With all the natural beauty that abounds in the Arizona desert, you would think there would be no need for any aesthetic enhancements to the landscape. While true, the Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort in Tucson has managed to improve on what Mother Nature has provided.
**Disclaimer: This was a hosted trip however all opinions are my own. I strive to provide my readers with my most authentic sentiments.
This luxury resort sits just outside the city of Tucson among the Saguaro cacti, nestled in the Catalina foothills. With the Catalina Mountains as its backdrop and views of the sprawling city of Tucson, it offers plenty of visual appeal. But, Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort takes aesthetics to the next level by incorporating art, architecture and gardens into the natural landscape. These elements add visual interest to every corner and vista of this unique property.
A Man with Vision
The man responsible, at least in part for that is Jeff Timan, the Director of Gardening and Art at the resort. Timan is a man of vision in both a creative and business sense. I had an opportunity to sit down with him to discuss his role at the Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort from both a creative standpoint as well as business.
Timan grew up in Tucson and was the son of a businessperson who channeled his creativity through painting as a hobby. Therefore, both business and art have been a common thread throughout his Timan’s life.
Like his father, Timan studied business and accounting at the University of Arizona but learned after graduating that it was not what he expected. Before long, he began looking at other career paths. Having always enjoyed art, he went on to study at the Santa Barbara Art Institute.
Toward the end of his studies, he tried his hand at bronze sculpture. After a major failed sculpture of a woman’s torso, he recognized he did not have the temperament for such a perfect art form. Hacienda Del Sol's surroundings need no embellishment. Click To Tweet
After graduating, he went to the east coast (NYC) and worked with famed furniture designer and builder Dakota Jackson, known for his mid-century modern designs. While there, Jeff worked as a furniture and cabinet-maker but after a few years, it was time to move on.
Ultimately, Timan returned to Tucson to help his aging father, who was succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease with his Real Estate business. He became a Real Estate Broker and facilitated numerous important deals in the Tucson area.
In 1995, Timan learned that the Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort was on the market. He had always loved the ranch. Moreover, he saw it as a great deal and a better investment. He proceeded to gather a group of business people (Tom Firth, Rick Fink and Paul Ginsburg), with varying backgrounds to negotiate the purchase of Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort. This group of investors is the same collective that own and operate the ranch today.
Art and Aesthetics
The purchase of the Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort presented a unique opportunity for Timan. As an owner, he could apply his business acumen along with his love of art and aesthetics.
Early on, Timan would organize exhibits of local artists. The works would be on display at the hotel and would cycle out each month. It wasn’t long before this became a challenging proposition and ended. However, over the years, some of these early exhibitors have contributed to the landscape and ambience of the Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort through art donations, consignments and of course sales.
I asked Timan if he considers himself “a curator of art.” He told me he doesn’t care for labels but agreed that in a sense that is part of what he does.
Through these acquisitions, Timan has created a 34-acre open-air Art Gallery. The grounds boast over 40 unique pieces including more than 10 of Timan’s own sculptures. His work repurposes metal that might otherwise be scrapped. One of his pieces is a representation of his daughter, “Mia.” This quirky figure, which uses springs for hair, happens to be my favorite on the property. His other sculpture is an abstract sunflower that has acquired a weathered patina.
Other artists featured among the property’s extensive gardens include Rigsby Frederick, an internationally respected sculptor from Baton Rouge LA and Merlin Cohen, a retired dentist turned stone sculptor. You can find the “Bull,” a steel sculpture by Chilean artist Carlos Carula outside the Terraza restaurant, as well.
The Details Matter
This fusion of gardens, art and architectural details throughout the site adds visual interest to every corner of the resort. And, it’s not just the large art installations it’s the details. A mural by artist Joe Pagac provide depth and interest to a cactus gardens. Both terracotta and brightly colored pots of cheerful pansies mingle among the yucca. Fountains stand at attention in the courtyards. Tilework accents stairways and exterior walls. Faces peek playfully from the hardscape. And, even a cowboy lurks below the pool’s surface.
Citrus fruit trees grace the ground. When in season, visitors can pluck oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, kumquats and variegated lemons from the branches.
In addition to the picturesque gardens and fruit trees, tucked among the casitas, you can find an 800 square foot floral, herb and vegetable garden. The edible garden was designed and planted in conjunction with Dr. Andrew Weil. A neighbor of the resort, Weil pops in to harvest fresh produce from time to time. And, of course, Chef Bruce Yim uses all the vegetables, herbs and citrus fruit in preparing meals for The Grill.
Just off The Grill sits a terrace built into the terrain known as Sandy’s Vista. This addition is both beautiful and personal. Built by the property’s hardscape contractor, Josh Martin, it is a tribute to his sister who died in 2014, of cancer. Additionally, he painted is a small mural on one wall memorializing her life.
Photo Opportunities Abound
With all this beauty, both natural and man-made it is no wonder Hacienda Del Sol Ranch Resort is a popular location for weddings and other special events. While I was there, I stumbled upon a young woman who was having her Quinceanero photos shots.
If you are a shutterbug, you may need to remind yourself to put the camera down. While I was there, despite the area having over 350 days of sunshine per year, cloudy skies persisted. However, after an afternoon rain the clouds broke and I was lucky enough to grab a few shots of a rainbow against the Catalina Mountains. Once again, Mother Nature does not disappoint.