Helen Lundeberg’s Still Life with Pears (1985) is among the artist’s paintings in her focus exhibition continuing through this summer at Palm Springs Art Museum. Photograph courtesy of Palm Springs Art Museum.


As more Coachella Valley residents become vaccinated against COVID-19, the area’s arts and culture organizations and venues are coming back to life. On June 15, all industries in California can return to usual operations with common-sense risk reduction measures such as indoor masking and distancing. Welcome to the May edition of This Month in the Arts, brought to you by the nonprofit California Desert Arts Council.

We start at Palm Springs Art Museum, which has announced the election of Jane Emison as chair of the board of trustees. An interior designer who joined the board in 2015, Emison succeeds Steve Maloney, who died in March. Her first priority will be the hiring of a new director and CEO to replace Louis Grachos, who leaves the museum this summer to rejoin SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico. The museum also announced the resignation of executive vice chairman Harold Matzner, who served on the board of trustees for 35 years and donated $6 million to the institution. Matzner told The Desert Sun his decision was based on “freedom of movement” as a non-board member, referring to his support of “Forever Marilyn,” the controversial, 26-foot-tall statue to be installed on Museum Way. Grachos has publicly opposed its placement in front the museum.

We’re excited about the progress at CREATE Center for the Arts in Palm Desert. The nonprofit organization turns 5 years old this year, and it will celebrate the milestone anniversary this October in sprawling new digs. Located at 73600 Alessandro Drive, a block east of San Pablo, CREATE offers a range of services, classes, and opportunities for creative people of all ages and skill levels across the Coachella Valley. A digital studio includes programs in 3-D printing and virtual reality, while other areas focus on film and video broadcasting, painting and drawing, and fiber arts (weaving, knitting, and crocheting). There are also multipurpose spaces for performance, a traditional photography darkroom, and more on the way, according to executive director Debra Mumm. Read more in The Desert Sun.

Coachella Valley History Museum in Indio is reopening on weekends, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with updated exhibits, reports The Desert Sun. The museum’s COVID-19 safety protocols include limited capacity, social distancing, and masks. Private group tours will be available by appointment. 

The Purple Room supper club has raised more than $100,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to avoid permanently shuttering, according to The Desert Sun. The legendary venue, which was popular with the Rat Pack in the 1960s and reopened in 2013 by Michael Holmes, is classified as a live theater space under California’s tiered COVID-19 restrictions, forcing the business suspend operations for the last 13 months. 

New York-based Knitting Factory Entertainment and Desert Daze festival founder Phil Pirrone are taking over booking at popular High Desert venue Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, The Desert Sun reports. Pirrone and James Irvine will serve as talent buyers.

In other arts news …



Arthur Drooker’s new book about city hall architecture shines a light on Palm Springs (Palm Springs Life)



Desert X plans programs before exhibition ends May 16

Terry Masters turns from landscapes to portraits after closing his gallery (CV Independent)

Desert Art Center opens new exhibition, offers classes



Palm Springs Dance Academy to host open house May 1–2

Desert Movement Arts presents “Broad Daylight” on May 2

CVRep closes virtual season with Chita Rivera and Raymond Del Barrio on May 6



Pioneertown band Illumination Road releases debut single, “The Modern World” (CV Independent)

Giselle Woo & The Night Owls release new album, Everything (Coachella Valley Weekly)

Desert rocker Jesika von Rabbit releases “Bombay Beach Bunny” along with a video



Palm Desert High School is launching the Aztec Arts Academy this summer, offering career technical education in the arts, media, and entertainment pathways, according to a Desert Sun report. Courses will be offered in music technology, vocal and instrumental music, dance, and theater. The academy will collaborate with McCallum Theatre and local industry professionals to offer students opportunities to be consumers, performers, and technicians in arts and media. It will also partner with the school’s film and broadcasting pathway to provide interdisciplinary opportunities, such as live streaming, lighting, sound, and film creation.



Live performance venues can apply for Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

Celebrate Black History Month through Fashion, Music, and Art

Americans for the Arts convention set for June 8–11

Prairie Ronde Artist Residency applications due June 1 for fall program

PEN/Jean Stein Grants for Literary Oral History submissions due June 1

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Grant for Children’s and Young Adult Novelists submissions due June 1