The bountiful botanicals, wildflowers, and succulents that pepper Coachella Valley gardens meet their perfect match in sculptural art. Infusing character and paying homage to the community’s dedication to creativity, sculptural gardens play a major role in the desert outdoor experience. Here, we highlight three unique spaces that shine under our resplendent sunny skies.
The Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at The Galen, Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert is a beautifully designed 4-acre space featuring waterfalls, plants, and winding stone paths that offer a view of several significant works. Highlights include a powerhouse piece by minimalist Donald Judd and works crafted by modern masters such as Felipe Castañeda, Yahiel Shemi, Gio Pomodoro, and Dave McGary. The collection showcases its diversity with the whimsical bronze sculpture Acrobats, by Barry Flanagan, and the painted steel Midnight and Morning Rain … Waiting for Miro, by Peter Reginato.
Open to the public with free admission year-round, the garden is a great place to meditate in quiet surroundings. The museum hosts a farmers market and free outdoor yoga on Wednesday mornings beginning in November, along with artist workshops and horticultural events. It’s also part of the popular First Friday ArtWalk. 72567 Hwy. 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-5600. Download a self-guided tour map at www.psmuseum.org
Nestled within 17 acres in East Valley, the “Walk” at the historic Shields Date Garden is a sculptural gem. This farm has been a local favorite since 1924 and offers date varietals, a café, and, of course, rich date shakes.
The Walk — whose sculptures were recently relocated from a biblical garden in Canada — depicts 14 scenes and includes 23 statues from different times in Christ’s life. The path wends around a pond and fountain, with different vignettes set throughout the garden. Take a self-guided tour or download the free smartphone app for a 45-minute
The property also features mountain views, towering date groves, and many indigenous succulents and trees. Benches throughout offer sanctuary for enjoying the peace and artistic interpretations. 80225 Hwy. 111, Indio. 760-347-0996; www.shieldsdategarden.com
Desert native Kenny Irwin Jr.’s eclectic Palm Springs Futuristic Sculpture Garden is filled with imaginative treasures — all made from recycled materials. Irwin single-handedly built this “theme park” over four estate-sized lots in Palm Springs’ famed Movie Colony neighborhood.
The gallery/property is a feast for the eyes for adults and older children (some creations may be too scary for little ones). Robots, skulls, galactic warriors, alien animals, and space exploration are common themes in Irwin’s works, which are scattered under palm trees in a landscape that includes candy-colored rocks, bridges, tunnels, lush foliage, ponds, and a stream.
The private outdoor studio boasts more than 250 giant robot creatures, as well as different exploration areas, including Microwavoland, Candyland Castle, Dinobot Holiday, Christmas Village, and City of Robots. “I think robots are cool and I’ve always been fascinated by them,” Irwin says. “I have dreams of the future where we come up with great ideas to solve problems and expand exploration out into the stars.”
Drive by to catch a glimpse of the robotic statues gracing the street, or make an appointment for a free tour. By appointment only: 1077 E. Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs. Text 760-774-0318; www.kennyirwinartist.com
More Sculpture Gardens and Parks
Desert Art Collection
45350 San Luis Rey Ave, Palm Desert.
Cancer Survivors Park
Frank Sinatra Dr. and Hwy. 111, Rancho Mirage.
Palm Desert Civic Center Park
Fred Waring Dr. and San Pablo Ave., Palm Desert.