Last Updated on August 24, 2023

Chicago-born visual artist Eileen Muza ditched her old life and moved to Cisco, a then-abandoned ghost town in the High Desert of Utah, of which she became the sole resident in 2015.

Her goal? To rebuild the abandoned town and turn Cisco into a community of artists.

When she was only 29, Muza became fascinated with Cisco during on of her travels and decided to get in touch with the owner and strike a deal.

She claims she was able to purchase the whole village for the price of “a used car“.

She then decided to move to Cisco and live off-grid in the desert with the only company of her dog, Rima, and started working on her dream of creating an artist residency and turn what was once a ghost town into a liveable community.

Cisco, Utah - former desert ghost town now artistic community
Cisco, former Ghost Village in Utah’s High Desert – now a thriving community of artists

About Cisco

Cisco is located in Grand County, Utah. It was first built in the 1880s as a saloon and railroad fill station, and a popular stop for travelers crossing the High Desert. As a result to declining economy after the interstates came through, the town was completely abandoned by the 1990s.

Cisco’s history and its stark desert backdrop tell a story of contrasts—of bustling days and desolate nights, scorching sun and biting cold, a tale of resilience and adaptation etched into the very fabric of the town.

Because of its position in the Mojave Desert, Cisco experiences extreme temperature shifts with dry and hot days and cold nights, and no running water.

In 2015, visual artist Eileen Muza purchased Cisco and began the process of restoring it. She has since renovated many of the town buildings, opened a general store, and launched an artist residency program.

Population of One: Living Alone in an Abandoned Ghost Town. Source: VICE

A success story

Over the span of just a couple of years, Muza has succeeded to make Cisco relevant again and giving it a newly found purpose.

Without much experience beforehand, Eileen embarked on a journey of fixing, renovating, and building all sorts of things in the village: from installing stoves to repairing windows to setting up outdoor kitchens and toilets.

The town now even has working Wi-Fi and electricity (although still no running water) and attracts tourists from all over the country.

In 2019, The Buzzards Belly General Store was launched in Cisco. The store sells a variety of goods, including snacks, necessities, ice cream, and fresh coffee. It is also a gathering place for the community and a must-stop destination for visitors to the former ghost town.

Home of the Brave Artist

In 2019, Muza finally managed to lauch her dream project: an artist residency named Home of the Brave, which offers a one-month long program twice every year.

Residents and volunteers can live, work and make art in Cisco, all while contributing to the community.

The residency program is largely sponsored by donations, and Airbnb guests who wish to spend some time in Cisco.

The first residency program was held in the spring of 2019. There were six residents, who came from all over the United States. The residents worked on a variety of projects, including paintings, sculptures, poems, and short stories. They also participated in community events, such as a cleanup day and a fundraiser for the Cisco library.

The second residency program was held in the fall of 2019. There were eight residents, who came from all over the world. The residents worked on a variety of projects, including a documentary film, a play, and a musical composition. They also participated in community events, such as a concert and a poetry reading.

If you are an artist who is looking for a unique and rewarding experience, I encourage you to apply for the Home of the Brave Artist Residency.


Read also: Slab City, the Lawless Town in the California Desert

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