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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

We put the finishing touches on the March print issue on Thursday, Feb. 16. (Yeah, it was a little earlier than normal, because February is a short month, and we have a narrow window with our printer.)

That particular day was, to say the least, a completely bonkers news day. On a local level, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced he was filing corruption charges against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney. According to Hestrin, Pougnet took in $375,000 in bribes. All of a sudden, the status of Palm Springs’ big downtown redevelopment project is very much up in the air.

Meanwhile, on the national level, the president held a press conference during which he sounded completely unhinged—a term I do not use lightly.

He claimed he inherited a mess from the previous administration. He said his administration was a “fine-tuned machine.” He viciously attacked the press for reporting on various leaks from his administration. He called reports that his campaign advisers were in contact with Russia “fake news.”

The New York Times, which is generally rather restrained, put it this way: “The session was marked by an extraordinarily raw and angry defense the likes of which has never been seen in a modern White House. At times abrupt, often rambling, characteristically boastful yet seemingly pained at the portrayals of him, Mr. Trump seemed intent on reproducing the energy and excitement of his campaign after a month of grinding governance. He returned repeatedly to his contest with Hillary Clinton and at one point plaintively pleaded for understanding.”

Holy shit.

This brings us to this March 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is hitting streets now. While the news on the Palm Springs corruption charges broke too close to deadline for us to cover them in any meaningful way—watch for that later—we did include two features in our expanded news section about the mess that is the 45th president’s administration, which you can read online here and here.

Meanwhile, for the second straight month, we’re featuring art—in a big way—on our cover. Why would we do this two months in a row? Well, this month’s subjects—the La Quinta Arts Festival, and the brand-new Desert X—are fantastic. Just for starters, did you know the La Quinta Arts Foundation has given out $1.23 million in scholarships to local young artists over the years? Wow.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent, and be sure to pick up March 2017 print edition at one of 380-plus valley locations.

Published in Editor's Note

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.

Published in Visual Arts