Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey’s installation, The Wishing Well, remains on view at the James O. Jessie Desert Highlands Unity Center in Palm Springs.
The arts in the Coachella Valley are showing some healthy signs of life — Desert X, for example, saw record visitation to its site-specific art installations, and the Palm Springs International ShortFest will welcome audiences to in-person screenings later this month — but most organizations and venues are struggling to return to some recognizable state of normal. This is the June edition of “This Month in the Arts,” brought to you by the California Desert Arts Council.
We begin at Palm Springs Art Museum, where seismic pandemic-related budget/staffing cuts and leadership changes continue to have rippling effects. Now, the museum’s volunteer-run Annenberg Theater Council, which has long presented the venue’s annual opening-night fundraiser and popular Cabaret 88 series, is disbanding after rejecting a proposed agreement requiring it to operate independently, meaning it would have to maintain its own bank account, pay rental fees for use of the theater, and market its own programs. The Desert Sun reports.
In other cost-cutting measures, the museum permanently shuttered its Palm Desert venue (aka The Galen), which had cost about $500,000 a year to operate, and deaccessioned artwork to create a fund to properly care for and add to its 12,000-piece permanent collection.
The museum has drawn attention in the past several months with the passing of its chairman, Steven Maloney and resignations of executive director Louis Grachos, who becomes director of SITE Santa Fe on June 22, and longtime executive vice chairman Harold Matzner, whose positions on a variety of issues, including the installation of Forever Marilyn outside the venue, were increasingly out of step with the emerging leadership. A new director to replace Grachos will be named this summer.
In related news, the Artists Council, another one-time Palm Springs Art Museum entity forced into independence, has signed a three-year lease with the city of Palm Desert to occupy The Galen, where it will present exhibitions and educational programming, The Desert Sun reports. The space was formerly operated by the museum, which continues to maintain the surrounding Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden that features works by Donald Judd, Juame Plensa, Fletcher Benton, and others.
ON LOCAL STAGES
After 14 months in pandemic darkness, Coachella Valley Repertory resumes in-person entertainment with its Summer Classical Music Series, beginning June 24 with The Waring International Piano Competition, including a 60-minute concert by Victor Shlyakhtenko. Rounding out the series, Palm Springs Opera Guild of the Desert presents in July, and Giorgi Latso and Anna Fedorova-Latso perform as part of a CVRep fundraising event in August. Tickets will go on sale June 2. Attendance may be limited to comply with the state and county reopening guidelines.
Some high desert residents have expressed concern that the Beneath the Desert Sky Summer Concert Series scheduled begin June 18 at the amphitheater of Joshua Tree National Park’s Indian Cove Campground could disturb the environment. The concerts are organized by Yawning Man bassist and Fatso Jetson frontman Mario Lalli as a benefit for the Joshua Tree National Park Association. Read the story in The Desert Sun.
Barry Manilow will again perform five holiday concerts to raise funds for 25 charities in the Coachella Valley. His “A Gift of Love V” concerts will feature his hit songs and holiday favorites. Concerts are scheduled for Dec. 7-8 and again Dec. 10-12 at the McCallum Theatre. Read the story in Palm Springs Life.
Flat Black Art Supply owner Pete Salcido is behind many of the well-known murals popping up in Palm Springs, including the Amanda Gorman and George Floyd works by Los Angeles artist MisterAlek. Salcido has commissioned 18 artists for projects in Palm Springs through the city’s public arts commission since 2018 and has also started a nonprofit to provide after-school art programs and created a hub for local artists at Westfield Palm Desert. Read the story in The Desert Sun.
A mural by artist Keith Blum was unveiled at Dr. Carreon Academy reflecting the education that the Indio elementary school strives to provide for its students. It depicts elementary school-aged children standing in front of a wall, and the shadows they cast show adult versions of themselves as an astronaut, scientist, musician, and member of the military. Read the story in The Desert Sun.
ART MEETS FASHION
The bold prints and colors that dominate Aneka Brown’s collections celebrate her African heritage and the modernist tastes of Palm Springs. The fashion designer, who was raised and still resides in the Coachella Valley, has launched her own apparel line. With no formal training or prior experience fabricating garments, she was able home in on her sartorial voice and turn out designs for all sizes. It all started with a jumpsuit. Read the story in Palm Springs Life.
RECOVERING FROM THE PANDEMIC
Five months after Congress approved a $16 billion federal aid program to help live performance venues and cultural institutions survive the pandemic, more than 12,000 applicants have sought help, but no money has been disbursed yet, The New York Times reports. But the U.S. Small Business Administration has indicated that the highest-priority applicants — those that lost 90 percent of their revenue compared to the prior year — are tentatively scheduled to receive notices about the fate of their applications beginning next week.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed significant investments in arts and culture as part of a new, $100 billion recovery package. Funds will go largely to the grant-giving California Arts Council as well as the California Creative Corps Pilot Program.
As arts organizations and venues restart their engines, journalists and critics are beginning to assess the damage the pandemic inflicted on the cultural landscape. William Deresiewicz takes a swing in his Harper’s Magazine article “Stages of Grief,” asserting, “I don’t think most of us appreciate how bad things are … The pandemic will likely extinguish thousands of artistic careers. And the devastation will extend to the businesses and institutions that connect artists to audiences.”