The Coachella Valley Art Scene (CVAS) has come a long way since founder and executive director Sarah Scheideman started the whole thing as a blog in 2008.
Since its humble beginnings, the organization has left a unique footprint on the Coachella Valley with its arts-related events. The 111 Music Festival, in collaboration with the Sunline Transit Agency, places local bands inside buses; the musicians perform as the buses travel down the road. Last year, CVAS put on its first Street festival at the Westfield Shopping Center in Palm Desert. The group has been a part of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for multiple years, and after operating a gallery in Cathedral City that closed in 2016, CVAS moved to the Westfield Shopping Center.
Today, CVAS continues to evolve. In fact, when I went to interview Scheideman at the location inside the Westfield mall, known as “MAKE,” the group was preparing to move to a smaller, less prominent storefront, giving up the “MAKE” space for the seasonal Halloween and Christmas stores that occupy it during the fall and winter months.
Scheideman said she’s delighted with the relationship that the Coachella Valley Art Scene has with the Westfield mall.
“It started when they had the idea for the ‘First Fridays’ events,” Scheideman said. “They wanted to have art and music on the top floor of one of the parking structures. They wanted to have something that could cater to their audience here at the mall. They wanted to partner with an organization to really take on the art aspect and the direction for it. After they did some research and visited our old gallery, they met us and asked if we wanted to do some art pieces. It seemed like a great fit. It started out with us producing the Street festival, but then they really believed in what we did and continued it. It’s been an organic and harmonious relationship.”
When CVAS was given the keys to the now-former “MAKE” location in the mall, the group had one week to prepare and open. Now CVAS is prepping to make the smaller space, called StreetHQ, its next temporary home. Scheideman expressed a positive outlook about the change.
“It’s totally understandable,” she said. “It’s kind of fun for us, because we can take a break from having a space so big and go back to something smaller, then we can revisit back in here and do what we’re doing in here better. … After about three months, we’ve found out how to work within a mall setting, and it’s been a learning experience.”
CVAS has now been a nonprofit organization for more than a year, and that transition has not been easy. The group recently established a board of directors and rolled out a new membership program with three tiers: members can contribute $10, $30 or $100 per month. Donors who commit to $100 a month will have the opportunity to become board members of the organization.
“We have a board of directors right now, but it’s very small,” Scheideman said. “… We’re fairly new to building a structure for (being a nonprofit) and all that. But we’re going through and involving a whole new board of directors, initiating a membership program, and developing our organization to serve our community the best that we can.”
Scheideman said it’s often been difficult for CVAS to generate revenue, given the organization’s focus.
“We like to feature upcoming and young artists and stay focused on trying to inspire the younger and millennial generation to stay here in the Coachella Valley and keep creating art. It’s hard to make money off of that,” Scheideman said. “When you’re creating culture like that, money isn’t really a main focus. As soon as we opened the gallery in Cathedral City, we realized the essence of what we were doing was community service.”
While Scheideman praised CVAS’ homes inside the Westfield mall, she said she hopes CVAS one day has a permanent space.
“The mall has been a great opportunity, because it gave us the ability to expand beyond our online presence,” she said. “But the dream would be to have a location where we can have more art shows and a venue that would be open later at night. That’s what would make a permanent location nice to have.”
The new location in the mall will serve, in part, as a three-month-long promotion for the second annual Street festival, which is focused on hip-hop culture, spoken word and poetry; mark your calendars for Nov. 4. CVAS is also getting ready for the third annual 111 Music Festival, and for the return of a classic Coachella Valley Art Scene event.
“We’re in the process of trying to bring back Doo Wop in the Desert, which is our retro Valentine’s Day-themed party that we did that featured all ’50s doo-wop music, with the costumes, the décor and the whole thing. We had been doing that for about five years until we stopped doing it last year, but we’re bringing it back and making it better this year.”
After a turbulent year, Scheideman said she’s looking forward to further establishing CVAS’ presence.
“After the three-month activation of Street, we’d like to move back in here (to the HERE space), and we really want to have better programming,” she said. “We want to have classes. … We also want to develop poetry and literary scenes here in the desert.”
For more information on the Coachella Valley Art Scene, visit www.thecoachellavalleyartscene.com. Full disclosure: Brian Blueskye has done freelance work for CVAS in the past.