This Month in the Arts – July 2021

Adam Lerner starts his new job as CEO and executive director of Palm Springs Art Museum on July 15. Photograph courtesy of The Hip Photo.


Palm Springs Art Museum has a new director, audiences have returned to CVRep and Palm Canyon Theatre as well as the Palm Springs International ShortFest, the city of Indio has launched a mural conservation initiative, and, despite protests and legal challenges, Forever Marilyn has reappeared in downtown Palm Springs. Welcome to the July edition of This Month in the Arts from the California Desert Arts Council.

Let’s start with the announcement of Adam Lerner as the new CEO and executive director of Palm Springs Art Museum. Lerner, who previously served as the director and chief animator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, begins his position on July 15. PSAM has endured a difficult spring, beginning in March when board chairman Steve Maloney died, followed by the resignation of previous CEO and executive director Louis Grachos, and a board shakeup that saw philanthropist Harold Matzner abdicate his longtime executive vice chairmanship. “Add the controversial deaccession of a Helen Frankenthaler painting, unraveling of a few popular programs, and global pandemic that halved the museum’s operating budget, gutted its staff, and permanently shuttered its Palm Desert exhibition space,” writes Steven Biller in Palm Springs Life, “and you wonder, who can right this ship?” Lerner told the magazine, “I’m walking into this with eyes wide open and I know that it’s not going to be easy. I’m taking over a museum that needs to be built and, to be honest, I feel confident that I’m the person who can do that.” READ MORE

There’s been plenty of activity directly outside the museum, as well. The installation of Forever Marilyn, the 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn Monroe created by the late artist Seward Johnson, took place downtown on a Sunday night amid speeches from enthusiastic city leaders and chants from appalled protestors, James B. Cutchin reports in The Desert Sun. Palm Springs Tourism officials and business owners hail the statue as a boon to visitation, while detractors call it a monument to misogyny and an obstacle to museum. READ MORE

The night before Marilyn’s unveiling, a new art gallery opened in downtown Palm Springs. The Pit’s debut group show, “Oasis,” featured a dozen artists whose works are loosely themed around nature, landscape, and memory, Palm Springs Life reports. The gallery is a satellite space to The Pit’s main gallery in Glendale. Co-owner Adam D. Miller says The Pit will alternate exhibition openings at the two locations. “Oasis” continues through July 31, followed by a show of ceramics and artist-made furniture that runs Aug. 14–Sept. 25 and showcases more than a dozen artists and designers, including Christopher Miles and Katie Stout. READ MORE


Curtains Up on Local Stages 

With the end of most state and local COVID-19 safety restrictions, performance venues are beginning to welcome in-person audiences again. Members of the Alliance of Desert Theatres — a cooperative of producing theater companies and live entertainment organizations that formed during the pandemic — is promoting local performances starting this summer, Palm Springs Life reports. READ MORE

CV Rep in Cathedral City was first to return to full capacity, launching its summer classical music series with a performance by 19-year-old pianist and prodigy Victor Shlyakhtenko in partnership with the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, The Desert Sun reports. The theater company has given its upcoming season the theme of “Hopes, Dreams, and Expectations.” READ MORE

Palm Canyon Theatre reopens July 9 with the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, according to CV Independent, “and it is very much a family affair: Theater co-founder J.W. Layne is set to play Charlie Brown, while also doubling as the set and lighting designer. He’s sharing co-artistic director duties with his sister, Se Layne, who is also the choreographer. Finally, Dr. William “Bill” Layne, their father, is directing.” Reporter Matt King spoke to the family about the production and how the pandemic affected the theater. READ MORE


Eyes on the East Valley

La Quinta Museum has reopened with the exhibition Metaphor, Myth & Politics: Arts from Native Printmakers. The show, which continues through Aug. 14, features 36 pieces by artists from around the world, including Wendy Red Star, Andy Everson, Rudolph Carl Gorman, and Kenojuak Ashevak. READ MORE in The Desert Sun.

Indio’s Public Art Commission has commissioned a condition report and recommendations to conserve the city’s murals,The Desert Sun reports, noting the oldest mural in town, The History of Transportation, on Indio Boulevard, is almost 25 years old. The city’s Art in Public Places fund, supported by developers’ fees, will pay for the initiative. READ MORE

Sixth Street Coffee in downtown Coachella, Lake Cahuilla and a farm in Thermal appear in the new action film Take Back, starring Gillian White, Michael Jai White, and Mickey Rourke. It’s the third production by Palm Springs director Christian Sesma and film producer Mike Hatton, a former KESQ entertainment reporter. It was filmed during the pandemic. The Desert Sunreports, “A total of 40 people, including 10 cast members, underwent frequent testing, mandatory mask wearing, and quarantining in the hotel at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.” READ MORE