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20 Feb 2017

Supporting a New Generation of Artists: The La Quinta Arts Festival Celebrates Artists Who Have Benefitted From $1.23 Million in Scholarships

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The theme of the 35th Annual La Quinta Arts Festival is “Make a Splash!” The official poster art for the festival is Signe and Genna Grushovenko’s painting “Defying Gravity,” which was derived from vintage photographs and celebrates the La Quinta Arts Festival’s success and memories made over the years. The theme of the 35th Annual La Quinta Arts Festival is “Make a Splash!” The official poster art for the festival is Signe and Genna Grushovenko’s painting “Defying Gravity,” which was derived from vintage photographs and celebrates the La Quinta Arts Festival’s success and memories made over the years.

Both the La Quinta Arts Foundation and its La Quinta Arts Festival are celebrating 35 years in 2017. While the festival—taking place Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5, at the La Quinta Civic Center Campus—is very well-known, the mission behind the festival is not so well-known.

Part of the mission of the La Quinta Arts Foundation has always been supporting local visual artists looking to continue their educations—and the LQAF has done so in a big, big way.

“The visual arts scholarship program began in 1984, a few years after the festival began, and to date, the scholarship program has awarded $1.23 million to 376 individual students pursuing higher education in the arts,” said LQAF President and CEO Christi Salamone. “We have students in school as film administrators and educators, (as well as in) studio art, craft, architecture, curatorial practice, fashion design, photojournalism and every visual-art-related field.”

Recent scholarship recipients include Sofia Enriquez, Kaho Akiya, Jake Hill and Katrina Hahn, just to name a few. (Interested students should visit the LQAF website for more information; the scholarship deadline for this year is Friday, March 24.)

Salamone said at this critical time, when arts-based education is being cut from schools, the arts are as important as ever.

“We all know that statistics show exposure to the arts and instruction in the arts promotes critical thinking, and I think when you look at any kind of innovation and the ability to think creatively, it really will be the future of how we problem-solve, and how we express ourselves,” Salamone said. “The arts are critical and need to remain in schools.”

The list of artists who have benefitted from the scholarship program is rather impressive, including Armando Lerma, artist and owner of the Date Farmers studio in Coachella; and multifaceted visual artist Cristopher Cichocki.

“There have been so many successful students in the valley who have benefited from our visual arts scholarship—people such as Phillip K. Smith III. One of our first scholarship recipients was Bert Bitanga; he received the scholarship from 1988 to 1991, and he is now the head of the architecture and environmental design program at College of the Desert.”

Some of these aforementioned artists, including Lerma and Smith, are participating in the site-specific Desert Exhibition of Art, aka Desert X; see the accompanying story.

Salamone said the La Quinta Arts Foundation is honoring its scholarship recipients during this year’s festival as part of its 35th anniversary celebration.

“We are spotlighting a lot of the former scholarship students throughout the festival and highlighting many of their accomplishments,” she said. “They’re doing great things within our community and around the world. We’re paying homage to them.

“What people don’t realize is that by attending the festival, purchasing art, buying tickets and buying food and drink, they’re ensuring future generations of creative endeavors that will enrich our lives.”

Salamone talked about some of the more interesting artists taking part in this year’s festival.

“We have Chris Sanchez, a local artist who is going to be doing an installation,” Salamone said. “We have Marnie Navarro; she’s going to be in the Splash Lounge doing some sound and performance installations. … Brittany North has led a group of seniors from the Coachella Senior Center, and they’ve created this yarn-bomb installation.”

All of the aforementioned artists are LQAF scholars, by the way.

Salamone said she’s proud the La Quinta Arts Festival has such a remarkable reputation throughout the country.

“There are 4,500 major arts festivals throughout the nation,” she said. “The La Quinta Arts Festival is consistently ranked among the Top 5 in the nation by all ranking sources. When you consider that we’re always the top-ranked show west of the Rockies—and the only show in California ranked in the Top 10 consistently—and ranked No. 1 in 2014 and 2015, and that the art sales have totaled $47 million throughout the tenure of the festival, that’s pretty remarkable.”

Not so coincidentally, the Coachella Valley art scene has continued to grow since the LQAF has been around.

“I think there’s always been a thriving art community in the valley,” Salamone said. “Our founders knew that the desert’s natural beauty could provide inspiration for artists and artistic pursuits. They thought it would be a haven for artists to come and create—and that’s why they started the foundation.”

The La Quinta Arts Festival takes place Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5, at the La Quinta Civic Center Campus, 78495 Calle Tampico, in La Quinta. Tickets are $17 for a one-day pass, or $22 for a multi-day pass. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.lqaf.com.

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