s first art center, “Canyon Kiva.” They purchased the old Jordan Apple Packing Barn, now known as the Art Barn, which quickly became the community’s creative and social hub.

During the early 60s Sedona was rich with artists, city refugees, and entrepreneurs who foresaw the area’s potential and participated in its development. Through all the dramatic growth and demographic changes, the Arts Center remained one of the cultural constants, even though it experienced its own series of changes.

In 1961, the name was changed to the Sedona Arts Center and officially re-opened with a celebration attended by 300 guests. 1994 was the year of expansion with the addition of a new building to house an art gallery, classroom space, and the community theatre, which was founded in 1970. In 2001 the mission was redefined to focus primarily on education through the School of the Arts and gallery exhibitions of the visual arts. The School of the Arts has become a catalyst for creative development for students of all ages, from the very young through the golden years of life.

Today the Sedona Arts Center is a rich legacy of the founders’ vision. As one of Northern Arizona’s oldest 501(c) 3 nonprofit organizations it continues to be a gathering place where artists and those who love art can explore, teach and exhibit. The Arts Center has grown into an educational institution dedicated to nurturing creative discovery, learning and sharing through arts education and artistic development with an international presence.

The Sedona Arts Center is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to nurturing creative discovery, learning and sharing through arts education and artistic development.

“In 1951, Nassan Gobran, sculptor and founder of the Sedona Arts Center, told me that he saw a need in Sedona for an Arts Center like Tanglewood in Lennox, Massachusetts. Ten years later, his vision became a reality.

For the past 50 years since its founding, the Sedona Arts Center has been and is the cultural and educational anchor of Sedona. Sedona Arts Center is dedicated to sharing the enjoyment and importance of having art in one’s life and making arts education a priority. Now, we all have the responsibility to ensure that this treasured institution continues to exist in Sedona.”

Joella Jean Mahoney MFA is Professor of Art Emerita, University of La Verne where she began developing the art Department in 1964. In 1996 Mahoney was honored as Distinguished Alumnae by Northern Arizona University during its Centennial Year Celebration. In 1997, Scripps College Fine Arts Foundation honored Mahoney for her achievement in the arts.