Openings, Innovations, and Advice for Coachella Valley Culture Leaders

Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage. Courtesy and copyright The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.


Sunnylands Center & Gardens became the latest Coachella Valley cultural institution to reopen to the public — with limited access and hours and stringent safety protocols — since the pandemic shutdown began last March. Many other venues and attractions are readying to follow in their footsteps. Welcome to the October 2020 edition of This Month in the Arts from the California Desert Arts Council.

Sunnylands began its phased opening Sept. 16, welcoming visitors to its 9-acre garden featuring 1.5 miles of walking trails and 53,000 plants. Indoor areas such as the café, store, and galleries remain off limits until the center opens Oct. 14. The highlight at the center this season is the colorful and eye-popping exhibition of op-art works by Yaacov Agam.

The first cultural attractions to open were makeshift drive-in movie theaters at Westfield Palm Desert, Palm Springs Cultural Center, and Palm Springs Air Museum. The cultural center, formerly the Camelot Theatres, offers 40 car spaces, 10 socially distanced tables of six, and three dozen director chairs for moviegoers. Film screenings are scheduled throughout the fall. 

Here’s an update on several other arts and culture institutions:

  • Museum of Ancient Wonders in Cathedral City reopened Sept. 23 and displays reproductions of artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun (King Tut) and African masks and sculptures, along with laboratory fossil casts of discoveries such as Mesozoic dinosaur skeletons and the 3.2 million-year-old hominid known as Lucy.
  • Modernism Week Fall Preview Online Experience tickets go on sale and programs become available to view Oct. 15. Virtual home tours with interviews, a Charles Phoenix-led driving tour, and a design conference are among seven programs, which also include one live happy hour with music and check-ins from around the country.
  • Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs is preparing for a mid-October or early-November opening and will offer audio tours rather than docent guides.
  • Palm Springs Art Museum reopens in mid-November with the critically acclaimed exhibition Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The Gerald Clarke and Jim Isermann shows that prematurely closed due to the pandemic shutdown continue through December.
  • Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, aka CVRep, expects to present 10 “special events” (not full theatrical productions, which proved cost-prohibitive) from December through March at the new amphitheater in downtown Cathedral City.
  • Desert X, the valleywide exhibition of site-specific art by an international roster of artists, opens Feb. 5, 2021 and continues through April 11. In addition to art installations, the public can participate in artist talks and other programs online. 


Free webinar: How are Coachella Valley arts and culture organizations, venues, and events delivering on their missions this season? Louis Grachos of Palm Springs Art Museum, Chris Mobley of Modernism Week, and Ron Celona of CVRep Theatre discuss their approaches Oct. 7 in a free webinar presented by Palm Springs Life, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, and the law firm of SBEMP. Read more

October is National Arts and Humanities Month: The Americans for the Arts presents actions that cultural leaders can take to involve local elected officials and spread the word. Read more

4 lessons from the NBA: Sports have much in common with the arts, such as performances (games) and costumes (uniforms). The Conversation presents four lessons the arts can learn from the stagecraft of the NBA’s “bubble.” Read more

What to charge digital audiences: Even if people are willing to pay for digital performances, are they willing to pay enough? Audience development expert Robin Cantrill Fenwick examines the data emerging from the pandemic’s rush to digitize, and where the income opportunities lie. Read more

Why should nonprofits lean on major donors? Because even as unemployment soars, as tens of thousands of businesses close, and as default and eviction rates rise, a small but significant portion of the population is doing just fine, thank you. Welcome to the K-shaped recovery, says Harvard Business Review. Read more

Is the future of art direct-to-consumer? A growing number of artists communicate with collectors online and thrive without gallery representation, according this Artnet report. Emerging artists, in particular, are having luck selling on Instagram. Read more

What lacks in virtual theater: At a time when so much of our lives is lived on the internet, the arts have a greater imperative: to restore the link to our humanity. Digital performance will be in a better place when it worries more about human contact than superficial spectacle. Read more

Have news or a tip to share with other arts and culture leaders in the Coachella Valley? Contact us at