Valley of the Arts

Creative minds seek Greater Palm Springs for work and play

Joan McKenna Vision, Watch & Listen - Vision 0 Comments

World-class art exhibitions, national touring and locally produced theater, classical to contemporary music concerts, couture fashion shows, architecture and design tours, film festivals, and culinary experiences with top chefs weave a culture-rich tapestry for the creative set to enjoy as a spectator or pursue as a career.
Celebrating its 75th year, Palm Springs Art Museum houses a wide-ranging permanent collection of contemporary and Modern art, studio glass, and Native American artifacts, as well as four classrooms, an artists’ center, 85-seat lecture hall, and the 433-seat Annenberg Theater in its main venue in downtown Palm Springs. Its new 8,400-square-foot location in Palm Desert, The Galen, mounts changing exhibitions, and includes the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden and a community education wing.

Art aficionados can stroll among more than 25 galleries on El Paseo in Palm Desert. Palm Springs boasts a vibrant art scene as well, peaking each February with the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair at Palm Springs Convention Center.

La Quinta Arts Festival, named by Art Fair SourceBook as the top U.S. arts festival, unfolds in March, while La Quinta Arts Foundation promotes one-day Art Under the Umbrella shows, with live entertainment, throughout the season.

Other offerings and venues include Sunnylands Center and Gardens, which hosts rotating exhibitions; Indio’s Southwest Arts Festival in January; Indian Wells Arts Festival and Desert Mountains Art Fair (Palm Desert) in April; and Rancho Mirage Art Affaire in November; as well as works from emerging artists at the 18,000-square-foot Coachella Valley Arts Center in downtown Indio.

Palm Springs Modernism Week, held every February, draws architecture and design enthusiasts from around the globe. The celebration of the midcentury aesthetic includes more than 100 events, such as exhibitions, tours, films, lectures, receptions, and parties. The fall kickoff — a “mini Modernism Week” — incorporates additional architecture tours and events. Many organizations get in the game: the museum’s Architecture and Design Council, Palm Springs Modernism Committee, Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, and others.

The popular event has breathed life into Uptown Palm Springs, which has fashioned itself as a design district, and inspired a community of architects, interior designers, event planners, and Realtors who specialize in perpetuating the modern vibe.

Palm Springs Art Museum has begun transforming the midcentury modern, E. Stewart Williams-designed Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building into the Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion in downtown Palm Springs.

The museum’s Annenberg Theater opens the season big (Tommy Tune leads the 2013-2014 schedule) and continues with intimate cabaret shows, live theater, and much more. At McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, audiences enjoy fully staged Broadway musicals, such as Hello, Dolly! and Man of La Mancha, and world-class dance, opera, jazz, comedy, magic, and even acrobatic shows.

Palm Springs Opera Guild, OperaArts, and Desert Symphony fill the bill with classical music programming, while local theater productions pack the schedule all season at Indio Performing Arts Center, Indian Wells Theater, Palm Canyon Theatre, Black Box Theater, Pollock Theatre at College of the Desert, and the new Helene Galen Theatre for the Performing Arts in Rancho Mirage.

The annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, known simply as “Coachella,” has expanded to two weekends each spring at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, attracting major music headliners from around the globe and generating more than $250 million in local economic impact. The annual Stagecoach festival, also held at Eldorado, features country music’s top artists.

Casinos also bring in high-profile music and comedy acts.

Palm Springs International Film Festival, possibly the area’s most prestigious entertainment event, kicks off the film awards season in January, drawing A-list stars to the red carpet at Palm Springs Convention Center. In June, the festival’s popular Palm Springs International ShortFest offers forums, screening, and festivities for film buffs. Other film events include the American Documentary Film Festival, the Native American FilmFest, Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the new AMFM Fest, featuring films, music, and art.

In addition to programming, the area offers film producers an ideal shooting location. Several cities and organizations provide location incentives and support.

Fashion enthusiasts converge on Palm Desert every March for Fashion Week El Paseo, showcasing the newest collections by emerging and established West Coast designers, such as Beverly Hills couturier Gilbert Chagoury, Palm Springs’ homegrown Michael Costello, and many others. Highlights include runway shows, the Le Chien benefit show for the local humane society, trunk shows, and parties galore.

On the heels of Fashion Week, foodies and wine lovers enjoy the three-day Food+Wine Festival Palm Desert, a celebration of culinary finery with celebrity and Jame Beard award-winning chefs, grand tastings, and demonstrations.

• Total annual salaries in creative sector: $372 million
• Total self-employed receipts: $308+ million
• 1,000 creative businesses in the Greater Palm Springs area
• 9,000 creative employees (does not include freelance and contract talent)
• More than 10,000 independent contractors and creative artists

Source: 2012 Creative California Desert Economic Study

Greater Palm Springs has a creative workforce of more than 19,000 people working in film, advertising, marketing, publishing, video, television, architecture, performing and visual arts, music, public relations, and the culinary arts. These fields contribute more than $1 billion locally in economic activity, according to the 2012 Creative California Desert Economic Study.

ArtsOasis, an initiative of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, is building the creative segment by supporting school programs and attracting high-paying jobs.

ArtsOasis works with Palm Springs Women in Film and Television International and CVEP’s Workforce Excellence and Arts, Media and Entertainment Industry Councils to prepare students for creative careers. “Sixty percent of high school students live in families below the poverty level in this community,” says Robert Stearns, president of ArtsOasis. “Many don’t know they could have a job as a gaffer on a movie set. Here, they can learn about careers, graduate with a high school degree, and work in an exciting theater or film production capacity.”

Others building the film segment include Independent Filmmakers of the Inland Empire, Palm Springs Film Office, Palm Springs Film Alliance, and Inland Empire Film Commission.

ArtsOasis is developing a web-based skills marketplace for the region, starting with media, television, and video production. The estimated economic impact from this sector is $25 million through 2018. Additional wages for the burgeoning workforce could hit $2.5 million through 2018.

All three local public school districts offer media arts programs, including the Digital Arts Technology Academy at Cathedral City High School and the Helene Galen Theatre for the Performing Arts at Rancho Mirage High School, which also plans a culinary arts career pathway.

College of the Desert offers several certificate and transfer programs, including visual arts, music, dance, digital design and production, theater, and culinary arts. Its new 13,948-square-foot visual arts facility in Palm Desert will open in early 2014. Meanwhile, the University of California, Riverside Palm Desert Graduate Center offers a masters of fine arts in creative writing and writing for the performing arts.
Meanwhile, creative types in the culinary realm gravitate to ShareKitchen, a Cathedral City-based nonprofit business incubator helping to develop, package, and market product and create food industry jobs. Visit

Meet Levi Vincent of, a virtual production and animation company that operates inside the Sony PlayStation Home network, with license agreements to develop entertainment platforms. Vincent is one of the first five graduates of the Coachella Valley Innovation Hub Accelerator Campus.

Meet Carole Sumner Krechman, CEO of CV Studios Entertainment Network, a digital multi-platform company that creates content for television, websites, Facebook, Twitter, and mobile apps.

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