When Kippi Leonard and her family made the move from Seattle to the desert in 2019, there was less than a month before the Indian Wells Art Festival. The deadline had passed to enter, but she figured why not call to see if there was still a chance to participate.
Dianne Funk, whose company started the festival in 2002, welcomed her to the fold. Leonard’s experience of meeting artists and art lovers from all over the globe at the festival only reinforced her decision in 2013 to devote her passion to art after 25 years as an interior designer.
“It was a fantastic experience every step of the way,” Leonard says. “Festivals are, I think, one of the most amazing ways to really be able to get out of my art studio, where I just work alone, and talk to people about my art in just a really welcoming, excited environment, because people are there for an event.”
So when the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 edition and Funk decided to bring it back virtually this month, Leonard was on board. “Diane, she’s fantastic, so I knew that she’d figure out some way to support the artists,” Leonard says.
The virtual version, set for Oct. 9-11, will take advantage of an online platform to bring the festival to art enthusiasts’ homes. Funk plans several interactive events, including video chats, live demonstrations, studio tours, and art activities. Leonard will be one of 50 artists participating, and each artist will have their own page that includes a store to sell their art, a place to post a video showing how they create their art, and the capability to interact with prospective buyers either through Zoom or messages.
Kippi Leonard says the desert landscape can inspire her artwork by “what it does to my brain, whether it be the colors, or the emotion that you feel when you stand in front of magnificent landscape.”
“It’s really a good handful of artists,” Funk says. “And it’s all great art, and they’re all fine artists. They’re going to be having customers from everywhere. And we just want to support our working artists and create opportunities for income generation, generating sales, and keep them moving forward. For most of these people, this is their livelihood. It’s not like it’s a second job or something for them.”
Leonard will showcase her abstract art, a form she didn’t initially envision. “I sort of went into it, thinking I would be a portrait, people, place, thing, kind of painter, and ended up in abstract,” she says. “And my work with ink is kind of what took off in my art practice. And now I kind of sell it around the world. It just was kind of crazy how it blew up.”
The desert attracts artists from all over the world, but for Leonard it’s not a specifics of what the landscape offers that becomes inspiration on canvas. “Because I’m an abstract artist, you’re not seeing the exact items that we look at here in the desert,” she explains. “It’s just sort of what it does to my brain, whether it be the colors, or the emotion that you feel when you stand in front of magnificent landscape.”
“Another inspiration, I would say, for some of my acrylic abstract work would be Palm Springs or midcentury,” she adds. “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, so I’ve stayed at a lot of the hotels. And now to see them all have been restored, that kind of jazzy vibe that I get when I go into some of the different venues down here, inspired a series of art. So again, it’s more the mood, I guess, and the emotion down here.”
Funk plans to also use the festival platform to alert viewers to their non-profit partners, like Desert Arc and Old Town Artisan Studio, and introduce the desert community to newcomers. And if you think this will be the only time Funk uses these virtual tools, think again.
“This could be the future,” Funk says. “Everybody is still looking for some art, and there are people who are just home, who haven’t been out anywhere. And I think this would be a great way to treat themselves for a weekend and just to have something beautiful in their home, to have something to enlighten them and bring positive feelings to our own lives in our own homes.”
For more information, visit indianwellsartsfestival.com.
For more about Kippi Leonard, visit kipleeart.com.