Open Your Studio, Collaborate, and Embrace Summer in the Desert

If you think “season” is over, the three presenters at CDAC’s first Arts Salon beg to differ. They say summertime presents a largely untapped opportunity for visual and performing artists and others working in the arts.

“The dynamics in the summer are changing,” said Arlene Amick, director of audience engagement and communications at Palm Springs Art Museum and the salon’s first presenter. “It’s still a [travel] destination, but it’s also a great time to focus on locals.”

Amick, Erick Lemus of California Partnership, and Joyce Kiehl of the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau served up their experiences, ideas, and advice to more than 40 local artists, musicians, performers, and nonprofit leaders at the salon hosted by CREATE Center for the Arts in Palm Desert.

“I don’t believe there is a ‘season’ anymore,” said Kiehl, the CVB’s director of communications who wants to hear and share artists’ stories with travel and culture journalists. “Summer never really slows down. I’m pitching ideas to get journalists to come out, and always looking for what’s unique and different. My job is to make the world understand what’s going on here. One thing I’ve really watched grow in the last 10 years is the arts community.”

Panelists encouraged organizations and individuals to collaborate on events and experiences to stay relevant, leverage each other’s social media audience, and satisfy the growing demand for year-round vitality.

Amick said the museum partners with Palm Springs International Film Society to offer a free summer film series, which features Bagdad Café (June 6), Beau Travail (July 7), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Aug. 11), and Do The Right Thing (Sept. 1) in the Annenberg Theater. The film society represents only one of the museum’s collaborations, she said. “There are so many nonprofits and opportunities for networking and collaboration.”

Collaboration not only fuels dynamic programming, but also helps expand audiences. An example is California Partnership’s Vibrant Communities event June 3 in downtown Indio. Lemus, the second presenter at the Arts Salon, said he’s working with a variety of nonprofit health and service organizations in the eastern Coachella Valley to build a groundswell of support for the event. He also scheduled it to coincide with the Indio Block Party. “It’s about equity access to culture,” Lemus said. “The arts are a point of advocacy. We have to make our messages part of the [entertainment].”

Vibrant Communities features performances by local indie rock band Brightener and Spanish reggae act Raskahuele, as well as EDM sets by T-One and Madi Di.

A few new collaborations began to take shape after the presentations, when CDAC invited participants to mingle. “When we started California Desert Arts Council we held listening sessions around the valley and heard loud and clear that working artists want opportunities to network,” said Christi Salamone, the organization’s CEO. “The salons address that demand while delivering on our promise of business and professional development.”

During her presentation, Kiehl advised the artists in attendance to open their studios to journalists and host an artist talk for the public. “When people come here they want to experience things,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the art community.

“I want to capitalize on Desert X,” she continued, referring to the exhibition of site-specific artwork installed around the Coachella Valley earlier this year. She encouraged participants to ride the coattails of such efforts, as did the Joshua Treenial and Bombay Beach Biennial exhibitions in April. “There’s something special about the way everything meshes in the desert. Everyone works together.”

Caption: Brightener, shown performing at Coachella in 2016, performs June 3 at the Vibrant Communities event at Indio Performing Arts Center. Photo by Chad Wadsworth, courtesy Goldenvoice