We had the good fortune of connecting with Joe Arnold and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joe, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I spent 38 years as an engineer for the National Park Service before retiring in 2011. I had enough of rules, and regulations and building codes and wanted to pursue something more liberating and creative. I went to Burning Man for the first time in 2007 and was blown away with the creative efforts people brought there and the support the Burning Man community gave to artists. I received several grants to do art installations there which allowed me to believe that my art had some merit.
But everything at Burning Man is removed after the festival and I wanted to connect more directly with people. I had always been interested in sacred art from the world’s many religions. I’d travel and see these amazing cathedrals, and temples, and shrines. And eventually I realized I could make sacred art myself. I couldn’t bring home a prayer wheel from Tibet or a shrine from India, but I could make prayer wheels and shrines here at home.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Whenever I would travel to the world’s sacred places I would be inspired by the idea of how we as humans are always reaching for the heavens through art and architecture. Obviously I couldn’t bring home the Sagrada Familia or Temple of Heaven, but I could make my own sacred place and fill it with shrines, and prayer wheels and prayer stones.
In my Sacred Art Garden which is also my sales area, I have shrines with statues from Mexico, India, China and Bali. The shrines are made with materials I have found in souks and markets and shops from around the world: zellige tile and brass latches from Morocco, corbels and prayer benches from Pakistan, rustic brass bells from India and other treasures.
The prayer wheels I make are either traditional Tibetan – often antiqued and patinated to make them look old – or contemporary interpretations. I believe that prayer is universal to all religions so I can create prayer wheels unique to a client’s individual desires.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Living in Estes Park, it’s all about our backyard: Rocky Mountain National Park. Lots of wonderful trails to hike, beautiful mountain vistas, great skiing and snowshoeing in winter and great climbing opportunities.
If a friend had never been here before, I’d probably take them up Fall River Road in the Park ( a winding old alpine dirt road open only in summer) that goes up to Fall River Pass where it joins Trail Ridge Road. Then on to Grand Lake for lunch and return.
If they were hikers I’d take them to Chasm Lake below the Diamond face of Longs Peak for an awesome view, or to the summit of Longs – one of the classic 14ers in the state.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My girlfriend Deedee Hampton, also an artist, has been my travel companion and art muse these last 20 years. Without her support and encouragement, I’d probably just be a retired engineer puttering around in my shop!