Art in the Oasis

A valley of world-class art, music, dance, and theater serves up a big season of sophisticated entertainment

Steven Biller Arts & Entertainment 0 Comments


The Museums

A new director, Liz Armstrong, ushers in the season at the ever-expanding Palm Springs Art Museum, which has a satellite space in Palm Desert as well as the popular Architecture and Design Center in downtown Palm Springs.

The season opened with Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe (through Dec. 13, 2015) at the main museum in Palm Springs. Featuring more than 100 contemporary and 50 vintage designs, the exhibition emphasizes the sculptural, architectural, and artistic possibilities of the high heel, as well as the use of innovative or unexpected materials and construction.

In the opposite exhibition wing, 60 works by modern masters — including Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Amadeo Modigliani, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, and others — offers a jaw-dropping look into one of the most important collections of modern sculpture ever assembled in the southwestern United States. A Passionate Eye: The Weiner Family Collection (Oct. 3 through Jan. 31, 2016) demonstrates the strength and scope of the works, many of which have served as the foundation of the museum’s collection for four decades.

Meanwhile, at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, Still Life: Capturing the Moment (through Feb. 21, 2016) offers an examination into the dynamic evolution of a traditional genre. At the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, Seeing the Light: Illuminating Objects (Oct. 10 through Jan. 3, 2016) focuses on the transparent and reflective surfaces of a variety of objects selected from the permanent collection. The exhibition includes glass art by Dale Chihuly, Karen LaMonte, and Bertil Vallien and an installation of plotter-cut silver Mylar decals by Jim Isermann, among other pieces.

Back at the main museum in Palm Springs, Edward S. Curtis: One Hundred Masterworks opens in February (through May 29, 2016) presents Curtis’ vintage photographs from his 30-year project documenting Indians of North America.

Rounding out the season, Bauhaus twenty-21: An Ongoing Legacy — Photographs by Gordon Watkinson (Jan. 24 through May 1, 2016) showcases 12 of the most singular achievements of Bauhaus architecture build before 1933. Unfolding at the museum’s Architecture and Design Center, the exhibition connects the design philosophy to contemporary practice and includes a selection of furnishings and objects designed before 1933 and still manufactured today.


Visitors on a quest for local color can also make time to see these museums:

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum focuses on the art and culture of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Exhibitions change annually. The current one, The Other Palm Springs (through Nov. 8, 2015), reveals the life and times of people in Section 14, a square-mile parcel of reservation real estate in downtown Palm Springs owned by the tribe.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, a four-story, Hopi-inspired pueblo in Desert Hot Springs, offers guided tours of the 5,000-square-foot structure, which has 35 rooms, 65 doors, and 150 windows. The museum welcomes visitors year-round to learn about the life of founder Cabot Yerxa and his family.

Coachella Valley History Museum (Oct. 1 through May 31, 2016), located on a spacious campus in Indio, includes the 1926 adobe Smiley-Tyler House, which contains most of the main exhibits, as well as the 1909 Indio Schoolhouse, the world’s only Date Museum, and a variety of gardens (Japanese, rose, desert, and date, among others).

La Quinta Museum, situated in the city’s oldest commercial building (1937), offers exhibitions that examine the past and present through a variety of media, and holds the La Quinta Historical Society archives.


Sunnylands Center  & Gardens

No trip to the Coachella Valley is complete without a visit to one of its crown jewels: Sunnylands. Rotating exhibitions, multi-media offerings, and public programs focus on the cultural and historic significance of Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s former estate, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. Tickets for tours of the historic house may be reserved in advance. At Sunnylands Center, which requires no ticket, the popular exhibition Treasures at Sunnylands: Selections from the Gift Collection of Walter and Leonore Annenberg runs through January 2016, followed by the Jan. 28 opening of Asian Artists in Crystal: Steuben Glass at Sunnylands.
37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage.


Art Walks & More

Art enthusiasts can also enjoy several popular art walks, including Palm Desert’s First Friday. Start with Art Walk El Paseo, which includes more than 20 galleries — including J. Willott, Melissa Morgan Fine Art, Filsinger Gallery, and Coda Gallery — and finish at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, where admission is always free.

The galleries and artists’ studios in the Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs open on the first Wednesday night of every month ( And Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District offers an eclectic mix of modern design boutiques and contemporary art galleries, including the Latin American-themed Jorge Mendez Gallery.

If these offerings leave you with room for more, drive up scenic Highway 74 and head to Idyllwild Arts Academy, which not only refines the skills of the next generation of visual and performing artists, but also offers a robust schedule of lectures, readings, music and dance performances, live theater, and Native American food tastings.

For the latest information about arts and culture events, visit


J. Willott Gallery

The J. Willott Gallery opened in 2007 with a focus and determination to represent museum-quality artwork from internationally accomplished artists. The gallery currently boasts an impressive roster of artists including Theodore Waddell, Richard Jolley, Dean Mitchell, Julie Speidel, John Evans, and Michael Chapman.
73190 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-568-3180;

Leonard Koscianski, Her Morning Run, oil on canvas, 48 x 26 inches.


Ramey Fine Art

Located at the entrance of El Paseo’s gallery scene, Glenda Ramey’s newly expanded gallery continues to represent a wide range of internationally acclaimed artists whose museum-quality works focus on two- and three-dimensional art.  
73111 El Paseo 109, Palm Desert. 760-341-3800;


Brian Marki Fine Art & Framing

Just blocks from the Architecture and Design Center in downtown Palm Springs, Brian Marki Fine Art & Framing specializes in paintings, sculpture, and photography representing postwar, abstract expressionism, impressionism, plein-air, and modern and geometric abstraction. View the works of emerging and renowned national and international artists such as Lynne Mapp Drexler, Sandro Negri, Bryce Hudson, and Christopher Georgesco.
170 E. Arenas Road, Palm Springs. 760-327-5777;

Lynne Mapp Drexler, Untitled 1961, mixed media on paper, 19 x 24 1/2 inche


Melissa Morgan Fine Art

This premier contemporary art gallery showcases renowned artists such as Bruce Beasley, Joseph McDonnell, and Andy Moses. View upcoming exhibitions featuring mixed media works by Andre Petterson, Ashley Collins, and Wanxin Zhang, as well as works on paper by Chuck Close.
73040 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-341-1056;

Chuck Close, Big Self Portrait, acrylic on canvas, 1967-1968, 107.5 x 83.5 inches.


Filsinger Fine Art & fossil
73111 El Paseo, Suite 107, Palm Desert. 760-346-8800;

Tracy Lynn Pristas, Sweet Enchantment 2015, oil and pigment stick on canvas.


Robert R. Bradshaw

The artwork of artist and illustrator Robert R. Bradshaw depicts people, crows, umbrellas, and architecture in a glowing atmosphere of colors and textures. Find these stunning images and more at the Archangel Gallery.
1103 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-320-4795, 760-864-8569;


CODA Gallery

A staple on El Paseo for more than 25 years, CODA Gallery features an eclectic mix of painting, sculpture, and glass in a beautiful 15,000-square-foot exhibition space.
73151 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-346-4661, 800-700-4661;

John McCaw, Accelerate, mixed media, 60 x 97 inches.

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