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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

This year’s Art Palm Springs—the large annual art show that takes place at the Palm Springs Convention Center—kicks off with an Opening Night VIP Preview on Thursday, Feb. 14, and runs through the entirety of Presidents Day weekend

Perhaps the word “large” doesn’t do Art Palm Springs justice; the show is truly massive and has been growing every year since its inaugural year in 2012. Nearly 80 galleries, from all corners of the globe, will be showing postwar and contemporary art, representing thousands of artists. Some of the Coachella Valley’s premier galleries, not surprisingly, are taking part.

These types of mega-art events—this one is put on by Urban Expositions, which also produces shows in Aspen and Chicago—are a relatively new phenomenon that is changing the shape of the art world. They are as much about the experience as the art itself—and the art-loving public in our community resoundingly approves, with 15,000 attending last year’s event.

In addition to the show itself, there’s a wide-ranging series of talks and events presented by critics, curators, gallery owners, collectors and artists. All of this is specifically designed to make modern and contemporary art a more-interactive experience for the public.

Debra Ann Mumm, the founder and director of the nonprofit CREATE Center for the Arts in Palm Desert, said CREATE will again have a booth at this year’s Art Palm Springs.

“The more events, the better it is overall for our community,” Mumm said. “This event is definitely an experience. It’s cool, and you can see so many different things from so many different places. As a contemporary artist myself, I think it’s worth taking a look. … As a nonprofit, it is a great opportunity to meet people interested in the arts. We’re always looking to pick up new members and donors. It gives us more visibility. We’ll also be doing silk-screen printing on tote bags and T-shirts in our booth throughout the event.”

I attended last year’s opening-night reception; it was my first experience with this type of show, and it was something I won’t forget. It was a heady mix of art, personalities, dress-up glamour and conversation, all with a friendly, open atmosphere.

Some changes have been made for this year’s event, including a new entrance to better accommodate the crowds and shorten the wait times to enter, and improved food and beverage service (which was my only complaint about last year’s event).

The Palm Springs Art Museum will be the beneficiary of this year’s VIP Reception. The 2019 Patron of the Year is Marilyn Pearl Loesberg; she has served for 10 years on the board of the Palm Springs Art Museum and is the chair of the Collections Committee.

Leah Steinhardt, Art Palm Springs’ group show director, answered a few questions about the event.

These types of mega-art events are a relatively new phenomenon, gaining popularity in the last decade. How do you think they are changing the landscape of the art world for artists, galleries and collectors?

The fairs are indeed changing the landscape of the art world, in that it is a different platform for galleries to exhibit art. Our goal is to create an environment where collectors and art enthusiasts can view art in a concentrated space.

Could you offer some insight into how you put one of these shows together?

We plan all year long for our shows, so there is very little downtime. As soon as one of our fairs is over, we are polling our exhibitors and attendees for their feedback. We then analyze those results and create a strategy for the next year’s show. From there, it’s a year-long process leading up to the fair. There are site visits, partner meetings and tons of outreach that happen on a consistent basis in addition to participating in all of the other essential art events throughout the year.

What is the impact of these events on the local communities that host them?

We work closely within each of the local communities, and our goal is to hopefully give platforms to the local art resources. For example, in Palm Springs, our opening-night beneficiary is the Palm Springs Art Museum, while in Chicago, we worked with ChiArts (Chicago High School for the Arts). We spend a lot of time building local relationships, because it’s important for us to have the community’s support as well as for us to support them in return. This past summer in Aspen, there were horrible forest fires. We worked with The Art Base to not only highlight their contribution to the art community in Aspen, but also create installations to thank the firefighters for all their efforts. We also invited local kids to create images that were installed in the entrance of the fair.

I attended last year’s Art Palm Springs opening. I found the opening-night crowd, participants and event itself to be as interesting as the art on display. Could you speak to the concept of art as an experience to be enjoyed as opposed to something that is simply viewed or collected?

We want our fairs to create an experience of discovery, whether it’s for an established art collector or a new enthusiast. Our goal is to create spaces where people can enjoy art and feel comfortable speaking to galleries and artists.

Art opens up a dialogue, and that is a goal at all of our fairs. Many of our galleries bring their artists, and collectors can have intimate conversations with artists that they might never have a chance to meet. In addition to the art, it’s important for us to create an environment where people want to spend their time.

Art Palm Springs takes place Thursday, Feb. 14, through Monday, Feb. 18, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Single-day admission is $25; VIP tickets, which include the Thursday night VIP reception and are good for admission throughout the festival, are $100. For tickets or more information, call 800-563-7632, or visit www.art-palmsprings.com.

Published in Visual Arts

Several monthly art walks take place in the Coachella Valley. They’re pleasant ways to spend cool (or perhaps not-so-cool) desert evenings.

The galleries involved all put on their best faces, and many of them schedule new exhibits to coincide with the events. You can wander at your own pace; talk with artists; and get a feeling for what is happening in our community. You’ll probably be offered light snacks and a glass of wine—and there’s often a performance thrown in as well.

I recently had the opportunity to attend two of them: One in Palm Springs, and the other in Cathedral City.

The Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs hosts its event on the first Wednesday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m. It’s located on Cherokee Way, discreetly hidden behind the Mercedes-Benz dealership off Highway 111. If you haven’t been before, you’ll feel a little bit like an explorer once you find it. It’s a collection of individual galleries and artist studios housed in a compact strip mall. There isn’t much else around, and it’s not visible from the highway.

I arrived just after sunset and found small groups of people wandering in and out of brightly lit storefront galleries. My first stop was Tom Ross Gallery, which features the exquisite abstracts of the artist Rosenberg (aka Ross). He uses a technique of back-painting on acrylic panels to create shimmering lace-like panels in metallic colors. The works have real depth to them because of the technique—and the finished pieces are often a surprise to the artist himself. He describes the paintings as “meditations.”

Around the corner is Galleria Marconi. I spoke with artist Marconi Calindas about his work. He’s originally from the Philippines and divides his time between San Francisco and Palm Springs. His paintings are brightly colored graphics reminiscent of early pop art. At one of his exhibits, he said, he was asked if he’d ever looked at the paintings through 3-D glasses. He was offered a pair—and was surprised to discover his paintings jump into three dimensions. Be sure to witness the transformation for yourself.

Poldi owner Julianna Poldi is a teacher at the Desert Art Center. The exhibit I saw featured her work and that of her students. I was impressed with the quality of her students’ work; I would have never guessed it was a student art exhibit.

At Maxson Art, Greg and Linda Maxson offer a delightful mixture of their own work and pieces by artists they represent. Linda does hand-painted ceramic tiles and paintings. She’s working on a new series that incorporates burlap fabric attached to the canvas, which is then over-painted to create subtle abstracts. Greg makes beautifully crafted wooden boxes that are also musical instruments. There’s a collection of stained-glass kaleidoscopes from another artist that is sure to inspire oohs and aahs with the glittery displays. I was also treated to a performance preview of storytelling by Los Angeles performer Larry Dean Harris.

The highlight of the evening was the exhibit at Stephen Baumbach Photography Studio and Gallery. It’s the first comprehensive show for artist Rebecca Dant. Rebecca teaches printmaking at the Create Center for the Arts; I met her during my volunteer work there. In the show, she presents not only her recent prints, but also paintings and tie-dye art that has not been previously shown. The paintings are a knock out; I could easily live with one or two of them. The abstracts contain multiple references to Miro and to Matisse’s cut-out period. It’s a rare opportunity to see stunning work.

For more information, visit www.backstreetartdistrict.com.


The Second Saturday Art Walk on Perez Road in Cathedral City has a decidedly different flavor. The industrial-retail complex setting is much more urban and gritty—but certainly just as interesting. This art walk is scheduled every second Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m.

Several businesses near the galleries are open for the event as well. A couple of midcentury furniture stores are on hand, and if you enjoy rummaging around estate sales (like I do), Mel’s Estate Sale is fantastic. The owner, Malina, will delight you with tidbits of wisdom and humor as you rummage through her incredible collection of just about everything.

Custom metal artist Jeffrey Spakes works in hand-ground aluminum; his space is a combination gallery and studio. The wall pieces have color applied at high temperatures that makes the works appear to change as you move in front of them. He also created the palm tree for the Cathedral City New Year’s Eve ball drop. The palm tree is now being repurposed into a fantastical giant statue of the Tin Man in the back of his studio.

If you’re looking for sculpture or ceramic art, Trenz Gallery is a great destination. The all-white space is a perfect setting for brilliantly colored glass, ceramic and metal sculptures. There are some exceptional paintings, too. It’s all about color in this jewel box of a gallery.

Irreverence in Art: The World of Robyn Goudy occupies the front space in the Colliding Worlds Fine Art Gallery. The dense collages immediately reminded me of outsider and tramp art; they are witty and irreverent. The artist himself is both of those things as well. I asked him where it came from. “It comes from my attitude,” he replied. Well, as they say, attitude is everything.

For more information, visit www.discovercathedralcity.com/event/2nd-saturdays-art-walk-perez-road-2017-10-14/2018-04-14/.

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