CVIndependent

Mon06012020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Palm Springs’ Church of St. Paul in the Desert wants to help tell the Coachella Valley’s story.

Working with the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission, the Church of St. Paul and artist Bernard Hoyes have begun work on a community mural, “Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters.”

On a recent visit to the in-progress mural—on the church’s wall facing the alleyway behind Trina Turk—Hoyes was finishing up after a group of children from BRAFF (Building Resilience in African-American Families) had done some painting with him. Hoyes said he welcomes people to come and share ideas.

“I’ll just enlarge and re-realize it,” Hoyes said, pointing to a wagon wheel some of the kids had painted. “I’ll just make it more realistic as a wagon wheel so it can be recognized. They suggested things, and I’ll make them come alive in a way that makes them a part of what I’m doing with the mural.”

The Rev. Andrew Green, the rector of St. Paul in the Desert, at 125 W. El Alameda, agreed with the community vision.

“This is one of the elements that makes it a community mural,” Green said. “The vision is adjusting and changing as different people participate.”

Hoyes said he wants the mural to acknowledge the cultural history of the Coachella Valley and its different ethnicities.

“I’ve been living in the desert permanently now for about five years,” Hoyes said. “I’ve been coming here for about 30 years, with my studio in Desert Hot Springs. Since I’ve been out here, I’ve been involved in the community, and I’ve seen the development of Palm Springs from year to year, and I wanted to do something that was an exposé of the development. What are the important elements of the development? One of those things was water. … Water is a nutriment, or in some parts of the Bible, a sacrament, and it’s an important part of the mural. There are different ethnicities from one side to the other side, and we have Esther Williams (who was a Palm Springs resident) in all her glory making water a kind of iconic element during the ’40s and ’50s as entertainment.”

Green said he’s had a mural in mind for the church for about two years.

“Originally, it was on a different wall,” he said. “I was talking with the people from the Palm Springs Art Commission. … They had an exhibit of young people’s art for a Martin Luther King celebration. When we were setting up for that … two people from the Arts Commission came and said, ‘Are you still serious about doing a mural?’ There were two artists who came and checked it out, saying that this wall was better than the other one we had in mind.

“The designs (artists) were submitting went to my church’s board, and they selected this design. But one of the ideas for it was that a mural is a very participatory kind of art. It invites people to get involved in the production end, but it also invites people to get involved at the viewing end. … People will find this to be a sacred space for them and their own spirituality. It would be an offering of our church to our community.”

Hoyes said he’s enjoying painting the mural.

“There’s a level of satisfaction with being involved, especially with the church,” Hoyes said. “My art speaks to religious and spiritual enlightenment and continuity. I made a name for myself as an artist with spiritual works. Most of the work has been derivative of African religious retention. I was raised in a backyard church in Jamaica, and it has stayed with me. I’m kind of versed in the Bible, and I’ve studied other religions. The commonality that is existent—I understand it, and I can inform with the symbols and make an informed statement about spirituality.”

Since the city of Palm Springs temporarily banned murals before creating a new murals ordinance—mandating a rather restrictive and expensive approvals process—back in 2014, few new murals have gone up. But that may change soon, Green said. 

“Palm Springs has had a change of heart in murals,” he said. “The existing mural code was designed to make it hard to do murals. But the Public Arts Commission and the City Council have changed and want to encourage murals—but encourage murals going through a planning process with the Arts Commission in advance. For example, the Arts Commission … said, ‘If you do this and set this up, we’ll approve this, and we’ll take care of paying the city fees.’  … We waited four months to get the process accomplished before (Hoyes) put a brush to the wall so that it was completely appropriate with the city. I did not find anything they asked for onerous or creatively muzzling; the process just takes time.

“Some of the code said for this mural to receive the benefit of the fees, about $1,500 being reimbursed, it would have to be up for at least two years.”

Green said he hopes the mural inspires people to look into the church and to find meaning.

“Far too much, what we do with church is aimed at supporting the building and the institution as a corporation or a facility. What I’m interested in is seeing the church as engaged and embedded in the community,” he said. “I hope that does bring people here. It might bring them here for 12-step groups; it might bring them here for lunch when Well in the Desert is serving lunch on Wednesday—or all different types of things. If it brought them to church, I’d love it.”

Published in Visual Arts

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