Art is all around us — ubiquitous and penetrating every aspect of our lives. The wall mural at Starbucks, the toaster on our kitchen counter, and the vase on the coffee table have something in common: Each conveys an emotional quality, even if subtle. Humans need to express how we feel; that artistic drive is part of who we are.
Art galleries show a range of works in all kinds of media — painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, ceramics, video, even light — across the entire Coachella Valley. They’re all enriching, and one can never fully appreciate a work of art without actually seeing it in person.
However, acquiring artwork hardly fills the void for those who crave the creative process.
“Creativity and expression are what make us human,” says Sharla Fox, director of La Quinta Museum, “but there’s something about this desert in particular that draws out that creative instinct. Perhaps it’s the extremes in weather, light, landscape. Or, maybe there has always been a quality of possibility, of reinvention, that has drawn people to the desert. I love that for many local artists, their passion to create is newly discovered, a second chapter, as if this place has given them permission to see themselves as artists.”
Fortunately, they can go to art centers across the Coachella Valley that offer space and classes to delve into new mediums or elevate prior skills. There’s something for everyone — ceramics, painting, fiber art, printmaking, photography, digital art, and more. The opportunities here seem boundless, like creativity itself.
Here are only some of the arts centers that are ready to show you the way.
Coachella Valley Art Center
Located in downtown Indio, Coachella Valley Art Center opened in 2008 after local artists lobbied the city for reasonably priced studio space. Originally the home of the city’s local newspaper, the venue now offers free public exhibitions as well as studios for 14 artists working in painting, jewelry, sculpture, assemblage, enamel on copper, metal, textiles, fused glass, and glass blowing.
“There’s a benefit to in-depth questioning of artwork — such as the choice of materials, colors, textures, medium, application, and the subject matter — as part of the process,” says CVAC founder and executive director Bill Schinsky. “The introspective nature of art can even be applied to how we conduct our lives. Often, there’s more than one solution to a problem. In order to arrive at the right decision, one must recognize and contemplate all of the options. CVAC allows experienced artists to experiment; we encourage them to go beyond their usual approach. If you succeed, good. If you fail, good — just try.”
CVAC periodically mounts public exhibitions featuring locally based artists addressing timely issues and challenging viewers to think and sometimes feel uncomfortable. The motto at the center is to exhibit “Good work that has not been seen and good work that no one else will exhibit.”
In other words, dare to push the envelope.
Coachella Valley Art Center offers affordable studio space and mounts public exhibitions in downtown Indio.
Bill Schinsky, an artist and the executive director of the Coachella Valley Art Center in Indio, paints on mohair yarn.
Create Center for the Arts
At Create Center for the Arts, founder and CEO Debra Ann Mumm encourages artists to “do what you love, but also remember to try something new once in a while.”
Debra Ann Mumm, founder and CEO of Create Center for the Arts.
“Personal empowerment is really about discovery, being who you are and doing what you love,” she says. “Create provides unlimited avenues to pursue your passions. This is how we make the world a better place.”
The massive center in Palm Desert offers classes and workshops in oil and acrylic painting, drawing, printmaking, 3D design and printing, paper mâché, fiber arts, and even healing qi gong in the “cloud room.”
“Create provides creative experiences for everyone, including people who may not consider themselves artists,” Mumm says. “It is a place where tradition meets technology that allows artists to evolve and pursue their unique interests.
“Art changes lives,” she continues. “That is sort of my personal tagline. The healing arts were meant to be part of our programming. The creative process, as well as healing modalities, are all about flow, which is good for you. All of these things work together to help us be more present humans.”
Desert Art Academy
At Desert Art Academy, a learning and study center in Palm Desert, the motto provides a sharp focus: “Turn on the power of creativity. Tune in to success. Take over the future.”
The academy offers small-size classes in drawing, painting, design, architecture, and illustration, allowing each student to receive individual instruction. Students work on projects of their own choosing and at their own pace.
The Memorial Crane Project, created by Karla Funderburk and installed
at the Create Center, commemorates lives lost to COVID-19.
“We have programs for all ages — adults, teens, and children,” says Leo Fuchs, the academy’s director of education. “Some adults study with us to become professional artists, and some who already are professional artists want to refine their work. We help students find and develop their own personal style and meaning in their work.”
The teen program teaches the basics of drawing, painting, illustration, graphic design, digital design, and architecture and includes portfolio development for students applying to art or design colleges.
Desert Art Center
“As was profoundly evident during the pandemic,” says Christine Houser, publicist for Desert Art Center in Palm Springs, “art infuses our lives with meaning, inspiration, and connectivity. We at DAC strive to facilitate that by providing a range of art experiences to our community.”
Established in 1950, the nonprofit DAC, is situated downtown in a 1927 building that was Palm Springs’ first school. In 1974, President Gerald Ford dedicated it as a permanent home for the cultural arts, and in 1995, it became the home of DAC, which continues its long tradition of providing arts education.
This season, DAC will offer free, hands-on fine instruction to more than 100 middle school students in the city, as well as more than 25 classes and workshops for 250 adults working in a variety of media. DAC also has two on-site galleries that attract more than 8,000 visitors per year, as well as a scholarship program to help support high school seniors entering an art program at a college or university.
Old Town Artisan Studios
Old Town Artisans Studios in La Quinta differs from other art studios in that it offers fee-based classes for people who can afford them and an outreach program for people who either can’t afford or otherwise get to them. “We’re taking that money and getting it right back into the community,” says executive director Thomas Burns. “That’s the major difference.”
OTAS is one of the area’s largest art facilities — 16,000 square feet — with classes in clay, painting, and studio glass.
It’s also introducing animation, filmmaking, and digital arts this fall. “We keep expanding the mediums,” Burns says. “We’re not just a single painting studio. We’re a little bit of everything — actually, a lot of everything.
“The pottery wheel classes are most popular,” he continues. “It’s addictive. Once you try it, you keep coming back.”
OTAS is expanding its workday, offering more night classes to serve people who work during the day but want to be involved in the arts.
Ceramicists put their skills to work at Old Town Artisan Studios, which adds classes in digital arts, filmmaking, and animation this fall.
A pioneer on the desert’s ceramic scene, Silica Studios opened almost 20 years ago — “ahead of the curve,” says studio owner Tim McMullen. “In the last few years, ceramics has become more prevalent in the public eye.
“The goal of Silica Studios,” he continues, “is to bring the community together in a creative and productive environment where they can experience all of the possibilities of working in the ceramic arts.”
At Silica, young and established artists explore their creative side and perfect the technical dimensions of their craft in classes and workshops throughout the year.
“We have several members who have been part of the studio for more than 15 years,” McMullen says. “We have grown over the years and now have a waiting list for membership during seasonal months.”
Silica Studios also mounts two exhibitions every year, inviting the community to view and purchase members’ artwork, which ranges from sculptural decorative pieces to everyday-use bowls, vases, mugs, and plates.
The gallery at Silica Studios mounts two exhibitions each year where the public can purchase ceramic works by Silica’s member artists.