From parks to street corners, art is all around us

Visiting Palm Desert can be an artful experience. With parks, street medians and buildings accentuated by eye-catching and thought-provoking sculpture, public art is often right around the corner in our city.

Look up as you enter Desert Willow Golf Resort. Yes, that’s a Dale Chihuly glass installation. Check out the bus stop at Highway 111 and San Pablo. Barrett DeBusk’s “Fat Happy” adds a bright spot of color and humor to this somewhat unexpected spot.

Back in 1986, Palm Desert became the first city in Riverside County to enact a public art ordinance, and visitors today can enjoy the benefit that comes after 30-plus years of curating and collecting fine art for all to enjoy.

“Public art defines the city,” says Amy Lawrence, Management Analyst for the City of Palm Desert who manages the city’s Art in Public Places program. “Art creates a place you want to live in or visit. A city has to have basic infrastructure, like streets and parks. Once you move beyond the basic infrastructure, though, it’s public art that adds to the experience and atmosphere.”

While art is on view throughout the city, the largest concentration of artwork can be found along El Paseo, at the Palm Desert Civic Center Park, and in the vicinity of the Palm Desert Library. Since these areas lend themselves to exploration on foot, it’s not surprising that these are also the spots where the City of Palm Desert offers free docent-guided Public Art Tours each month from September through May.

Lawrence manages the City of Palm Desert’s Public Art Docent program, a core group of volunteers who lead these tours. The docents are able to make the artwork come to life and add perspective with information on everything from the artists themselves to the techniques used in the creation of the piece.

“Touring with a Public Art docent adds a lot of local flavor to the experience,” Lawrence explains. “Our docents are members of the community who love to share their enthusiasm for the city and our art collection.”

When the tours return this fall, they offer the last chance to experience the current El Paseo Exhibition. Thanks to its biennial schedule, new artwork appears on El Paseo appears every two years.

Art in Public Places on El Paseo in Palm Desert First, the call goes out for artists to apply to be part of the El Paseo Exhibition and then applicants are reviewed by the City’s Art in Public Places Commission. Once selected, artists have several months to complete their piece and transport it to Palm Desert, where it is installed in the median of the shopping district thoroughfare.

This transition from old to new plays out over the course of several weeks in October and November, when it’s common to see giant cranes hoisting artwork onto their prepared concrete pads. Following the installation, the Public Art Tours return to El Paseo for back-to-back visits in early 2019.

“El Paseo is always our ‘crowd favorite’ and the most popular tour we offer,” Lawrence says. “It’s often seen as being the home for some of our more innovative artwork and that artwork definitely creates a more dynamic environment for our downtown shopping district.”

Each month offers up a new chance to tour the City’s artwork with a trained docent. All tours are held on a Saturday starting at 9 a.m. Here’s the complete schedule for the season:

September 8, 2018 – Civic Center Park
October 6, 2018 – El Paseo Exhibition**
November 3, 2018 – Palm Desert Library
December 8, 2018 – Civic Center Park
January 5, 2019 – El Paseo Exhibition*
February 2, 2019 – El Paseo Exhibition**
March 2, 2019 – Civic Center Park
April 6, 2019 – Palm Desert Library
May 4, 2019 – El Paseo Exhibition*
*Departs from the northwest corner of El Paseo and Portola
**Departs from the northeast corner of El Paseo and Highway 74

If joining up with one the scheduled tours isn’t an option for you, you can still tour the artwork found throughout Palm Desert. Small groups of three or more people can request their own private tour by calling the City in advance at 760-837-1663. Individuals who want to view the artwork on their own can download a tour map from the City’s tourism website or may pick up a copy of the map at Palm Desert Visitor Services inside Palm Desert City Hall.

Wherever your travels take you in our city, Palm Desert’s public art is sure to brighten your journey.

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