The Magic of Cattletrack

The Cattletrack Art Compound is a fascinating place tucked away off a busy street in Scottsdale, AZ. The compound provides residence and studio space for many artists, and is also the home of The Davis Circus of Illusion. Though Craig presents his show in a variety of venues, those who attend the show at Cattletrack experience Craig’s magic to its fullest, complete with custom sound, brilliant lighting, and a stage designed specifically for the show.

Cattletrack has been in the Ellis family since the 1920’s and is currently in the hands of Janie Ellis, a remarkable, energetic woman who was named Scottsdale Woman of the Year in 2011. Janie’s family’s legacy, in part, is their enthusiastic support of the arts. Janie gave Craig the OK to expand the theater’s stage area and rigging, and has watched the evolution of the show with pride and excitement, championing Craig’s many talents.

Along with expanding the stage, Craig made other changes to enhance the environment of the show.

“I put in my own curtains,” he said. “Also, at that time, my friend Andre Kole (a very successful magician) was retiring his touring show, so he let me have his stage lighting, which is a $50,000 stage lighting set-up. It’s all very high tech stuff. They work brilliantly! We also drilled a hole in the middle of the stage and hooked up a high powered fog machine, so at certain points it fires big puffs of smoke to create a dramatic effect. We also put in a haze generator which puts a mist into the air that the lights can dance off of.”

I saw Cattletrack for the first time when my sister and I tagged along with Craig for a rehearsal. It is a much more attractive place than the word “compound” makes it sound. Mostly hidden from the road by trees and large cacti, it is a much greener place than anything I expected to see in Arizona’s desert landscape. The compound is a collection of rustic, unassuming wooden buildings, including two of her father’s original adobe residences that have been lovingly retired here from their original sites, providing a creative environment for a rising generation of artists.

We parked in front of one of the larger buildings, the main art gallery, where Craig presents his show. The gallery is comprised of two large rooms that display art in many mediums, from sculpture to painting to photograph—even hand-crafted banjos and guitars. These two rooms are separated by huge, hand-hewn double doors—centuries old woodwork from a Spanish church, which Janie fell in love with in Mexico and made part of her Cattletrack home. I walked through these doors into the second room and found myself in the theater. This whimsically artistic environment heightens the overall magical experience.

Janie gave my sister and me a grand tour of the compound. She introduced us to several artists, who, though busy at work, were glad to talk with us about their craft. She pointed out things as we went: a collection of custom wood burning stoves, a giant treehouse with a great view, an old hippie van, sculptures, paintings, etc. Many of these were old things given new life by the Cattletrack artists.  

Later that evening, with a full audience seated expectantly and excitedly in the gallery, the show began. The house lights dimmed and the spotlights went up, working threads of light through wisps of haze. To me, this itself was an act of magic: the artwork on the walls melted into the darkness, leaving behind a brilliantly lit stage and the mysterious and exciting world that is the Davis Circus of Illusion.
Davis Magic LLC © 2018