Don Kennell's "Road Trip" has stood in La Quinta since 2015.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDON HARMAN.
“Road Trip” by Don Kennell
Avenue 52 and Jefferson Street, La Quinta
Inspired by nature and motivated by a desire to remind viewers how important animals are to the human experience, New Mexico–based artist Don Kennell fabricates large-scale metal sculptures that spark a sense of play. Commissioned by Goldenvoice for the 2014 event, where it stood guard of car camping, this 35-foot-long roadrunner now presides over a traffic circle in La Quinta. As with all of Kennell’s creations, its menacing red eyes are made of handblown glass. Originally, a three-seater porch swing hung from its beak.
“Big Bear” by Don Kennell
Shady Lane Park, Coachella
Our state’s official animal, the California grizzly bear, was last seen in 1924. With this in mind, Don Kennell returned to the festival with another giant animal swing that watched over campers in 2015 and 2016. An engineered structural steel armature supports the swing, emblazoned with the California flag. Kennell’s use of recycled materials speaks to his underlying message: a call to consider the creatures we use as symbols and to care for the diminishing habitats they depend upon.
“Spectra” by Newsubstance
Empire Polo Club, Indio
A fixture at the polo grounds since its installation in 2018, this seven-story landmark invites festivalgoers inside for a hit of air conditioning and an elevated perspective. By day, as guests ascend the spiral walkway, which leads to a top-level observation deck, they are bathed in the shifting colors of its Perspex windows. Each floor features 31 panels that transition pane-by-pane through all seven colors of the spectrum. By night, radials of LEDs illuminate the tower for an altogether different experience. “Spectra” was more than three years in the making, designed by a creative studio in the United Kingdom. It remains on view year-round. However, the Empire Polo Club is private; unless you’re attending the festival, you’ll have to view it from a distance.
“Yard Dog” by Don Kennell
Hjorth Park, Indio
Built in 2011 and acquired by Goldenvoice in 2013, “Yard Dog” was artist Don Kennell’s first foray into monumental metal animal sculptures. It stands 12 feet high and weighs approximately 1,200 pounds. Made of powder-coated steel frames and corrugated sheet metal, with the rough edges folded in, the installation is a contemporary take on the ancient bronze work “Capitoline Wolf.” It used to have a bench swing beneath its belly, a discreet nod to the suckling twins in Kennell’s Renaissance-era reference point.
“Colossal Cacti” by Andrew Kovacs
Smurr Street and Miles Avenue, Indio
Seven vibrantly painted saguaros served as a central meetup spot for festivalgoers in 2019. While the four largest pieces were constructed with wood, intended to be dismantled after the music wrapped, the three smaller ones were made with steel, designed to withstand the elements and find a permanent home. The cactuses — decked in shiny white road reflectors that represent thorns — landed in downtown Indio in early 2022. A mountain mural by local artist Zach Fleming soon followed.
“Etherea” by Edoardo Tresoldi
Cesar Chavez and Sixth streets, Coachella
Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi specializes in architectural wire mesh sculptures that invite passersby to take a load off and stare at the clouds. This one, informed by neoclassical and baroque design styles, is one of three identically shaped structures of varying height that were installed at the festival in 2018. The 54-footer now resides in the city of Coachella, where it became the centerpiece of an empty lot that was ultimately transformed into a public park.
“Sarbalé Ke” by Francis Kéré
Dr. Carreon Park, Indio
In West Africa, the mighty baobab symbolizes life and power, growing thick and tall in an environment where other species fight to survive. As the trees outstretch toward the sun, their trunks hollow and develop holes that let in light. A native of Burkina Faso, now based in Germany, artist and architect Francis Kéré created 12 baobab towers for the 2019 festival. Nine of them, ranging in height from 9 to 49 feet, now serve as a shady gathering place at Dr. Carreon Park.