The Accidental Artist – Borrego Springs, California

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Borrego Springs is in the heart of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Although it is technically not inside the park itself, the city is completely surrounded by California’s largest state park. Located in San Diego County, the city has fewer than 5,000 year-round residents. The population swells, however, during the winter months not unlike many places in southern California and Arizona. In addition to the temperate weather, art draws many to Borrego Springs.

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One of the main attractions is Galleta Meadows Estate. Dennis Avery, who is an heir to the Avery Label fortune, purchased a number of pieces of property in Borrego Springs. Then he commissioned Ricardo Breceda, a southern California artist, to create large art installations to be displayed in and around the city on his land. Today there are 130 of Breceda’s metal sculptures on the Galleta Meadows Estate.

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The largest collection features prehistoric animals such as dinosaurs and beasts whose fossilized remains were discovered in the Anza-Borrego Desert. A series of desert animals like scorpions, bighorn sheep, grasshoppers, turtles, etc. also grace the landscape. Other animals such as wild horses, cats, eagles, bears, camels, etc. can be found among the metal sculptures.

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Breceda also included people who have a connection to this desert region like a jeep and rider, a gold miner and his horse, a priest carrying a cross, and several Native American figures. Perhaps the most impressive of all of the sculptures is the 350 foot dragon that appears to snake in and out of the sandy desert landscape.

The artist, Ricardo Breceda, who is originally from Durango, Mexico now lives and works in California is a self-taught metal sculptor. The unusual way that his career began prompted some to dub him “The Accidental Artist.” In 2001, Breceda’s daughter saw the movie Jurassic Park III. She was so taken by the movie that she asked her father to make her a dinosaur for Christmas. He agreed and created his first metal statue, a 20 foot tall and 45 foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex. This thrilled his daughter. After that, he continued making statues gaining a local following and some notoriety.

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Breceda became widely known after Dennis Avery approached him in 2007. He worked on the metal sculptures until Avery’s death in 2012. Breceda’s success has served to put Borrego Springs on the map and many visitors come here just to see his outstanding artwork. Breceda is now often called the “Picasso of Steel.”

When Dennis Avery created the Galleta Meadows Estate, he stipulated that the property and Breceda’s art installations would be free and open to the public. As a result, you can drive right up to each metal sculpture or you can, as David and I did, bike to see them. Our friends, Judie and Mark, suggested that we rent bikes in town and it was a great suggestion. We rented E-bikes from Bike Borrego and spent a good part of a day pedaling out to visit and photograph a number of Breceda’s outstanding artwork. While there, we enjoyed seeing the wildflowers that were in bloom everywhere. Having the bikes made for a very fun outing and we got some exercise, too.

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Art and artists were seemingly everywhere in Borrego Springs. There is an art institute in the city called appropriately the Borrego Art Institute and they sponsor many activities throughout the year. In March, there is an Art Festival that includes the 14th annual Plein Air Invitational. Fifteen artists from all over the U.S. are invited to participate. When they come, they spend a week painting the desert landscape around Borrego Springs.

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David and I saw several artists painting near the city’s downtown park called Christmas Circle. Also, when David and I hiked The Slot (see previous post), we met two of the fifteen artists there. They had been painting The Slot and they invited us to come to the juried art show on Saturday where the Borrego Art Institute presents awards and hosts a reception for both the plein air artists and the public. The artists’ artwork remains on display throughout the month. This is just one example of many art and music events in the city. The Arts seems to shine in Borrego Springs.

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David and I really like Borrego Springs. Even though it is a small city, it has a nice modern library, nice stores, and some very picturesque churches. Most of all, we found the townspeople to be very friendly. Borrego Springs is a place that we would definitely like to visit again.

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4 thoughts on “The Accidental Artist – Borrego Springs, California

  1. I just got to read this today, and I think that Deck’s young son would love it–he is really into dinosaurs. I texted him about it. It looks remote enough where you could probably enjoy it while maintaining the necessary social distancing. Hope ya’ll are doing well. I am going to try teaching the Afterglow Class online using Zoom starting April 5.

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