CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The Coachella Valley Art Scene (CVAS) has come a long way since founder and executive director Sarah Scheideman started the whole thing as a blog in 2008.

Since its humble beginnings, the organization has left a unique footprint on the Coachella Valley with its arts-related events. The 111 Music Festival, in collaboration with the Sunline Transit Agency, places local bands inside buses; the musicians perform as the buses travel down the road. Last year, CVAS put on its first Street festival at the Westfield Shopping Center in Palm Desert. The group has been a part of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for multiple years, and after operating a gallery in Cathedral City that closed in 2016, CVAS moved to the Westfield Shopping Center.

Today, CVAS continues to evolve. In fact, when I went to interview Scheideman at the location inside the Westfield mall, known as “MAKE,” the group was preparing to move to a smaller, less prominent storefront, giving up the “MAKE” space for the seasonal Halloween and Christmas stores that occupy it during the fall and winter months.

Scheideman said she’s delighted with the relationship that the Coachella Valley Art Scene has with the Westfield mall.

“It started when they had the idea for the ‘First Fridays’ events,” Scheideman said. “They wanted to have art and music on the top floor of one of the parking structures. They wanted to have something that could cater to their audience here at the mall. They wanted to partner with an organization to really take on the art aspect and the direction for it. After they did some research and visited our old gallery, they met us and asked if we wanted to do some art pieces. It seemed like a great fit. It started out with us producing the Street festival, but then they really believed in what we did and continued it. It’s been an organic and harmonious relationship.”

When CVAS was given the keys to the now-former “MAKE” location in the mall, the group had one week to prepare and open. Now CVAS is prepping to make the smaller space, called StreetHQ, its next temporary home. Scheideman expressed a positive outlook about the change.

“It’s totally understandable,” she said. “It’s kind of fun for us, because we can take a break from having a space so big and go back to something smaller, then we can revisit back in here and do what we’re doing in here better. … After about three months, we’ve found out how to work within a mall setting, and it’s been a learning experience.”

CVAS has now been a nonprofit organization for more than a year, and that transition has not been easy. The group recently established a board of directors and rolled out a new membership program with three tiers: members can contribute $10, $30 or $100 per month. Donors who commit to $100 a month will have the opportunity to become board members of the organization.

“We have a board of directors right now, but it’s very small,” Scheideman said. “… We’re fairly new to building a structure for (being a nonprofit) and all that. But we’re going through and involving a whole new board of directors, initiating a membership program, and developing our organization to serve our community the best that we can.”

Scheideman said it’s often been difficult for CVAS to generate revenue, given the organization’s focus.

“We like to feature upcoming and young artists and stay focused on trying to inspire the younger and millennial generation to stay here in the Coachella Valley and keep creating art. It’s hard to make money off of that,” Scheideman said. “When you’re creating culture like that, money isn’t really a main focus. As soon as we opened the gallery in Cathedral City, we realized the essence of what we were doing was community service.”

While Scheideman praised CVAS’ homes inside the Westfield mall, she said she hopes CVAS one day has a permanent space.

“The mall has been a great opportunity, because it gave us the ability to expand beyond our online presence,” she said. “But the dream would be to have a location where we can have more art shows and a venue that would be open later at night. That’s what would make a permanent location nice to have.”

The new location in the mall will serve, in part, as a three-month-long promotion for the second annual Street festival, which is focused on hip-hop culture, spoken word and poetry; mark your calendars for Nov. 4. CVAS is also getting ready for the third annual 111 Music Festival, and for the return of a classic Coachella Valley Art Scene event.

“We’re in the process of trying to bring back Doo Wop in the Desert, which is our retro Valentine’s Day-themed party that we did that featured all ’50s doo-wop music, with the costumes, the décor and the whole thing. We had been doing that for about five years until we stopped doing it last year, but we’re bringing it back and making it better this year.”

After a turbulent year, Scheideman said she’s looking forward to further establishing CVAS’ presence.

“After the three-month activation of Street, we’d like to move back in here (to the HERE space), and we really want to have better programming,” she said. “We want to have classes. … We also want to develop poetry and literary scenes here in the desert.”

For more information on the Coachella Valley Art Scene, visit www.thecoachellavalleyartscene.com. Full disclosure: Brian Blueskye has done freelance work for CVAS in the past.

Published in Local Fun

When the Coachella Valley Art Scene announced the first 111 Music Festival last year, the idea of putting local bands and DJs on SunLine buses seemed pretty crazy. But the festival was a success—and the 111 Music Festival will return for a second year on Sunday, Nov. 1.

The festival will take place on the 19-mile long Route 111 Line from Palm Springs to Indio—and back again. Bands playing the festival include The Flusters, Alchemy, Brightener, CIVX, IIIz (formerly the Yip Yops), Machin’ and others. The fare will be $3 for the whole festival; a one way ride will cost $1.

Coachella Valley Art Scene founder and director Sarah Scheideman and marketing director Ian Cush recently explained how they came up from the concept. (Full disclosure: I also do work for the Coachella Valley Art Scene.)

“It actually came from Portland,” Scheideman said. “I went up there (to Oregon), and I saw a much smaller version of it, and I thought it was a cool idea. I thought about doing it down here in the Coachella Valley. It was like, ‘They do it, so why can’t we do it?’”

Cush explained the differences between Portland’s festival and the 111 Music Festival.

“Their festival is tiny,” Cush said. “They have carolers and things. Sarah mentioned she had a good time with it, and that it was fun and cool. I worked with SunLine before, doing their training and tutorial and training video. I said, ‘Let’s do something like that, but really put it on the bus.’ The one thing that comes down to this festival is that this place is open to ideas, too.”

Cush said there was no resistance to the idea when it was pitched to SunLine.

“The logistics of it is where there was a lot of worry,” Cush said. “I think we came in strong with the idea, and we were both passionate about the idea. I called them on the phone, and within two minutes, I had the CEO on the line. They were like, ‘Yes, we want to do something like this!’ Once they met us and realized we’re not completely crazy, it was more like, ‘How is this going to work?’ We still probably freaked them out every day.”

The festival results in no changes to the normal SunLine schedule.

“We didn’t want to change anything that they were already doing; we just wanted to add to it,” Scheideman said.

The response to the 111 Music Festival last year was quite positive.

“Ridership was good, but we could have had more riders,” Cush said. “I think there was a little worry the first time of, ‘Is every bus going to be full?’ It’s such a small venue. You put 30 people on there, and it’s packed. We had a worry and said, ‘Let’s not go too crazy.’ So many people talked about it that the idea now is clear. Everyone was excited about doing it, too.”

Playing on the bus isn’t hard for some bands, although others obviously cannot play on a bus. When I was discussing the idea with Dan Dillinger of Bridger, he remarked, “You think we could fit Katie (Cathcart’s) drum set on a bus?”

Cush said organizers talk to participating bands in advance about what they can and can’t bring.

“The nice thing about bands is they are road guerillas,” he said. “(Some) brought the full arsenal. We did have some inverters go down on the bus, and they just had to play acoustic. They also had some swinging mics, because things move on a bus. That’s what makes it cool, though: It’s live, and it’s a crazy event; everyone is in there together. You’re going over bumps, and you’re mobbing. It’s like road trippin’ with the family.”

Local musician Alfa Cologne said his performance last year offered him some welcome exposure.

“It was very interesting. It gave me a new crowd to play music to: people who were just riding a bus, and also people who came to see me play on the bus,” he said. “It was a little wobbly; the mic was swinging, and felt like a Disney ride at times. But it was a very fun experience.”

There will be some changes to this year’s festival. Scheideman said an event in downtown Cathedral City has been added.

“This year, instead of having people get on the bus and not have any direction, we’re going to be directing traffic toward the Cathedral City City Hall lawn, where we’re going to have a stage, and headlining bands performing on the stage,” she said. “You can ride the bus with the bands to here, and they’ll perform on the stage, too.”

Cush said almost every city on the Route 111 Line has been supportive of the festival.

“Next year, the line will go all the way into Coachella. Coachella has been a donor; they see it coming, and they want to be a part of it,” he said. “They donated last year, and they donated this year. Every city on the route donated to this festival. It’s a true public festival, and it’s for the people. The whole point is we’re connecting everyone: Everyone is getting on the bus together and enjoying this experience. Cathedral City stepped up and said that they wanted to be more involved, and they let us have the lawn to produce something.”

Cush said he hopes next year’s fest has even more stages.

“I hope next year, we do the same thing we’re doing in Cathedral City at city hall in Coachella, Indio and Palm Desert. Why can’t we do the entire valley?” he said. “I also hope businesses along 111 will do something for it. They don’t need our permission, and they can get involved. If the stop comes by your business, offer something.”

The 111 Music Festival takes place from 3 to 10 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 1. For more information, visit 111musicfestival.com.

Published in Previews