As entrancing music plays through amplified speakers, yoga mats are rolled out and genuine embraces are exchanged from people of all walks of life as they come together to participate in an array of various physical and artistic activities.
These individuals come together every Thursday after 6 p.m. at the Gateway apartment complex on the Southwest corner of University and McClintock drives.
This community identifies itself as Desert Canvas.
The founders decided to collaborate their skills together and provide a variety of activities for anyone to take part in for free, but they accept donations. The activities include diverse yoga practices, slacklining, flow arts, painting and a variety of workshops.
Desert Canvas formed serendipitously. At first, they got a small group to meet at local parks to slackline, which is a recreational activity that requires the simultaneous use of balance, dexterity and coordination, to walk on a loose flat rope strapped between two trees.
“When some things happen by accident I think that’s when really great things happen,” said Todd VanDuzer, 26, CEO and co-founder of Desert Canvas.
Andrew Munson, 27, has been with Desert Canvas from the beginning.
“It started off as something really organic and it naturally grew into a community, that’s what’s awesome about it,” he said.
Once a solid group formed and kept returning for yoga and more in the park, the founders started to use their social networks and collaborated to bring more activities to the weekly park gatherings.
“We started to have yogis contribute their skills and other individuals contribute their skills,” VanDuzer said.
What’s exclusive about Desert Canvas is that it’s not exclusive.
“Anyone can be a participant, anyone can jump on the slackline and anyone can do the yoga. You don’t have to be an athlete,” Munson said.
In addition to yoga and slacklining, Desert Canvas supplies a crowd favorite activity that is socially gratifying and requires creativity: flow arts. What is incomparable to flow arts is that it’s practiced in a variety of styles, with many different instruments. Flow performers at the intermediate level can use LED lights to amplify their performance with visual patterns and at the expert level they can add fire to the equation to heat things up even more, quite literally.
Paulina Milligan, 25, Desert Canvas co-founder, is a skilled hula-hoop performer who contributes to the Desert Canvas experience by teaching this performance flow art form of a visually enchanting dance with a hula-hoop.
“Flow arts is a huge staple of the community definitely,” Milligan said. “It’s kind of what I brought to the table. When I first got interested in it, I just tried to get as many hoopers and circus arts people out and about as I could to build that kind of community.”
For those that enjoy yoga and want to make it a more social experience comparable to what flow arts can provide. They can try acroyoga at Desert Canvas events. It’s a kind of yoga that requires at least two people. One person is typically lying on their back while holding up and balancing the other person with their arms and legs, the person balancing on top forms yoga poses while balancing on their partner’s limbs.
“Acroyoga is a huge staple of our event as well and that takes a lot of good communication skills, coordination, spatial awareness,” Milligan said.
Weekly diverse activities aren’t the only thing that Desert Canvas provides. They also provide outlets for people to use to help carry out their future goals. VanDuzer hosts goal getter classes for Desert Canvas, he said hosting such a class for a community is a passion of his.
“We’re a community that is driven to help individuals improve their lives and their social health in their professional lives,” VanDuzer said.
Between the weekly gatherings in the park for physical activities and the goal getter classes, both provide something bigger together: mental health.
“As far as mental health goes we provide a social structure for people to feel accepted,” Milligan said. “Whether or not you’re like a business entrepreneur or a someone who’s never been to an event like this and just moved to this country and is going to ASU.”
See Todd VanDuzer for tutoring. https://student-tutor.com/blog/