California Desert Arts Council welcomes Cat Chiu Phillips, an ArtsTank Greater Palm Springs grant winner, to the Coachella Valley this April to debut her art installation, Power Plants, presented in partnership with College of the Desert in Palm Desert.

Power Plants opens April 8 in the COD Art Department lobby. On Earth Day (April 22) at 11 a.m., Phillips presented a free artist talk titled “Making the Transition from 2D to Public Art” in the Art Department’s Room 100. Click here to learn more.

Cat Chiu Phillips, a graduate of Cathedral City High School and College of the Desert, won a grant in the inaugural ArtsTank Greater Palm Springs.

Phillips grew up in Manila until she was 11 years old and recalls its overwhelming pollution, poverty, overpopulation, and ongoing battle against natural disasters. She explores these themes in her public art projects, using discarded items and traditional handicraft methods.

Power Plants is an art installation mimicking desert life growth that she created entirely from discarded electronic waste using weaving and crochet techniques. Inspired by the Japanese term mottainai, which conveys a sense of regret about waste, Phillips calls attention to the 49.8 million tons of worldwide e-waste generation that was expected in 2018 and the annual growth rate, which is forecasted up to 5 percent. Phillips hopes to affect the choices consumers make to address the e-waste crisis.

“The project not only addresses the post-consumer product presence in the vacant lots in the desert, but also initiates a dialogue regarding abundance, e-waste, and frivolity of advanced technology,” Phillips says. “Additionally, the piece is inspired by and also a nod to outsider art in the California desert.”

For the branches and details, she has sourced an array of materials, including VHS and audio cassette tapes, photo negatives, film strips, and numerous projector slides. The scenes on the slides show images of travel and landscapes, revealing layered memories of our environment.

During her artist talk, “Making the Transition from 2D to Public Art,” Phillips will share insights on her evolution from a printmaker to an installation artist. The presentation will feature topics for artists and students such as how to activate a space; planning for temporary projects and materials vs. permanent works and materials; sourcing materials and additional resources; developing a strong and cohesive proposal; experiences with past projects and challenges; and meeting deadlines.

Phillips, a San Diego-based artist and educator, grew up in Manila and moved to Toronto when she was 11 years old. After her freshman year in high school, her family moved to the Coachella Valley, and she enrolled at Cathedral City High School. Phillips continued her arts education, earning an associate’s degree in studio art at College of the Desert; a bachelor’s degree in studio art, with a minor in art history, from University of California, Riverside; and an MFA in new genre from San Francisco Art Institute. She is a past visual arts scholarship recipient of La Quinta Arts Foundation, CDAC’s sister organization, which funded the initial ArtsTank award.

Her public art commissions include the San Diego International Airport, Nashville International Airport (for Bonnaroo), Riverside Art Museum, Westfield Horton Plaza, and University Town Center in San Diego, and the cities of Pasadena, Vista, and Solana Beach as well as the Las Vegas Arts and Culture Commission, Amelia Island (Florida) Travel Commission, and Atlanta Beltline Project. Phillips has received awards from the California Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

These activities are part of Arts, Culture & Creativity Month, led by Californians for the Arts, the statewide advocacy organization.


Power Plants is on view thru August 2, 2019 at the Art Department Lobby of College of the Desert, located at 45-300 Monterey Ave. in Palm Desert. Visiting hours: Monday thru Friday, 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. The COD Spring semester ends May 24, 2019. Visiting hours beyond this point need approval. Contact Tina Gonzalez, Administrative Assistant, Social Sciences & Arts – 760.773.2574,

Below: Phillips’ Grow, made of plastic bags, at Westfield Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego.