This Month in the Arts – December 2021

Andrew Kovacs says his sculptural installation Colossal Cacti will transform an empty plot in downtown Indio into a vibrant space for the community to gather and meet. Photograph courtesy of Lance Gerber.

 

A silver lining may have formed around all the virtual arts programming we experienced during the pandemic. A newly released report indicates the arts have become more important to us than ever. Welcome to the December 2021 edition of “This Month in the Arts,” brought to you by California Desert Arts Council.

The report, “Culture & Community in a Time of Transformation,” reveals the findings of a study that asked the public about their experience of the cultural sector during the pandemic. Unlike other impact reports, this one focuses on consumers of culture rather than producer groups, such as artists or museum workers. The culture website Hyperallergic assessed the report, whichfound that artist livestreams were the most popular arts-related digital activity since the start of the pandemic and individual artists and performers, not organizations, were the most popular content providers.

The report also clocked a “rising sentiment of arts and culture” and suggests the sector can improve equity and inclusion by lowering ticket and entry prices, supporting local artists and communities, and engaging more diverse groups.

There’s a lot of public art news this month, starting in Indio, where the city has entered an agreement with Goldenvoice, the company that puts on the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, for a long-term loan of three of the seven cactus sculptures featured at the 2019 event. Andrew Kovacs, the architectural designer who created Colossal Cacti, which range from 14 to 20 feet tall, told The Desert Sun the arrangement of the sculptures would transform an empty, grassy plot off Smurr Street in downtown into “a space for the community to gather and meet.” The city pursued the artwork as part of efforts to revitalize the area, which will also get a new park with an amphitheater. Colossal Cacti follows the city’s installation of Sarbalé Ke, another sculptural array from the 2019 festival, at Dr. Carreon Park.

Meanwhile, in Palm Springs, it’ll be another Christmas without Kenny Irwin’s Robolights, according to The Desert Sun. The artist’s spokesperson, Brittany Sorrentino, says the holiday exhibition won’t happen this year but a pop-up exhibition called Recycled Media is being planned for February. “It speaks about how poor society does as far as recycling goes. Also, how all our favorite TV shows are all reboots,” she said. 

The Gregory S. Pettis Fountain of Life, one of Cathedral City’s most popular attractions, has gone through a complete restoration and is now open in Town Square Park, according to the Uken Report. The fountain draws thousands of children, especially during the searing summer heat, to find respite in the cool streams and showers of water that flow from 32 separate features. It had been closed since the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020.

Desert X, the valleywide biennial exhibition of site-specific art, announced its fourth exhibition will take place March 4 through May 7, 2023. It will be co-curated by Desert X Artistic Director Neville Wakefield and Diana Campbell, the founding artistic director of Samdani Art Foundation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit. The 2021 exhibition drew more than 650,000 visits to 10 artworks over nine weeks.

Several individuals have recently made news with their creative efforts. We love Cat Makino’s story in CV Independent about Wyman Lancaster, who was working at an Orange County construction company when he decided to move to the Coachella Valley and take up painting. After only a year and half, the 42-year-old self-taught artist’s paintings started selling enough to make a living. His work appears in a group exhibition this month — with fellow abstract artists Janet Cass and Aaron Finkbiner — at JJ Harrington Gallery in Cathedral City.

CV Independent also introduced Andrew Levitt, who’s headlining a national touring production of the beloved musical Hairspray Dec. 3­­–5 at the McCallum Theatre. While the company was in San Jose, Levitt, better known him by his drag name, Nina West, spoke to the Independent’s Jimmy Boegle about his first handful of shows had gone as Edna Turnblad, the scene-stealing mother of teen Tracy Turnblad, whose dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show. Palm Desert will be the tour’s fifth stop.

Joshua Tree Voice, in its debut print edition, celebrates Bobby Furst, who began building FurstWurld in Joshua Tree for himself 15 years ago. Within five years, he recognized the great need for a gathering, event, and performance venue for the incredible array of low and High Desert artists and musicians. Now, Furst finds joy in providing a forum for fellow creatives. He’s also preparing for FurstWurld to go to the community when he’s gone, restructuring the property as a nonprofit under the direction of president and program director Robbi Robb.

Clark Fyans also thinks now is the perfect time for another high-quality music venue in the desert, but hiccups in opening his brand-new AWE Bar in Yucca Valley drew the attention of Matt King of CV Independent. Bands such as Stoner and the Mattson 2 were scheduled to perform, but their shows were canceled. Fyans needed more time to open the venue, saying, “I’ve retrofitted the whole venue. I’m really trying to treat it like a full audiophile room. We put in a full Meyer system, which is probably the top audio PA system; a full, brand-new board; and built a new proper stage.”

Finally, if you’re looking for holiday events for you and your loved ones, here are some recommendations, from strolling carolers to staged performances to light shows.