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The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February changed something among many young people in the United States.

First came the March for Our Lives protests on March 24, with teens around the country organizing and speaking out in favor of tighter gun-control laws.

Now those same youngsters, as they turn 18, are registering to vote—and trying to put political pressure on congressional leaders who oppose stricter gun-control laws.

Matthew Chang, a senior at Palm Desert High School, is one of those teens: He helped mount a voter-registration drive among his classmates.

“It was very successful,” Chang said. “During the days we had the drive, we registered about 35 people to vote, and then we worked in conjunction with a club that was planning a walk-out protest, and we helped them register people to vote, too.”

Robert Westwood, the president of the Democrats of the Desert, got to know Chang when the student showed up at a meeting looking for help with his voter-registration efforts. Chang isn’t alone: Westwood said students from Palm Springs High School and Shadow Hills High School have also reached out.

“We had Matthew and four young ladies from Shadow Hills High School come to one of our Democrats of the Desert meetings,” Westwood said. “They really energized our club. They gave us a lot of information about what they’re doing and their enthusiasm for getting young people registered to vote, and then out to vote—which are two very different tasks. We can’t go onto a campus, and (registration) can only be done within a campus with permission from the administration.”

Chang said the school walkouts that have been taking place throughout the country are sending a message.

“Whatever anyone’s stances are on the walkout, we can all agree that it helped to show that we, as teens, have a bigger voice than we originally thought,” Chang said. “I think registering younger people to vote comes from that. If we do things like walkouts, which shows people we have a voice, more people will want to register to vote to enhance their voice and become politically active.”

What made Chang decide to become politically active?

“During my freshman year, I joined a club called Youth in Government, and it was with the YMCA,” he said. “It really changed my perspective, because before, I was really apathetic to what was going on around me, and it showed me that I have a say in what’s going on, and if I have an opinion, I need to share it.”

What do his parents think about his political involvement?

“They’re not really into politics,” Chang said. “I don’t think they even knew that I was doing the voter-registration drive. It was just something that I took on. They’re not really into politically related things.”

Talking to other young people about political subjects is not always easy, Chang said.

“I do think that talking to young people who have not had a government class yet is difficult,” Chang said. “Not many young people keep track of the news as much as people wish that they did. … More-educated young people are easy to talk to about politics. Because of that, I think we should try harder to educate younger people.”

Westwood said Chang’s involvement with the Democrats of the Desert has been inspirational.

“He came and talked to us and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance at one of our meetings where we had 150 people, and everybody got up and cheered him—and some people were crying,” Westwood said. “He also had the student body president from Palm Desert High School come with him, and she gave a rousing talk about the importance of young people keeping this going, and asked for our help. She offered their help to register young people and get young people out to vote. Now we’re moving on projects to get people to vote by mail and show up to vote on June 5.”

Chang’s time at Palm Desert High School is about to come to a close, and he said he plans on remaining active in college.

“Next year, I am going to college at Harvard, and I want to join the Democratic Club at Harvard,” he said. “I’m going to work on some campaigns and help some Democratic candidates I support.”

While Chang is optimistic overall, he did admit he has some concerns about politics.

“I think that we are becoming increasingly polarized in politics. A lot of the exchanges I hear between different parties are often not attempts to work with the other party, but are often trying to degrade the other party as much as possible. I don’t think that’s the direction that we need to be going in. We need bipartisan proposals to make sure that all perspectives are heard, and we can all work together as a nation.”

Published in Politics

Around 10 a.m. this morning, a crowd—estimated by local Palm Springs Police Sgt. Mike Villegas—of “about 2,000 people” joined together to memorialize the lives and untimely deaths of students victimized by gun violence, including the 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students killed by a gunman on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla.

As the crowd stood in silence, high school students held aloft portraits of the slain Florida victims, as brief biographies were read for each of them. Then, as planned, the memorial transitioned into a demonstration march through Palm Springs, with at least 3,000 participants. After the front line of marchers stepped off from the corner of Farrell Drive and Baristo Road, it took a full 10 minutes for the entire line to pass that point.

The demonstrators—a mix of locals ranging from tiny toddlers (with parents in tow), to striding teenage students and supportive seniors--were upbeat and determined to have their voices heard as part of the national chorus of Americans calling for an end to gun violence of all types.

See a selection of photos from the march below.

Published in Snapshot

The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District is mounting a fantastic production for its annual fundraiser—with a little help from some friends.

The Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols concert on Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School will pay tribute to a handful of rock ’n’ roll’s biggest stars: Tony Award-nominated singer Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin; singer/songwriter Von Smith as Freddy Mercury (pictured to the right); high tenor Jake Simpson as George Michael; and tap dancer and opera singer Rogelio Douglas Jr. as Prince.

During a recent phone interview, Ellen Goodman, the executive director of the PSUSD Foundation, said the idea for the show came from photographer and philanthropist Michael Childers.

“The school district really wanted to produce something for the community that would celebrate the renovated auditorium at Palm Springs High School, the Richards Center for the Arts,” Goodman said. “We really wanted something that was different and would be kind of culturally aligned with our student population and family population. We were brainstorming, and Michael Childers and (Deb Len Productions’) Debbie Green sat together and came up with this idea. It would be something that is sustainable through the years, and is a tribute and a celebration of past, current and future artists. I can’t really take any credit, and I have to say that Michael Childers and Debbie Green began the incubation, and Michael Childers just ran with it. That’s where the idea came from.”

When I mentioned that George Michael was notorious for his risqué music videos and song lyrics, she explained that the show pays tribute to late performers who were all eccentric in one way or another.

“Aside from Janis Joplin, it feels like an ’80s theme where it’s mostly pop rock,” she said. “The tribute combines talents who have passed on and (have) a legacy. When we looked at pop-rock performers who fit that genre, these entertainers seemed like the ones to include in our first year’s theme. George Michael fit that, and the music is totally in line with Prince and Freddy Mercury. They’re all kind of racy, not just George Michael. Janis Joplin would be considered quite racy during her time, and so would Prince. They all carry the same genre musically.”

The production is going to be focused on the music by the legends, Goodman said.

“It’s a band, so it’s not going to look like your traditional theater production that would have an orchestra or be … entertainment similar to Broadway,” she said. “It’s going to look like a mini-rock concert. I say ‘mini,’ because our band will likely be a six-piece. Our theater is almost 900 feet long, and we’re probably going to have a lot of singing along with some loud music.”

This event will show off the potential of the recently renovated Richards Center for the Arts, Goodman said—and people can choose to literally (sort of) “grab your seat” by naming a seat in the theater in their or someone else’s honor, in exchange for supporting the PSUSD Foundation.

“I want to believe that everything that we do there shows it off in a positive light, and we’ll be coming in on the heels of the Palm Springs International Film Festival,” Goodman said. “We have an orchestra in there, and musical theater in there, and I think (this event) is going to maximize this auditorium in terms of sound and stage in a way that some of the other events won’t. Every event is different, but I really think we’ll be able to maximize the sound, lighting and stage with this show.”

Grab Your Seat: Icons and Idols takes place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 18 at the Richards Center for the Arts, 2248 Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75 to $125. For tickets or more information, call 760-416-8455, or visit www.grabyourseat.net.

Published in Previews

After years of exploring places around the globe as a flight attendant, Charlie Ciali traded in his wings for a more earthy exploration: ceramics.

He was a ceramicist who produced collectable pieces before becoming a Midwest gallery owner. Upon his arrival in the desert, Ciali reinvented himself as an abstract portraiture painter before becoming a mixed-media artist and, later, a producer of fine-art prints and paintings.

The artist goes beyond exploring the intersection and integration of painting and printmaking—art forms frequently considered distinct and different. Ciali also incorporates his expertise as a ceramicist to create a fusion of creative techniques and aesthetics. Specifically, he exploits the unique contributions of each medium to offer the viewer a heightened sense of dimensionality, varied textures and a layering of colors.

“Right now, I find myself focusing on creating monotype prints, as well as encaustic (i.e. wax-based) paintings,” he said.

Ciali, at times, also incorporates resins into his encaustics and monotypes. Resins are essentially a type of epoxy that, when buffed to a high shine or finish, reflect and refract light, producing a greater sense of depth.

“Euclid,” an encaustic on board (right), typifies the artist’s fusion of monotype printmaking, encaustic painting and ceramics. Depending upon the lighting and the angle from which it is viewed, “Euclid” offers subtle changes in color and shading. To achieve this, Ciali applies encaustic paints in shades of highly saturated yellows, oranges and blues. By painting the bottom sections of the piece in rich blues, he adds a sense of height. The encaustics contribute an additional layer of textural depth to the already present dimensionality.

“Water,” a monotype with resin on board (below), is a wide piece; the eye constantly moves from one end of the print to the other. As with many of Ciali’s monoprints, there is a strong figurative element. Here, he presents the profile of a female head in shades of yellow, gold and white. The head seems to float in front of a red backdrop. As the viewer’s eyes follow along the width of the monotype, the imagery becomes increasingly less representational—in other words, it is more suggested than defined. At the far right, opposite the profile, is an intriguing, amorphous, cloud-like shape in bright whites, accentuated by blue-green lines and light gray highlights. Between the left and right borders are suggestive images of paper with Asian-style lettering, Sumi-like painting brushes and India-inspired architectural forms; they float in the background. By applying the resin, the artist amplifies the sense of depth, making the entire composition seem dreamlike.

This past spring, Ciali was elected president of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Artists Council. He previously served as the Artists Council’s executive vice president for fundraising, and was previously on the city’s commissions for public arts and parks and recreation.

“Currently, about 60 percent of my time is involved with arts education.” Ciali said, “In conjunction with the Palm Springs Unified School District, I created programs to teach printmaking to students from grade 3 to 12.” For several years, he has mentored students at the Arts Institute of Palm Springs High School.

Ciali maintains a fully equipped studio where he teaches printmaking and encaustic methods nearly year-round. He is often invited to other arts venues around the country to teach workshops.

“The desire to learn and express one’s creative self is more important than chronological age,” Ciali said. “In fact, I frequently find myself learning from my adult students who are not academically trained artists.”

Locally, the artist’s work is on display at Archangel Gallery, located at 1103 N. Palm Canyon Drive (760-320-4795; archangelartcollective.com/a). For more information on the artist, visit www.charlieciali.com.

Published in Visual Arts

The film Selma is one of the most acclaimed movies heading into awards season. It’s nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Drama, even though it doesn’t open in wide release until Jan. 9.

A week before that opening date, the film was the star attraction as the official opening night screening of the 26th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, at Palm Springs High School, on Friday, Jan. 2.

On the unusually crowded red carpet, director Ava DuVernay and two of the film’s actors, David Oyelowo and Common, graciously posed for photographers and spoke with news crews and reporters about the controversy stirred by the powerful film.

“We couldn’t have prepared for this. I’m just thankful that we made a truthful enough film that it is meeting this moment in a real and potent way,” said Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the film, referring to current tension happening after the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Mo., and many other areas across the nation.

“Seven years ago when I first read this script, I felt God tell me that I was going to play this role,” Oyelowo continued. “There were very frustrating moments along the road where the film just wouldn’t get made, so to look at this divine timing of it coming out now, for me, I don’t think it’s an accident at all. I just feel very honored and humbled to be at the center of it.”

Scroll down to see some photos from the red carpet.

Published in Snapshot