Remember when you used to send a postcard from where you visited? You still can, but the convenience of taking out your cell phone, snapping selfies next to a destination spot and posting it to your social media account is what we do now. And it still serves the same purpose: you’re here and your friends are not.
Palm Springs has recently added a new Instagrammable stop in the downtown area, and unlike other selfies, you help complete its message. Mirroring the city’s popular hashtag, #PSILOVEYOU, you get to be the letter ‘I’. They even have the spot marked for you to step on.
The “Love Letters” art piece stands 6 feet tall, spans 18 feet, and is anchored by two 850-pound platforms — one supports the letters PS, and the second has a heart next to the letter “u”. The lettering and heart are in bold red which makes it easily standout where it currently sits in the plaza area adjacent to the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs hotel.
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“In every city we go to, there’s some sort of an art piece that people are standing next to,” says Nona Watson, CEO of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. “And once it goes on social media, it really attracts people. I think it’s huge. I think art should be enjoyed. And originally, if you think about postcards, people used to send postcards out and that’s why PS I Love U and #wishyouwerehere are sort of a throwback to that time too, but with social media.”
Watson came up with the idea prior to the pandemic shutdown in March after watching an episode of her favorite HGTV show, Good Bones, which features the mother-daughter tandem of Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak giving new life to rundown homes.
“And they were standing by this sign and they said, ‘Oh yeah, people are doing handstands, they’re getting married by it.’ And it was the N-D-Y sign. So you stood by it and you were the ‘I’ in the Indy. So I came back to my office and I was talking to my staff and I said, ‘Our hashtag is #PSILOVEYOU. We could do the exact same thing.”
To fund the idea, Watson enlisted the help of the Palm Springs Public Art Commission, which has recently funded several public art projects in the downtown area, and PS Resorts. Maru Palmersheim designed the piece and Jack Rivers of Palm Springs Canyon Copy and Print constructed it. Michael Bruan, president of Grit Development which created the downtown space, offered the spot for “Love Letters” first home.
“I think it’s almost like an art collaboration because if you think about, I had an idea, the arts commission funded it, PS Resorts funded it, we had a couple of people working on design,” Watson says. “It was just like this big love project that we just wanted this in our city and we made it happen.”
“And it turned out exactly the way I wanted,” Watson adds. “And the nice thing about it is the heart. My intention is that whenever there’s an event in our city, like Palm Springs Pride or if Coachella’s here, we’re going to wrap the heart to announce whatever the event is, so when it’s Pride, I’m going to wrap the heart in rainbow paper.”
For its unveiling Sept. 3, a mask is fitted over the heart as a tribute to the frontline hospital workers. “We want to remind everybody that comes to our city, that we love you and we love you being here but put a mask on,” Watson says. “And I think this is a way of doing it.”
Watson says public art is a growing attraction in cities. “We have tons of people that walk in to our Chamber office and want to know where the different art pieces are, not just for their own enjoyment,” Watson says.
“But I mean, if you look at Modernism Week now, how huge that is, that’s sort of marked our city. I think the more art we can have in our city, I think it just makes it prettier. It just makes it more interesting.”
The pandemic has meant using an outside-the-box perspective when cities look at points of public engagement. “I think that’s probably a good point because I’m always thinking about ways to market our city and that’s what drives me,” says Watson, who has headed the chamber for more than a decade. “I want to be that cheerleader for Palm Springs and what would bring people here, what would help them with their experience. Because my job is to watch out for the business community. And so by bringing people here because we’re so tourism-based, that it benefits all 1,100 businesses.”
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