desert christ park, a rarely visited sculpture garden gem near joshua tree
I’ve visited Desert Christ Park a couple of times now, and there’s rarely anyone there. People visit Joshua Tree all the time, but few know Desert Christ, even though it’s less than 15 minutes away from Joshua Tree. Still, I really love being there each time. It’s quiet, peaceful, and the sculptures are actually pretty impressive, in my opinion.
The History of Desert Christ Park near Joshua Tree, CA
The first question people ask is, why is this here? Perhaps the story is best told by the curator’s of the park itself. Here’s an excerpt from Desert Christ’s website:
Desert Christ Park was established in 1951 on the original five acres where the Evangelical Free Church now resides. The property at the time was owned by the Reverend Eddie Garver, a humble preacher who made his way to Yucca Valley with his wife and two children in 1946. He established the Yucca Valley Community Church, then located at Santa Fe and Apache Trail, and acquired the five acres on the southern facing slope of the valley from the US Government in 1950. Known as the Desert Parson, his vision was to establish a christian-themed park as a light for world peace.
Through a series of events, Eddie Garver was introduced to (Frank) Antone Martin, a sculptor-poet from Inglewood, CA. An engineer by trade, who came up with the idea to create statues out of steel-reinforced concrete, Martin’s dream was to place his 10 foot, 5-ton ‘resurrected Christ’ on the rim of the Grand Canyon as a symbol of peace to all mankind. When separation of church and state issues denied his request, he labeled the statue as “the unwanted Christ” and spoke to several organizations before settling on Eddie Garver’s offer to place it on a hill where all could see.
One week before Easter 1951, the “unwanted Christ” was brought up the desert highway from Los Angeles on the back of a truck. This event sparked national interest and was covered start to finish by *Life Magazine for their April 23, 1951 issue. Desert Christ Park was dedicated on Easter Sunday and celebrated by the community it embraced…
…The partnership [between the Garvers and Antoine Martin] dissolved in the late 1950s and the statues that could be moved were relocated to the present day Park. Eddie Garver sold his property to local parishioners, the Brownells, who later donated the property, including their home on the hill, to the Evangelical Free Church of Yucca Valley. Thus, the original statue, the “unwanted Christ,” the tomb, and half of ‘The Last Supper’ remains on church property. The Garver’s moved on to missions in Arizona, and Antone Martin died in December of 1961.
The statue below, of Christ holding is hand out, is one of my favorites.
At the center of the park, various figures stand in a circle.
Others are posed on a nearby hill.
A rendition of the last supper also lies at the bottom of the hill, just above the circle of statues.
There’s also a small church and additional figures slightly to the west.