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28 Sep 2018

On Their Own: After 50 Years Under the Wing of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Artists Council Is Becoming Independent

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"Cul de Sac Experience 2017" by Everette Perry. "Cul de Sac Experience 2017" by Everette Perry.

The Artists Council was established 50 years ago when the Palm Springs Museum was still primarily a natural history and science museum. The purpose of the council was to sponsor exhibitions of local artists and bring support for the arts into the mix of the museum's offerings.

The early work of the Artists Council paved the way for the evolution and growth of the museum—a transformation that was formalized with the renaming of what is now the Palm Springs Art Museum in the early 2000s.

Over the years, the Artists Council itself has grown in size and ambition. While still operating under the umbrella of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the council has recently begun partnering with other art organizations and schools throughout the Coachella Valley—and last spring, the council announced it would become a new nonprofit art organization independent from the Palm Springs Art Museum. Much of the groundwork for this metamorphosis has been completed, and in early 2019, the council will begin fully operating under its own leadership. Both the challenges and opportunities are enormous.

But first, it’s time to celebrate—with the annual Artists Council Exhibition, taking place at the Palm Springs Art Museum from Oct. 20 through Dec. 9.

I talked with Terry Hastings, the co-chair of this year’s Artists Council Exhibition, to find out more about what lies ahead for the council, local artists and our broader community.

What does the Artists Council offer to the Coachella Valley?

First of all, art is important to the mental and spiritual health of a community. It is important to have organizations dedicated to supporting local artists. They are our neighbors, friends and families. They contribute a tremendous amount to the quality of life we enjoy here. Organizations like the Artists Council promote local talent and provide a network for artists to display and sell their work. This keeps money within our community. It also allows us to meet and have a one-on-one connection with the people who create the art.

What kind of services does the Artists Council provide to members?

The purpose of the council is to nurture artistic creation. We provide our members with exhibitions to display and sell their work, critiques, demonstrations and lectures, and field trips. One of the most important benefits is the opportunity to network with other local and regional artists, art patrons and people in the community.

There are about 350 members now. We're looking to expand our membership and having the freedom to partner with different arts organizations in the valley.

How do you plan to attract new members?

We look forward to maintaining the prestige status of our museum affiliation. This affiliation differentiates the Artists Council from other art organizations in the region.

We need to be more creative and responsive to our community. All museums operate under a bureaucracy. They need to be deliberate and carefully research things before making a decision. You always need multiple approvals before taking action. By becoming independent, we increase our ability to react spontaneously.

We plan to hold more regular classes, and also more exhibitions and lectures. We want to offer higher-end classes with nationally known teachers, and we'll simplify the admissions policies. We welcome anyone eager to engage in a wide-ranging dialogue about art and its place in the community.

What are the biggest challenges facing the council?

Many of our future plans are still in flux. It's time for us to take control of our own fate. We are looking for board members with a business background to help us create and implement a new business plan and budgets.

Funding is always a challenge. Our 501(c) tax status is already in place. We will continue to receive some funding from the museum, but new fundraising events are needed.

We are looking for new facilities to continue our classes, salons, critiques and networking opportunities. We also want to establish a permanent gallery.

What is different about the annual Artists Council Exhibition at the museum this year?

I'm very excited about showing the depth and breadth of the artists in the council. The works selected for this show are penultimate examples from the finest artists living in the Coachella Valley.

It is a juried show. A very high caliber of judges was purposely chosen to reflect different backgrounds and areas of expertise. This year, the judges include Anne M. Rowe, director of collections and exhibitions at the Sunnylands Center and Gardens; Cybele Rowe (no relation), an Australian artist, professor and local resident; and Chip Tom, curator at Heather James Gallery in Palm Desert.

Artists Council members were invited to submit three pieces each, of which only one could be selected for the show. We did not give the judges any criteria and just allowed them to select the works to be included in this year's exhibition.

This year's judging has been more rigorous and intense. Because of this, there is a broader scope of work represented in the final selection of 44 pieces for this exhibit.

The judges made their initial selections from photographs, but the actual judging (for the exhibit’s awards) will be finalized once the art is hung in the museum's gallery. The awards ceremony will be on Oct. 27 at 5:45 p.m. in the museum's Annenberg Theater. The cash awards will be announced then, followed by a reception in the Elrod Sculpture Garden. The public is invited.

Uschi Wilson, a local artist and the other co-chair of the Artists' Council Exhibition (pictured below with Hastings), expressed her aspirations for the future in a written statement.

“‘Expanding the Visions,’ our new mantra, developed out of a sincere desire to make the Artists Council a creative, fresh and forward-thinking organization, serving all artists in Coachella Valley and beyond,” she said. “The Artists Council has assisted artists for over 50 years, and we are looking forward to the next 50 years, knowing that what we have in store for the future is nothing less than marvelous.”

The annual Artists Council Exhibition takes place Saturday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. The exhibition’s awards ceremony takes place at 5:45 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, at the museum’s Annenberg Theater. Admission costs vary. For more information, call 760-322-4800, or visit www.psmuseum.org.

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