desert art center palm springs

Starting a New Chapter

After the pandemic forced the Desert Art Center to close for a year for the first time in its 71-year history, the Palm Springs art organization is ready to reopen.

JIM POWERS Arts & Entertainment, Current Digital

desert art center palm springs

Among the changes you will see when the Desert Art Center reopens March 5 is refurbished wood floors, new paint job, new lighting and a new sound system.

In its 71-year history, it took a pandemic to force the doors of the Desert Art Center to close. One year after the initial shutdown in California, the Palm Springs institution is eager to greet the public starting March 5 and have them experience the work of local artists the way it should be done.

The past year has not been a total waste, however. DAC President Kat Macdonald says the organization has been able to beef up their presence online, including adding an e-commerce store, creating a line of branded merchandise, and a bigger social media push.

It would have been easy to just remain closed. But Macdonald pointed to the influx of vaccines, the infection rate lowering, and more businesses opening along Palm Canyon Drive as reasons to open up. “We just felt that if we were going to try to make any use of this season at all, now is the time to do it,” she says.

DAC will be open March 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the number of visitors will be limited to less than 10 at a time. Everyone should be masked and observe social distancing protocols.

Macdonald spoke more about the DAC opening, upcoming classes, and more with Palm Springs Life.

How has the past year been for DAC financially?

It has been an absolutely devastating year for us financially, truthfully. And we have applied for the state grant that Gov. Newsom has promised to small businesses and non-profits, but we've been put on a waiting list. So it's been a tough year, but we've persevered. And I think our membership is more determined, just by the outpouring of offers, to come in and clean the gallery and get it ready to open and everything. People are really pulling for us.


What can people expect to see when they walk through the doors?

We refurbished the wood floors. We've repainted the gallery, and we've installed state-of-the-art lighting. And we have a new sound system. So we're going to have all of that. It should look very nice.

What classes will be available?

We are going to start up Plein-air classes outside in the green area behind our building. And our sculpture class. Everybody's going to be socially distanced, everybody's going to be masked. There's going to be hand sanitizer. And we're just going to proceed cautiously, but we're not going to do anything where we're going to ask people to congregate in large numbers. We’re also planning classes in abstract acrylic painting, and figure and portrait painting.

You said you received a grant from the Reed Foundation to help your middle school art program. What exactly does that entail?

We’re starting up in March and April. And we've had parents just calling nonstop trying to sign their children up. We have an art instructor and a second teacher, and we bring in middle school art students to our auditorium. They come in for four weekends and they have different subjects that they can study. So we're sort of filling a need that the schools can't really fill anymore. And it's part of our mission statement to do this. And we're moving toward offering clay for kids. We have three wheels now that we were able to purchase with that grant. So it helps these kids in the Palm Springs Unified School District.

You’re also starting an arts enrichment program on Zoom?

We're going to have a Zoom presentation at the end of March. It's going to be for members and for the public, related to marketing yourself as an artist on Facebook. How do you use your online tools to help further your career as an artist? Because we've all had to move online, haven't we? I think it's going to be a big draw.