CVIndependent

Mon10212019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

About 18 months ago, I volunteered with the CREATE Center for the Arts for a week to see what it was all about.

The fledgling nonprofit was approaching its first anniversary in its inaugural home, subleasing space in a former thrift store on Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The members and students were still reeling from the sudden death of founding board member Susan Smith Evans; in fact, one of my first tasks was taking down memorial retrospective of Evans’ paintings.

Soon after, the company the CREATE Center was leasing space from closed—and the center was suddenly without a home. The future of the organization was unsure; funding and support were a constant source of anxiety.

Mumm—the center’s founder and director—announced CREATE was moving. She asked everyone involved with the center to bring their cars, trucks and dollies, because a lease for a space had been signed, and they had to move.

Mumm’s dedication to her mission—to enrich her community through the arts—coupled with her tenacity and her laser-focused vision of the future, pulled the young organization through the crisis. Today, the fruits of her labor, and that of other CREATE board members and volunteers, is evident. The transformation is astounding.

Mumm—a longtime leading figure in the local arts community, thanks to her Venus Studios Art Supply store and studio, which she closed to run CREATE—described some of the changes that have occurred since the move 18 months ago.

“We moved into a new space last January—we added more space. We now have dedicated studio spaces,” Mumm said. “There’s an art-supply store on location. We have a screen-printing studio dedicated to the memory of Susan Evans, and a printmaking studio that uses only nontoxic inks, which is unique to the valley. There’s a tech studio that is the only virtual-reality art studio in the area. You can draw or paint in virtual reality and even sculpt. You can then 3-D-print your sculpture.

“We’re developing a whole fiber program—knitting, weaving, spinning; we’re planning an exhibition for the fall. Our goal is to make tools and equipment accessible for a wide range of disciplines that might be too expensive or take up too much space for most people. We believe that sharing and collaboration bring positive results.

“Making art is a vulnerable act. Being in that state brings people together in a closer way.”

Mumm said CREATE’s expansion allows the organization to host events and private parties.

“We can do unique events that demonstrate virtual reality and 3-D printing. Groups can print T-shirts, tie-dye and engage in team-building. We can seat 80 people or do cocktails for up to 150. … And we’re just getting started.”

While the budget remains tight, CREATE’s revenues have doubled over the last year—and Mumm plans on doubling them again this year. Her long-term goal of a permanent home for the CREATE Center now seems within reach.

The center recently received a surprise spotlight grant of $10,000 from the Berger Foundation (no relation to me) to expand the summer children’s programs and do some renovations. Yet other future plans include adding woodworking and metal-crafts studios, and overhauling CREATE’s social-media program.

“We want to grow and evolve as an organization so that we can enrich and empower our community,” Mumm said.

Of course, Mumm is not alone; CREATE’s mission has been helped along by its new chief administrative officer, Robert Mann. Mann is a writer and former TV-commercial director who most recently was a healthcare administrator; he leads a coalition advocating for the support of those suffering from addiction and mental illness. He returned to the desert last April and offered to help CREATE with branding and strengthening its ties to the community. He also wants to create a filmmaking studio at the center, so he can share his passions for storytelling and bringing those stories to life through film.

Mumm’s two sons have also found a place in the organization. Brice Williamson runs the onsite Aquarius Art Supply Store. The shop specializes in art supplies not usually found in regular art-supply stores or big-box craft stores.

“We carry fine high-end art supplies but try to remain accessible for everyone,” he said. “There are less-expensive items for students—and we offer a discount to all students, either high school or college, and also have discounts for CREATE Center members.

“As much as possible, we carry American-made products. I think that’s important. We have watercolors from Daniel Smith in Seattle. Our oil paint comes from Gamblin in Oregon. Our Golden Acrylics come with a terrific online support system. Our canvases are all from American-grown cotton from a company called Fredrix.”

Brice Williamson compared creating art to creating a meal.

“I cook. That’s my creative outlet,” he said. “It’s hard to cook without the right ingredients. This may be a tiny space, but I can order nearly anything for our customers.”

Mumm’s other son, Brady Williamson, runs the tech studio. The 3-D printer is capable of printing objects up to the size of an average shoe box. He said all the materials used are plant-based and contain no harmful chemicals. Objects can be printed in any color, including wood tones, stone colorations or metal colorations. The settings are variable and require some learning and practice.

Brady Williamson also demonstrated the much-more-intuitive virtual-reality program. With the click of a button, you are transported out of the desert and into another realm—like floating in deep space, with planets, stars, galaxies and nebulas stretching endlessly in every direction. Then the real fun begins: With controls in both hands, you can select colors, brush strokes and special effects—to draw or paint your own universe. The results can be photographed or made into short videos; they can also be created on the 3-D printer.

CREATE has come an amazingly long way since its existence-jeopardizing upheaval a year and a half ago.

“We’re a young organization, and we started with nothing,” she said. Nothing, that is, except for a vision, persistence, a lot of hard work—and an overriding passion for art.

Create Center for the Arts is located at 73733 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 100, in Palm Desert. For more information, call 760-834-8318, or visit createcenterforthearts.org.

Published in Visual Arts

Times are tough for community-oriented arts programs.

Despite record-setting prices for art at auctions, funding for public art and education is evaporating—or has already dried up. School districts have decreased course offerings in art, music and the humanities. As a result, to some art-lovers, the future appears bleak.

Enter the CREATE Center for the Arts. A year ago, the center opened its doors in a converted thrift store on Highway 111 in Palm Desert, and the 12 months since have been marked by accomplishment, tragedy and a dogged determination to survive.

The CREATE Center’s mission statement, “to create community enrichment through the arts,” is epitomized by founder and director Debra Ann Mumm. I’m a relative newcomer to the valley arts world, and as I’ve talked to local gallery owners, artists and museum representatives, one name kept coming up: I was told, “You have to meet Debra.”

I wanted to learn more about the CREATE Center and the woman who is the driving force behind it. I decided to volunteer there for a week and see what was going on for myself.

When I met Mumm, I was immediately swept up in her enthusiasm. She has big plans—really big plans: She envisions a multistory building serving the needs of artists, performers and designers by providing education, studio space, exhibitions and event space—available to everyone in the Coachella Valley.

“I want to make something that lasts—a permanent art center, something that increases accessibility,” she said.

Mumm described herself as a creative child. She majored in film and theater. Her first job was delivering blueprints—although the company also sold some art supplies. Later, a course at College of the Desert and interactions with local artists convinced her there was a need for a local art-supply store. She opened Venus Art Supply in Palm Desert, and started some art classes as a way to sell more paint. That led to sponsoring struggling artists and providing low-cost studio space. She’s received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to the arts community over the past 25 years, and the CREATE Center is the culmination of her history and core belief that art changes lives.

The center provides workshops and weekly classes. Low-cost studio space and equipment is available. Local artists can exhibit their work in both juried and non-juried gallery shows. Free and low-cost youth programs offer art education for kids 5 years old and up.

In its first year, the CREATE Center has made a big impression—but along with the recognition has come heartache.

On my first day of volunteering, I was asked to take down the memorial exhibition of works by Susan Smith Evans, and wrap the works for storage. Susan was a popular teacher at the College of the Desert, and a prolific painter and printmaker; she was also one of the founding board members of the CREATE Center. She was killed last March in an accident at her home, within months of the center’s opening.

Her husband, Ron Evans, a ceramics teacher at College of the Desert, asked the CREATE Center to be the permanent home for his wife’s art. He died on Nov. 30.

I talked with Michele Ohanesian, an instructor at the center, about the highs and lows of the first year. Susan Smith Evans was her first art teacher in college, and Ohanesian said Smith Evans was her inspiration to become a professional artist. As for the highlights, Ohanesian said the center’s energy—including people just walking in the door to ask what was going on—was the best thing about the it.

Things happen quickly at the center—and change is constant. Two days after my last volunteer shift, I had this story all planned out when I got a text from Debra Ann Mumm: “We’re moving tomorrow.”

A new space had become available. It was less expensive—a critical consideration for a fledgling nonprofit. It also allowed the center to move its private studios into the same location as the classes and exhibitions. This, too, saved money, and would benefit both the professional artists and the students by having them in the same space.

Mumm had big plans for the space, she said. Her enthusiasm caught me. I returned the next afternoon to help pack for a couple hours.

The CREATE Center for the Arts is located at 73733 Fred Waring Drive, No. 106, in Palm Desert. The center will hold a first-anniversary celebration from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 13. For more information, call 760-834-8318, or visit www.createcenterforthearts.com.

Published in Visual Arts

In the arts world, Debra Ann Mumm—president and founder of the family-owned business Venus Studios Art Supply, in Palm Desert—is an oxymoron.

She’s a successful artist. And she’s a successful entrepreneur.

In the industry, many art galleries and supply shops close within months of opening. However, Venus Studios is celebrating its fifth anniversary with an art expo in January—and the business has not stagnated; in fact, it has expanded. Venus’ expansion about three years ago led to a significantly larger gallery space, an increased number and variety of courses, private areas individual artists can rent, and an art-supply store that carries the latest materials and is the only store in the desert where some products can be purchased.

Unfortunately, artistic purists and entrepreneurial purists alike bash Mumm. The artistic purists claim that Mumm sold out and is now a lesser artist. The entrepreneurs impugn her efforts because she lacks the singular focus demonstrated by the best entrepreneurs. In other words, Venus Studios has too many individual and seemingly separate initiatives.

Mumm laughs at both groups. She would tell, quite bluntly, the entrepreneur complainers that their criticisms are without merit. For example, Mumm sees Venus Studios’ public-murals wing, PLANet Art, as offering practical solutions to big-picture issues. The artist asserts that murals and other large-scale works foster communication and build bridges that are not possible with traditional written and spoken language.

Whether or not explicitly articulated by Mumm, her and her studio’s socially responsive initiatives are based upon three powerful business models and theories: “synergy,” as discussed by systems theorists; “collective unconscious,” or images, concepts and beliefs that are contained within every culture; and the fundamental gestalt psychology principle, “The sum is greater than each of the parts.”

Mumm says she’s a “lifetime doodler” who has always made art. Before founding Venus Studios, her professional title was “trained materials specialist”: She explored the surface and subsurface interactions (chemical and structural) between specific acrylics and non-acrylic surfaces.

Over the past few years, Mumm’s artistic vision, like her business, has increased in scale. She’s moved from small-scale canvases and paintings on found objects to larger works with defined presences.

“Inner Dimension” is a dreamy piece. By connecting the organic with potentially hard-edge geometric forms, and by using light-to-medium blues and greys on a highly textured object—a wood plank, probably a found object—Mumm produces a clearly 21st-century piece with a 1950s retro sensibility. Both the palette and organic forms are vintage 1950s, while the easily missed purplish-blue grid floating in and out of the other objects and shapes moves the work forward some 50 years. “Inner Dimension” could be hung over a sofa and not be called “sofa” art: Each visit to the piece reveals something different and fresh.

The otherworldly qualities of “Just Beyond” (above right) make it hard to find a frame of reference in the visual-arts arena. Some elements seen reminiscent of the transcendental movement; however, Mumm’s harsh backlighting makes the piece’s inclusion in a modern offshoot or reinterpretation of the works of the transcendental painters of the 19th-century Hudson River School impossible. The otherworldly qualities seem better-suited to the transcendental school that came from New Mexico’s early modernists.

The best fit, however, is probably not the visual arts, but contemporary Gothic and horror literature. On some level, Mumm—a voracious reader who in December rolled out a new blog—may in some way be channeling contemporary novelists, like Stephen King, in a visual format.

Two icons of American innovation and business meet with Mumm’s “Smith and Wesson Meets Westinghouse.” However, the meeting is not pleasant. The front door of an old Westinghouse refrigerator hangs on the wall. By highlighting and exaggerating the discolorations, dings and dents, Mumm makes it easier to recognize the obvious. The emotional impact of the piece becomes evident once the perforations are recognized as multiple bullet holes, quite possibly caused by a Smith and Wesson gun.

In contrast, a childlike sensibility of freedom and hope is present in “Taste the Rainbow” (below). Created from an old, partially broken wood pallet, the wood’s textures remain; however, they support and do not conflict with the overall composition. In lieu of removing or repairing the broken slats, Mumm reinterprets them. Ultimately, they add an almost sculptural quality, especially when they are a foil to the shadows they create.

Going forward, Mumm sees herself doing more writing as she continues to paint with found objects as her primary canvases. Meanwhile PLANet Art continues to thrive as she talks with other desert businesses and cities about murals and other large-scale projects. For example, she recently worked with the Westfield Mall on a mural project.

Venus Studios Art Supply is located at 41801 Corporate Way, No. 7 and 8, in Palm Desert. The shop and gallery are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday. For more information, call 760-340-5085, or visit www.venusstudiosartsupply.com.

Published in Visual Arts

It’s now been more than seven months since an Arenas Road murals project, planned and funded by Venus Studios Art Supply owner Debra Ann Mumm, was shut down by Palm Springs police after city officials claimed the project was illegal—even though the city Public Arts Commission had endorsed the project.

It’s now been more than six months since the Palm Springs City Council, in the wake of the controversy caused by the shutdown of Mumm’s mural project, approved a much-needed mural-approval process.

However, since these two events, it’s been all quiet on the Palm Springs murals front.

Mumm still has plans for mural projects in the city, she said. In fact, she has a mockup of a mural she’s planning for the Arenas Road side of LuLu California Bistro. However, she has not yet started the daunting and expensive journey that is now the city of Palm Springs mural process.

Still, Mumm said she is happy there is finally a policy and process in place.

“They made a process where there wasn’t one,” Mumm said. “In that sense, there’s a procedure now, and that’s fantastic. Is it harder? No, because there’s nothing to compare it to previously. My feeling is that’s progress, and that’s an improvement on the situation. At least there’s a way to actually do it legally now.”

One of the reasons Mumm has not yet started the approval process is that she needs to raise the money for the mural—including almost $1,900 that would go to the city just to apply.

The procedure set forth by the city of Palm Springs includes a processing fee of $1,000, plus a notification fee of $872, which must be submitted along with detailed drawings including samples, and background information on the mural artist. Also required: a detailed site plan, photos of the proposed mural location (including neighboring properties), notice labels for all property owners within 500 feet of the proposed mural site, an agreement by the property owner, and a maintenance plan.

Mumm said she figured the process will take at least three months.

“You go before the Planning Commission first, and then the Planning Commission sends your application to the Architectural Advisory Committee to make notes. … After the Architectural Advisory Committee makes notes, then you go to the Public Arts Commission, and then after all those approvals have been met, it finally goes to City Council.”

Murals done before the approval process was enacted, such as the one at Bar, located at 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, were not grandfathered in, meaning owners will need to go through that process. In fact, it was the mural at Bar, painted in November 2013 by Fin DAC and Angelina Christina, that started a debate among Palm Springs residents and city officials about murals.

Reggie Cameron, a Bar spokesman, said via e-mail that the Funkey family, which owns Bar, is currently going through the process of getting the mural approved. “(They) are currently working on the application, but had to wait until the new Art Commission and Planning Commission came into place. … They were sworn in this September/October, so it won’t be on the agenda for some time. They have been in communication with the city regarding the mural.”

Mumm said she did not feel like the city is trying to make it overly difficult to get a mural approved.

“I don’t think the application process is meant to be a deterrent,” she said. “I think it’s meant to make sure that what does go up is of quality, and it’s something that everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinion on before rather than after.”

City Councilmember Paul Lewin cast the sole vote against the mural-approval process in May. (Ginny Foat was absent from that meeting.) He declined to speak to the Independent about the process in person or over the phone, but agreed to answer questions via email. He said he still has concerns about the process.

“I do believe that having a process for murals to be approved is a good thing, because art in public places should have a process where the public can weigh in with their opinion. I do not, however, think that we came up with a particularly good process. That is why I voted against the ordinance,” Lewin wrote.

He suggested what he believes would be a better plan.

“I would have rather seen an easier, more-streamlined process,” Lewin wrote. “I think that if we had asked the Public Arts Commission to identify five or six buildings that would be good candidates for murals, and took public comments during that process, we could have created an environment where there was far less uncertainty for proposed murals. In essence, the locations could have been pre-approved, and thus the (application fees) would be lower. All that would be debated would be the artistic merits of the piece.”

He expressed concerns that the process may be too difficult for artists and property owners.

“Nothing in life or public policy is perfect. So again, it is good that we now have a process that will allow for mural art,” he wrote. “However, I feel that the ordinance as crafted is simply too burdensome on the artists and property owners, and does not really further the cause of bringing mural art to the community.

“I hope to be proven wrong.”

Published in Local Issues

It’s official: Authorized murals will be coming to the city of Palm Springs.

After months of controversy—starting with the painting of a provocative mural at Bar on Palm Canyon Drive, and going through the police-led shutdown of the PLANet Art mural project last month—the Palm Springs City Council voted 3-1 to enact a mural-approval process.

Paul Lewin cast the only opposing vote, citing concerns that the new policy was not restricted enough. (Councilmember Ginny Foat was absent from the capacity-crowd meeting.)

The ordinance states that any mural plans must go through a multi-step process, and get approval from bodies including the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission and, ultimately, the Palm Springs City Council. Existing murals, such as the one at Bar, are not grandfathered in, and must get approval. The ordinance had fairly widespread support, including the endorsement of the Main Street Palm Springs merchants association.

The first public speaker at the meeting was Kim Funkey. Her family owns the Smoketree Supper Club, Giuseppe’s and Bar in Palm Springs. It was the mural at Bar, painted in November by Fin DAC and Angelina Christina, that sparked the mural debate in Palm Springs.

“I’ve seen my hometown evolve over the years,” Funkey told the City Council, “from a city of empty streets and vacant storefronts, to a place that’s vibrant and bustling with economic activity. Palm Springs is in the midst of a commercial and cultural renaissance that my family is very proud to be a part of. (Our) mural at Bar has drawn accolades from international media such as USA Today, as well as local residents and visitors from around the world.”

Funkey said the city’s cultural renaissance is being noticed by a wide variety of people.

“(This is) a place many of my childhood classmates fled from, but because of this activity, several have returned and are now proud to call Palm Springs their home.”

Following Funkey was Angela Romeo, of the City of Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. She spoke passionately about terms such as “signage” and “art.”

“What’s interesting about this ordinance is that it’s very comprehensive in that it does distinguish between signage and art, which the city was lacking,” Romeo said. “What we need to understand is that murals are not alien; they’re not a crime against humanity. It’s just we had no permission for them. A vibrant art community is great for economic development. If you want to bring tourists here, you have to give them something to look at.”

When it came time for the council to discuss the issue, member Rick Hutcheson declared support for the ordinance.

“I think it has a place in our city. I think this is a careful process, and it’s been recommended by a good friend of mine who used to be part of the mural organization for Los Angeles,” he said. “It’s great to have a process for this, and I think this a good step forward,” Hutcheson said.

Councilmember Chris Mills raised questions about some of the language in the ordinance—specifically, a rule limiting murals to being 35 feet tall. He wondered, for example, if an artist could paint only 35 feet of a wall if it was taller than that. The size limit was removed from the ordinance at his request.

Councilmember Paul Lewin unsuccessfully proposed limiting the amount of murals visible along Palm Canyon Drive and Indian Canyon Drive to five, with an additional five allowed elsewhere in the city. He also proposed, again unsuccessfully, painting the murals on a surface that could be detached or removed by property owners.

“What that will do is allow the city to digest and experience it,” Lewin said.

Debra Ann Mumm, the owner of Palm Desert’s Venus Studios Art Supply, was one of the organizers of the PLANET Art murals project, which brought in renowned artists to create four murals along Arenas Road in April. The project was shut down by Palm Springs police, despite the fact that Mumm had earned approval from the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission.

She said the PLANET Art project is probably on hold until the fall. She now needs to submit plans for the four murals to the city.

“We’re going into summer, so I don’t think I can get these guys from the Bay Area to come down until it cools down a bit.”

When asked about Lewin’s comments about removable artwork, Mumm said it’s not really possible.

“I thought it was an unusual request,” Mumm said. “I’ve never heard of anything like that before for a mural program. Murals are traditionally painted on walls. I understand what he was going for, but it’s a different beast. How are you going to cover the Lulu building with removable material?”

Published in Local Issues

I first met Debra Ann Mumm and Ryan “Motel” Campbell in the weeks leading up to the party the Coachella Valley Independent threw last October to celebrate the launch of our monthly print edition.

Debra’s Venus Studios Art Supply sponsored the event at Clinic Bar and Lounge by donating a 10-by-5-foot canvas (and other materials), on which Campbell painted a gorgeous work of art during the party. (The painting was then donated to the LGBT Community Center of the Desert for the nonprofit’s Center Stage silent auction.)

To say I was impressed by both Mumm and Campbell would be an understatement: They always display an intense passion for the Coachella Valley, its art and its artists.

That’s why I was not at all surprised when Mumm announced she and Campbell were raising funds for PLANet Art Palm Springs (www.exhibitps.com), a project to bring in four renowned muralists in early April to create four murals on and around downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road.

From what I know of Mumm and Campbell, I was sure they’d dot their I’s and cross their T’s when it came to planning, permits and permissions. Sure enough, they got a thumbs-up from the city’s Public Arts Commission, as well as all of the needed permissions from the property owners along Arenas Road. Since the city of Palm Springs has no law regulating murals—at least that Mumm or anyone else to whom the Independent has spoken can find—it seemed like clear sailing for PLANet Art.

Such was not the case: As the PLANET Art artists began to paint on the weekend of April 4, police showed up and reportedly threatened to arrest them if they didn’t stop.

Brian Blueskye has a comprehensive report that we posted online yesterday, and will be our May print-edition cover story. That issue will hit streets next week.

There is some good news coming out of this mess: In May, the Palm Springs City Council is slated to take up the mural matter, and will hopefully develop a policy and procedures to prevent such problems from happening in the future. (We’ll definitely keep everyone posted on what happens.)

But even if the city of Palm Springs gets its act together in May, that does not excuse the city for what happened to Mumm, Campbell and the other PLANet Art participants in April. Unless there is some law or statute that everyone is missing, the city officials who had a role in stopping PLANet Art—costing Mumm and Campbell no small amount of money—should be ashamed. If there’s no law regulating murals on the books, and Mumm and company did everything possible to get proper permission—including getting an endorsement from a city commission—then what they did is legal. Period.

People like Mumm and Campbell, who are stepping up and trying to make our community a more beautiful, culturally aware place, should be celebrated, not threatened with arrest. This seems like common sense doesn’t it? Alas, the city of Palm Springs was lacking any and all sense when it shut down PLANet Art.

Published in Editor's Note

The weekend of April 5 and 6 was going to be big for Debra Ann Mumm and local lovers of public art.

The owner of Venus Studios Art Supply had joined renowned local muralist Ryan“Motel” Campbell to launch PLANet Art Palm Springs. The project brought four renowned mural artists to downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road area to paint four large-scale murals.

Proper funds had been raised; the city’s Public Arts Commission had even endorsed the week long project. Everything was ready to go.

Except it wasn’t.

As the artists started to paint, the police showed up and told Mumm and Campbell that their project was not authorized—it was illegal. Police reportedly threatened arrests if the artists continued to paint.

Campbell took to Facebook and other social media to vent his frustration. He even posted a picture of the police arriving and shutting down the project.

“ART IS NOT A CRIME,” Campbell wrote.


Today, out-of-place white paint can be found along the edges of some of the walls where the murals were intended to be—Lulu California Bistro, Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt, Clinic and StreetBar—illustrating the sudden stoppage of the project.

“I wish I could explain what exactly happened,” Mumm said. “The news articles that came out about it didn’t say a lot, because there wasn’t a lot of explanation for the actions the city took. We showed up to paint, and the police came and said they were told to cite us if we began to work.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to us. We had followed all the procedures that we had to follow for the area we were painting in. There were no permits needed for that area as far as using the sidewalk and everything like that.”

However, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready told the Independent that what Mumm and Campbell had planned was not allowed—despite the endorsement of the city’s Public Arts Commission.

“Currently, the city does not allow murals,” Ready said, adding that the Public Arts Commission lacks the authority to approve mural projects on its own. “However, the City Council had asked to create a policy that would allow murals. The Arts Commission looked at it, and the Planning Commission is currently looking at it, and the City Council will consider it on May 7.”

Mumm said she’s seen no law or ordinance prohibiting murals in Palm Springs.

“There aren’t any procedures for murals in Palm Springs,” Mumm said. “Because there are no procedures, they are taking it from the standpoint that murals aren’t allowed.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened. It was very clear about the dates we were doing this and moving forward, and that there was nothing in the city language that prevented us from doing that.”

Ready also said that property owners did not have proper permits for the murals.

“They never received a permit from the city,” Ready said. “The property owners did not receive or request any approvals.”

Mumm responded that her group did everything possible to get all the proper approvals.

"We thought we only needed use permits for the sidewalks, because all of Arenas is private, and the Arts Commission approved the project."

The confusion has cost Mumm and Campbell. The project featured out-of-town artists for whom Mumm had made accommodations; it was funded, in part, by locals to bring more arts and culture into the city of Palm Springs. (Mumm and Campbell are still raising funds, by the way.)

Mumm said she hopes a fair policy will be put in place on May 7.

“At this point, we’ve created a lot of public support,” Mumm said. “It’s clear that the city needs to move forward in making a procedure, because the public is very anxious for this project to move forward. At least we’ve created that dialogue.”

One of the artists included in the project is Los Angeles painter Saber, described by The Washington Post as one of the most respected artists in the field of murals. (The others are APEX, Jeff Soto and Chad Hasegawa.) Saber went with Mumm to the Public Arts Commission meeting after the project was halted.

“(Saber) was instrumental in helping the city of Los Angeles develop their mural policy,” Mumm said. “We brought copies of the Los Angeles city mural policy to maybe try and help them develop some kind of program.”

Mumm said the plan is to continue work once the city enacts a mural policy and approves the project.

“We’re still on board,” Mumm said. “The artists came here to paint, and they still want to paint, so we’re just going to continue to move forward. It’s just an extreme delay. … At the very least, it’s created the dialogue and created the conversation, especially after the illegal mural activity.”


“Illegal mural activity” is a reference to the mural that James Haunt painted at Stewart Fine Art, 2481 N. Palm Canyon Drive, and the mural at Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, painted by Fin DAC and Angelina Christina. There was no attempt for the creators of these murals to get city approval, according to Palm Springs city officials.

“It’s my understanding from the Public Arts Commission meeting that they’ll develop the policy, and once the policy is developed, Bar’s and James Haunt’s mural will both have to go through that procedure,” Mumm said. “They’ll make sure they’re compliant with the newly formed ordinances, and it’s clear that there will be no grandfathering of existing murals. That’s the language that I heard at the meeting. But again, the policy hasn’t been developed yet.”

Mumm said the mural issue is getting caught up in the ongoing conversation about the nature of Palm Springs—and what belongs and doesn’t belong.

“The problem with art is not everyone is going to like it,” Mumm said. “Bar has a fairly controversial mural. It’s a little bit provocative. … What we were bringing to the plate was a little more palatable publicly. I’ve heard people say about the Bar mural that it looks like a strip club. We’re trying to bring internationally recognized, quality artists and experienced muralists to the valley. I love Angelina Christina’s work, but that particular piece (at Bar) got some attention, and maybe all the neighbors aren’t happy about it. There was no public forum for them to come out and say, ‘Oh, man. You can’t do that.’ There was no approval by the Public Arts Commission, either. Everyone just wants the opportunity to weigh in on the subject.”

She also points out that murals have been great for other cities.

“It has made such a big difference for Miami,” Mumm said. “They have the Art Basel event, which draws $500 million in revenue to the Miami area in one week. I know there have been a lot of surveys done that cultural tourism is beneficial. It’s beneficial for businesses. … If you keep doing it, there’s bound to be something for everybody.”

What about people who claim that murals don’t “belong” in Palm Springs?

“I grew up here, and I was born in Indio,” Mumm said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes to Palm Springs from the time when I was a teenager. … I see extreme value in preserving our history, and there’s a lot of significant architecture here. … But the new generation, there’s not a lot to attract them or newer businesses to the area. There’s a lot of clinging to the past, and there’s a certain part of that past that’s important. I’m a big fan and have a lot of respect for what Palm Springs stands for. I think this just adds to it. We’re not taking away from anything that is Palm Springs, but adding something new and creating a new dynamic that can be more than one-dimensional for Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to be just one thing.”

“Forever Marilyn,” the Seward Johnson statue that spent about two years at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive, was the subject of a debate over whether or not it was tasteful—or even art.

“I wasn’t a fan,” Mumm said. “But I’m a fan of what the statue did for the community. Everybody took pictures with the Marilyn. I’m a local, and I don’t like the Marilyn statue, but I have to admit: I have pictures of her on my cell phone.”

When asked whether murals are a good fit for the city, city manager Ready wouldn’t comment specifically, but he did say the city has noticed the potential.

“I think that’s why the City Council requested that we bring forth a policy on murals,” Ready said, “because they recognize murals could certainly have a place in Palm Springs.”

Mumm said that murals are also a good source of graffiti prevention.

“We’ve been invited to bring our program to Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio, and even Indian Wells is even interested in looking at some murals,” Mumm said. “They realize the potential for what we’re offering. It is a graffiti deterrent.

“I know if (someone) went up and tagged on a Saber mural, (the tagger) wouldn’t last long,” she said, laughing. “There is a lot of respect even in that culture for significant work like that. You do not tag on a mural unless you’re an idiot, and your whole community around you knows you’re an idiot.”

Published in Local Issues

It was not just another night in downtown Palm Springs.

Hundreds of people from across the Coachella Valley and beyond gathered at Clinic Bar and Lounge in downtown Palm Springs on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 16, for the Coachella Valley Independent's Monthly-Edition Launch Party. 

The crowd was enticed by a live work of art created in front of their eyes by Ryan "Motel" Campbell; a DJ set by All Night Shoes (aka Alex Harrington), followed by several sets from The Vibe; and, of course, two hours of free drinks.

Scroll down to see some photos of the event (most of which were taken by Kevin Fitzgerald). If you have pics you'd like to add to the photo gallery, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thanks to all who came, as well as the fine folks at Clinic Bar and Lounge, and Venus Studios Art Supply.

Published in Snapshot

Ryan “Motel” Campbell is asked how he’d categorize his art.

He pauses to contemplate. “I’d say that my work is … contemporary, fluid motion, cubist, urban, contemporary.”

He laughs. “That’s the short version,” he adds.

The description (aside from the two mentions of “contemporary,” perhaps) actually fits Campbell’s works nicely—as everyone can see at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, when Campbell will paint a 10-foot-by-5-foot mural live, as part of the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party.

The Independent is celebrating our one-year anniversary online, as well as the launch of our monthly edition, with free drinks from 6 to 8 p.m.; a DJ set by All Night Shoes; and the live creation of the mural on canvas, which will later be donated to the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, for the organization’s silent auction at the Center Stage event.

Campbell, 32, is an accomplished artist whose works and installations have been featured in galleries far and wide. (See just a small sampling of his works at www.ryanmotelcampbell.com/index.html.)

Ryan “Motel” Campbell—the nickname came to be, he says, because friends used to regularly stay at his house, aka the “Motel Campbell”—teaches regularly at Venus Studios, which is co-sponsoring the launch party; the good folks there are donating the canvas on which Campbell will paint, as well as other materials.

He says he often came to the desert while he was growing up in Los Angeles, and he credits the Coachella Valley for giving him inspiration.

“I really love the desert—something about the energy, something about just being here, I connected with immediately,” he says. “I would come here from Los Angeles and feel just completely disconnected, which is great.”

As a kid in L.A., Campbell fell in love with graffiti.

“I went and wrote on every mailbox and every sidewalk, and I’m not proud of it,” he says. “… I knew better. I had a very nice upbringing. My family taught me to always be respectful. But I needed to have my voice heard.”

In 2001, he decided to move to the Coachella Valley; his mom already lived in here, in Palm Desert.

“I had the opportunity to move here and jumped all over it,” he says. “I moved here—and found myself totally bored out of my mind.

“Oddly enough, in the bag of things that I brought with me—my worldly possessions—I had my sketchbook. So I broke out my sketchbook, and I just started drawing. I started looking at a lot of the graffiti I was doing and saw the monotony in it. I saw that I wasn’t really progressing. … I felt like I needed to push myself.”

Campbell started visiting local museums and galleries; those visits led to what he called a “wave of inspiration.”

“I said, ‘You know, I want to do something different. I want to try to really take the fundamentals of this graffiti art … and put it into creating something that’s more fine art’—art that spoke to me, that I was able to connect with and identify with and really enjoy.”

The melding of influences has led to Campbell’s “contemporary, fluid motion, cubist, urban, contemporary” style.

“It’s very inspired,” Campbell says about his art. “It’s inspired by movement. It’s inspired by motion, a lot of fluidity. I think that depicted where I was and where I am in life. I like to cruise through. I don’t want to fight too much.”

Today, in a way, Campbell has come full-circle: He often teaches alternative-education classes to kids with whom he can closely relate.

“I was basically going in to teach (kids who were just like) myself when I was in high school,” he says. “I was going in to teach kids who were rebellious and angry and wanted to do vandalism and go out and make a name for themselves.”

He says some kids even recognized him and his works from his graffiti days.

“The question (from the kids) was always like, ‘How come you don’t go out any more?’ he says. “For me, the necessity and the outlet have changed over time.”

Today, he says, kids have more outlets than he did when he was young. He cites skate parks as an example, as well as some of the efforts that forward-thinking arts organizations like Venus Studios are making.

“Kids want to go out and paint. They want to go out and write their name,” he says. “They want people to go out and see the work that they’re making. What I’ve been able to do with Venus Studios is we have Spray Paint Session Saturdays, where we invite people to come in and bring their spray paint. We give them a large-size canvas to paint on, to display their work in a venue where they’re not harming anybody, and they’re not getting into any trouble. They have an audience that’s interested in what they have to say, in a place where they can show their work.”

When asked what attendees at the Independent Launch Party can expect while Campbell spends four to six hours creating a brand-new work of art, he says that he often draws inspiration from the audience when he produces live works.

So come and help create Campbell create a contemporary, fluid-motion, cubist, urban, contemporary piece of art—for a good cause to boot.

Ryan “Motel” Campbell will paint starting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Coachella Valley Independent’s Official Launch Party. The event takes place at Clinic Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. A hosted bar will be open from 6 to 8 p.m., and All Night Shoes will spin music all night. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-904-4208. Below: “Reclining Nude” (from life study), 48 by 36 inches; acrylic, spray paint and charcoal on wood. Above: “Sorting It All Out,” 24 by 24 inches; acrylic, spray paint and charcoal on wood.

Published in Visual Arts

For more than a decade, The Art Place in Palm Desert has been a hub for galleries and boutiques that offer original home décor and accessories to the public.

I recently visited The Art Place—located at 41801 Corporate Way, just off Hovley Lane west of Cook Street—to review the center for an upcoming art tour. For years, decorators and designers have frequented these vendors in search of something special for their clients’ dwellings. Some of these studio-galleries have an artist in residence working on wares that can be specially ordered or customized to please a discerning eye.

At Nikko Contemporary, owners Nancy Lee and Hans Ladislaus offer a collection of original, aesthetically clean contemporary paintings and modern sculptures. These are a must for all art-lovers to see.

Another popular space is the Jake Dent Gallery, where large ceramic creations are the star. These beautiful works vary in size and can be used as working decorative fountains or simply stand-alone sculpture. All vary in texture, color and size. Meanwhile, one can usually find Jake working on his paintings.

Desert Wolff’s owner, Lucien Wolff, is a longtime tenant at The Art Place. His showroom offers unique decorative wares and home décor, but also features a variety of decorative art displayed throughout the store's two floors. Interesting works and masks will remind you of an international market place for curios and unusual items. Many are handcrafted and may remind you of primitive crafts from far-off places.

What interior-design center would be complete without a consignment store with furniture and art? Patrick Harkins is the desert’s connoisseur of consignment, and his Desert Art Source has cornered this market with two locations. One can search for antiques and other fine furniture form all over the world.

Don’t miss The Gallery Soho, where owner Louise Lawrence operates from Tuesday to Friday and also by appointment. Louise offers art in various mediums and styles, and specializes in decorative art and prints from different genres. The loft-like two-story space is full of works from floor to ceiling that range from wood sculptures to ceramics to mirrors. Louise has been a designers’ resource for more than 15 years thanks to her award-winning expertise.

A newcomer to the center is Venus Studios, where owner Debra Ann Mumm features eclectic offerings that include art supplies and original art—some of which is created by the students who take art classes in the building. Debra has various local artists teaching different genres, from plein air to contemporary and abstract.

An established presence at The Art Place is The Interior’s Designer (Accoutrements) owned and operated by Marsha Joy Young. Marsha has an eclectic combination of items for the home, specializing in home interior and plant-scape design. Her talented hands also create holiday décor for her clients. You can find an array of goodies for your abode, from chandeliers to desks and chairs—and even beautifully created silk orchids and flowers. A touch of rustic fills the space.

At Jolie Maison, the polished showroom offers exclusive bedding and decorative items and accessories. A varied collection of decorative art and mirrors joins an outstanding display of chandeliers—especially the glass works inspired by Dale Chihuly—as well as tabletop accessories offering a European essence.

Design Place Fabrics, owned by Carroll Hassell, is a wholesale purveyor distributor of fine textiles serving the home-furnishing industry. Call for an appointment.

Finally, there is McDonald and Benedict Collections, featuring furnishings and elegant accessories. Jim McDonald and Paul Benedict combine talents to offer impeccable design service to a clientele all over the United States and China. Custom-glass fabrications and beautiful plant-scapes are found throughout the dazzling showroom.

If you love art and design, visit soon; check The Art Place website for hours, and calling ahead (especially during the summer) is always recommended.

Richard Almada is the CEO and president of Artistic Relations and heads up Desert Art Tours. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Visual Arts