Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Tucked off a small side street in La Quinta Cove is a sparkling oasis of serenity and inclusiveness—dedicated to the healing power of art.

Founders Richard and Victory Grund created Old Town Artisan Studios 10 years ago as a gift to the community, and as a vehicle for them to share their passionate belief that art is for everyone. The backstory: After Victory Grund lost her parents, she fell into a deep depression. A concerned neighbor handed her a lump of clay with the instruction to “build something”—and Grund quickly realized the power of art to heal even the deepest wounds. It was a lesson she felt compelled to share with the world, and share, she has: Last year alone, Old Town Artisan Studios’ outreach program reached 21,683 people in the Coachella Valley.

Through a heavily timbered Spanish gateway sits a multilevel compound with tree-shaded courtyards, patios, fountains and historic buildings. Coletta Herbold, the studio coordinator, gave me a tour. What started as a family homestead grew to include three houses, which were later converted into restaurants. The buildings and a little more than three acres were purchased three years ago by the nonprofit Old Town Artisans Studios foundation. After a year of renovations, doors opened to the public.

Today, there are six studios in the various buildings. The topics for classes and workshops include wheel-thrown and hand-built ceramics, painting, fused and stained glass, fabrics and mixed media. The shaded patios with their fountains provide a pleasant retreat for sack lunches and are also available for events. The costs are kept low, and the popularity of the classes and workshops allows the foundation to channel tax-deductible donations toward serving the less fortunate in our valley.

In keeping with the commitment “to provide a positive art experience for all people despite age, disability or financial condition,” the Old Town Artisan Studios offers a number of programs, including youth summer day camps with a variety of artistic mediums, programs for special-needs youth and adults, outreach programs that partner with charities throughout the valley, and a new program for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

Thomas Burns is the executive director. The Chicago native has lived in California for 23 years. He founded the Carmel International Film Festival; prior to that, he founded and published the national art magazine ARTWORKS.

“The Summer Youth Camps are one of our most popular offerings. Last year, the classes sold out early,” he said. “This year, we are doubling the size. Because of this, we are able to split the camps into two age groups, 7 to 11, and 12 and up.

“The camps are one week long, Monday through Friday. Mornings and afternoons are different mediums. We even had a sewing class. Girls and boys both made their own backpacks and used them. We supply all the materials and drinks and a healthy snack. It’s bring-your-own lunch on the patio.”

During my tour, I saw a special-needs class working in clay in the large studio.

“The La Quinta High School special-needs class comes here,” Burns explained. “We also have adults as well. We don’t separate them from the rest of our clients. We want everyone to be able to have the same experience.”

The Alzheimer’s program is a fairly new addition.

“When we started the Alzheimer’s program, I wanted to make sure that we included the caregivers as well,” Burns said. “People actually sign up for this through the local Alzheimer’s Association. … They wanted a variety of classes for stimulation.”

Veterans receive a deep discount on all fee-based classes and workshops. Old Town Artisan Studios’ outreach program partners with other local charities to make sure anyone who can’t afford the modest fees has access to classes.

“We have two vans that go out into the community almost every day,” Burns said. “For example, we work with the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs to bring our instructors and experience to people who can’t come to the studios here. The YMCA alone has asked us to visit 40 locations. At some of these locations, there are up to 100 kids waiting for us. We’ll make it to all of them.

“We’re here to help. If we have the demand and the funding, we’ll be there. We don’t want to turn anybody down. Whatever the demand, we’ll go.”

I asked Burns about Old Town Artisan Studios’ plans for the future.

“Over the summer, we’ll be flipping our reception and retail spaces,” he said. “In our gallery, we will be changing exhibits every two weeks. We’ll be featuring work by our instructors and also some of our students. Some of our best shows have been by our students.

“We are producing a line of dinnerware that is all handmade here on site. Along with that, we are starting an events business. Right now, when someone wants to hold an event here, they have to provide all the food and setup themselves. We want to bring in our own chef and offer organic food served on our own plates.”

Burns said other long-term plans include the addition of a community-performance space and more artists’ studios geared to professional artists.

As I was leaving, I noticed a sign next to the entry gate. It reinforced my own impression of what I had just experienced: “We believe that art is healing and has an everlasting positive impact on each of us and the world around us.”

Old Town Artisan Studios is located at 78046 Calle Barcelona, in La Quinta. For more information, call 760-777-1444, or visit

Published in Visual Arts


The Palm Springs International Film Festival

One of the largest film festivals in North America welcomes 135,000 attendees for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The festival is also known for its annual Black Tie Awards Gala, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet. This 25th anniversary edition features an exciting lineup of the best of international cinema. Various times and prices from Friday, Jan. 2, through Monday, Jan. 12. 760-322-2930;

Music and More

Betty Buckley—The Vixens Of Broadway

Betty Buckley has been called “the voice of Broadway,” and is one of theater’s most respected leading ladies. She is an actress/singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world, and she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2012. 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17. $60 to $75. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;

Cabaret 88: Kevin Earley

Kevin Earley recently finished performing in Secondhand Lions in Seattle and Daddy Long Legs in Florida. A Drama Desk Award nominee for the title role in Death Takes a Holiday, his Broadway credits include Les Miserables, Thoroughly Modern Millie and A Tale of Two Cities. 6 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 13 and 14. $88. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;

Copa Events

Last Comic Standing star Iliza Shlesinger takes the stage at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9 and 10. $30 to $40. Former Mouseketeer Lindsey Alley brings her blend of show tunes and comedy to the Copa at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 16 and 17. $25 to $35. American Idol and The Voice diva Frenchie Davis performs at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 18. $25 to $35. Former X-Factor finalist Jason Brock performs at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 23 and 24. $25 to $35. All shows are 21 and older, with a two-drink minimum. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-3554;

The USO Variety Show

The USO has been entertaining troops worldwide in times of peace and war for more 70 years. Now, the Bob Hope USO needs you to laugh, enjoy and have some fun remembering the good ol’ times. Join us for a live nostalgic tribute to Bob Hope and his band of Hollywood celebs; enjoy free tours of the museum pre- or post-show time. 2 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262;

Special Events

Dance for Life Palm Springs

A showcase of spectacular performances by renowned dance companies, all joining forces to help those in need. Now in its fourth year in Palm Springs, this event celebrates the art of dance to benefit AIDS Assistance Program. 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 16. $95 performance; $200 with VIP reception. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-8481;

Gourmet Food Truck Event

Try food trucks for lunch featuring burgers, barbecue, tacos, California cuisine, sushi and dessert. Outdoor seating is available, or bring a blanket. Dabble in the local farmers’ market; listen to music provided by The Coachella Valley Art Scene; enjoy a beer garden with some of the best craft beers from La Quinta Brewing Company and Coachella Valley Brewing Company. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the first Sunday of the month. Free. Cathedral City Civic Center Plaza, 68700 Avenue Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City.

Hearts for Art Gala

Don’t miss the red carpet, celebrity sightings, cabaret show, exciting live and silent auctions, Hollywood glitz and glamour galore, and fun, fun, fun. Your attendance supports the nonprofit Old Town Artisan Studio’s mission to bring clay and glass art experiences to the underserved. 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17. $150. La Quinta Resort and Club, 49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta. 760-777-1444;

Looking for Lost Ophir

This lecture by author/historian Nick Clapp is part of the Old School House Lecture Series, which started in 1999 and is run in partnership with the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9. $5 at the door. Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms. 760-367-5535.

Visual Arts

Art Under the Umbrellas

The event presents a diverse collection of 80 talented artists exhibiting their original creations along Old Town La Quinta’s picturesque Main Street. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10 and 17. Free. Old Town La Quinta, Main Street, La Quinta. 760-564-1244;

Desert Art Festival

This event features numerous artists presenting their original work in all mediums of two- and three-dimensional fine art, including paintings in acrylic, oils and watercolors, photography, etchings, sculpture in clay, glass, metal, stone and wood. Each artist will be present to meet with the public and discuss their work. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 17 and 18. Free. Frances Stevens Park, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 818-813-4478;

A Grand Adventure: American Art in the West

The epic 19th-century landscape paintings of Yosemite and Yellowstone by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran introduced the American public to the grandeur of the West. By the turn of the century, a new genre of Western art had developed. A Grand Adventurebrings together 40 significant classic and traditional artworks from private collections. The artworks span nearly 100 years, dating from the latter half of the 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century. The exhibit closes Sunday, Jan. 4. Included with regular admission prices. Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-5600;

Southwest Arts Festival

This festival sponsored by the Indio Chamber of Commerce, the City of Indio and the Indio Visitors Bureau features traditional, contemporary and abstract fine works of art by more than 250 acclaimed artists, and is celebrating its 29th year. The festival includes clay, drawing, glass, jewelry, metal works, painting, photography, sculpture and textile. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 25. $9 general; $8 seniors; $12 three-day pass; free children 14 and younger. Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, Indio. 760-347-0676;

Town Square Art Affaire

The Town Square Art Affaire will feature numerous artists presenting their original work in all mediums of two- and three-dimensional fine art. Each artist will be present, and all work is available for purchase. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 10 and 11. Free. Cathedral City Town Square, 8700 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City. 818-813-4478;

Submit your free arts listings at The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun