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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Now that the scorching summer temperatures are (mostly) behind us for the year, it’s appropriate to think about doing things outside. Like, for example, gardening.

That means it’s a perfect time for the 14th Annual Desert Garden Community Day, taking place at the University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus on Saturday, Oct. 26.

The annual event is a production of the Desert Horticultural Society of Coachella Valley, which got its start in 2005 at The Living Desert, thanks to a small group of locals who shared a love for the environment and its native plants. When the society was founded, there were only 30 members, but today, the nonprofit counts almost 500 members—and the free-to-all Annual Desert Garden Community Day is its biggest event, put on with help from UCR Palm Desert and the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardner program.

“The focus this year will be on growing native plants and exactly how to have a successful experience,” said Tracy Merrigan, president of the Desert Horticultural Society. “There will be free classes, hands-on projects for kids and adults, and booths with environmental organizations including this year’s sponsor, the Desert Water Agency.”

Plant-health advisers will be on hand to answer questions and offer tips on how to plant vegetables and other vegetation that can thrive in the valley’s hot weather.

“You can have a lush, beautiful garden that is also irrigation-friendly to our dry environment,” Merrigan said. “The reason we are so heavily focused on desert plants this year is because last year, we received an abundance of inquiries asking how to plant flowering succulents and wildflowers. So we just bounced off that idea.”

While deserts in general are often viewed as barren, Merrigan said that is not necessarily the case.

“The one thing that has entranced me by the desert is how lush (it can be),” Merrigan said. “There are so many birds and lizards. You can interact with wildlife out here unlike any other place. You can get up close and see how magical it all is.”

The event will cover more than just plants and how to grow them; it’ll also include lessons on how to design gardens and landscapes themselves. Merrigan said it’s even possible to plant grass in the desert—and keep your conscience clear.

“Many of the desert plants have been hybridized from other species that have been planted,” Merrigan said. “They change; they are very adaptable. This class will show you that you don't have to go completely native. You can still be water-friendly and environmentally friendly and have grass in the desert.”

To support ongoing education and help the future of horticulture, the Desert Horticultural Society for the last five years has awarded local scholarships to students attending the College of the Desert who are majoring in horticulture, landscaping or golf-course management. This year, two scholarships will be awarded during the Annual Desert Garden Community Day.

Attendees can also enjoy food vendors, kids’ activities and a plant sale by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.

“It’s just a happy day,” Merrigan said. “Everyone has a smile on their faces. This year’s speakers and clinics will be fun and amazing.”

The 14th Annual Desert Garden Community Day will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, at UCR Palm Desert, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit deserthorticulturalsociety.org.

Published in Local Fun

The California Indian Nations College is celebrating its first year of offering unique higher-education courses to local Native Americans students.

While the school didn’t start offering courses until the fall of 2018, its genesis occurred in 2015, when Theresa Mike began meeting with local tribal leaders and academic leaders in Southern California. While there are currently 37 accredited tribal colleges in the United States, there is not one in California.

In 2017, CINC received seed funding from the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. The school’s partners include College of the Desert; the University of California, Riverside; and CSU-San Bernardino. The college’s offices are on the UCR Palm Desert Campus.

T. Robert Przeklasa, CINC’s vice president of academic affairs, said the college fills a disconcerting need.

“The latest figures were put out in 2016. CSU-San Marcos’ California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center put out figures that showed in California and the United States, (Native American college) enrollment is inching down,” Przeklasa said.

Celeste Townsend, the interim president of CINC, suggested a possible reason for that decrease.

“Not everybody claims (they’re) Native American,” Townsend said. “When you go around to these colleges and universities, the enrollment is 1 percent. How many students are claiming Native American as their primary ethnicity, and how many are choosing not to claim?”

Even though there’s a sizable Native American population in the Coachella Valley, Townsend said she’s dealt with a lot of misconceptions.

“During our meetings with College of the Desert as one of the first points of contact we had, they asked us, ‘Where are you going to get your students?’” Townsend said. “We were like, ‘Are you kidding? We’re in the desert. There are so many tribes within this area!’ So there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and misconceptions. … A lot of universities go after those (students) straight out of high schools. We opened it up to anybody and everybody. Having been someone who took 12 years to get an (associate’s) degree, I come from an understanding that you go where you are comfortable. Some of them don’t feel comfortable.”

Townsend said she and her colleagues were surprised by the immediate demand for what CINC was offering.

“We moved in here last year in July, and September was when we were approved to offer the general-education courses for CINC,” Townsend said. “We had 3 1/2 weeks to recruit, and we needed to have 12 students in each class. In 3 1/2 weeks, we landed 40 students. Seeing the age range and the students wasn’t just really exciting; it was really heartfelt. … We were like, ‘Wow! (The demand) is really out there! We’re just trying to start!’

“We’re still developing policies and procedures, and we still need to get our necessary accreditation. We’re cart before the horse, offering these courses through College of the Desert, which is our incubator and our host, with UCR supporting our offices. We’re trying to establish California Indian Nations College as a standalone college.”

Townsend said they learned a lot from their first year of offering courses.

“Our vision at first was to offer these culturally infused courses for our students, but seeing the diversity we have in the age and desires of our students, there has to be that personalized focus,” Townsend said. “We have a personal approach: ‘What can we do? How can we help you?’ We’ve found that (some students) are struggling with writing. You have those who are needing that extra writing and math support, which we have begun to offer through workshops. We concentrated on offering English 1A, which is composition, and a counseling class to develop an educational plan for themselves. … We’re trying to accommodate their needs by offering these classes while still trying to build a college, build a program and build degrees.”

California Indian Nations College is seeking regional accreditation, which can take years to achieve.

“Regional accreditation is quite a process,” Przeklasa said. “You have to become eligible for accreditation. In California, the accrediting body is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. You have to be operating for three years with students and finances before you can even apply to be eligible. Once you’re granted eligibility, you have to supply more years of records. … Basically you’re looking, at the very earliest, of seven years of operations.

“We wanted to be sure our classes counted. … If we were offering them on our own, it wouldn’t fly. (Other colleges) wouldn’t recognize the courses. So we started with this partnership with UC Riverside, and the plan was to offer classes through their extension. When we started talking more with the accrediting commission, they said, ‘UC doesn’t offer associate’s degrees, so you can’t work with them. Find an institution that offers two-year degrees.’ That’s when we started working with College of the Desert. We’re doing our best to operate and move toward accreditation while still getting our students those courses that can be transferred.”

While looking at the courses offered, I noticed a class for tribal-law-related matters. That led to a discussion of why college education is important for tribal sovereignty to survive.

“We have a student who is from one of the tribes east of here. She is a little older and has said to me, ‘My tribe doesn’t have leaders anymore. They’ve passed on, and somebody needs to take over. I need to educate myself so I can take over,’” Przeklasa said.

CINC is currently offering classes for free.

“During our first term, the Theresa A. Mike Scholarship Foundation gave scholarships to all of our students. They were fully funded in these courses. For this (concluding spring) term, the courses are funded, and students don’t have a financial barrier again; all they have to do is purchase their books and get to school, and everything else is covered,” Przeklasa said. “We’re working hard with our foundation and our development people to ensure that we have the support for the college so we can do that and buy out the classes to ensure that there is no cost for our students. However, should we have to charge the students tuition, it’s going to be the same tuition as College of the Desert. There are a number of programs that College of the Desert has through the state where if you meet the criteria, you can get in for free. There are also Pell Grants and the Promise Grant, so those avenues of financial assistance would be open to the students.”

Townsend said CINC has a lot more work to do.

“When you look at the college as a whole, we need educated board members. We need faculty recruitment. We still need to recruit and focus on these students. We need to continue to work on our curriculum.”

For more information, visit cincollege.org.

Published in Local Issues

Indio resident Tod Goldberg, 48, talks very fast—which makes sense, because he has a lot to say.

The author of hundreds of books and articles, he is also the founder and director of the 10-year-old low-residency master’s program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus.

“I wanted to have an MFA program on the business of writing,” he says, “so our participants get published or get their works produced. I see my job as getting my students’ work sold, and we’ve been extraordinarily successful.”

The program has had more than 300 students, with more than 75 percent of them being published or produced within two years of graduation from the program. Goldberg oversees a faculty of 16 and an online-mentor program, in addition to the intensive 10-day residency workshop, held annually at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage.

Goldberg, born in Walnut Creek and raised in the Coachella Valley, comes from a family of writers. His mother, Jan Curran, now deceased, was the society editor for The Desert Sun for many years. She had been a columnist and editor long before coming to the desert.

“I used to fall asleep to my mom writing her column. To this day, the sound of an IBM Selectric typewriter can make me fall peacefully asleep,” Goldberg says.

His father was a television news reporter and station manager; his parents divorced when he was 2 years old. Goldberg has three siblings, all older: his brother, Lee, a novelist and television producer; sister Karen, a lawyer and author; and sister Linda, an artist and author. “Between the four of us,” says Goldberg, “we’ve published about 100 books!”

Goldberg’s wife, Wendy Duren, is also a writer. They married in 1998, lived in Las Vegas until 2000, and then settled in the desert.

“We have no kids,” says Goldberg, “but we do have two dogs.”

Goldberg didn’t really learn to read until he was about 10 or 11 years old. “I was dyslexic,” he recalls, “and the first book I remember that had a profound emotional effect on me was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I stole that book from the library, because it was considered too old of a read for me at that age. My mom had a great appreciation of literature, and when she found I had taken the book, she marched me back to the library and told the librarian, ‘Every single book in this library belongs to my son!’

“Steinbeck was easy to read, but asked difficult ethical questions, like about the nature of love between men, and what it means to care for someone in such a profound way that you would take their life to save their life. It also made a difference that the book took place in Northern California, in places I had been. It was important to me as a writer to know that something that was made up happened in a real place that I could see.”

After graduating from Palm Springs High School in 1989, Goldberg earned his bachelor’s degree in English at California State University, Northridge, in 1994. “I have to admit I majored in ‘frat boy,’” he says. “I was a terrible student, but I was involved in student government and was homecoming king!”

He went on to receive his master’s degree in fine arts from Bennington College in Vermont: “I became an excellent student. I really cared because I was finally doing the thing I loved most—writing.”

Goldberg’s first book, Fake Liar Cheat, was published in 2000 by Simon and Schuster.

“I was very lucky,” he says. “After college, I had published short fiction pieces, so I had established a literary reputation. That makes agents take notice of you. I started writing the book in 1998, and it’s really something, seeing what you write in print.”

Although Goldberg’s primary focus revolves around crime and criminals, he cites Empire Falls—a 2001 novel by Richard Russo which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2002—as a major influence. “He taught me how to write from multiple points of view, and how small towns could mirror all the problems of a big world,” Goldberg says. “I’ve also been influenced by writers like Margaret Atwood, Aimee Bender and Susan Straight, who changed my view of magical realism, dystopia and our own Inland Empire.”

Goldberg has also written opinion pieces for various newspapers across the country, focused on violence in the United States: “I remember once seeing a boxer die in the ring when I was a kid, and I’ve written essays about the terrible side of life. I’m always trying to understand why seemingly normal people do abnormal things.”

A prolific reader, Goldberg can quickly rattle off a host of titles he read in various decades of his life: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (“It showed that absurdity had a place in the world”); crime authors like Ralph Ellison and Lawrence Block; Richard Ford’s Rock Springs and The Sportswriter (“He taught me that genre fiction could be mixed with other concepts”); and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (“I learned the ability to look at the vulnerability of people in combat”). Goldberg is currently working on a series of four books about Rabbi David Cohen, a fictional character based on a real hitman from Chicago.

“I prioritize the things that are most important to me,” he says. “I write one to two hours every other day, but once I’m into it, I’m pretty regimented. Mornings, I read students’ work and sometimes write book reviews. I’m most creative in the evening, and when there are no classes, I’ll write from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., but I also need to be able to turn it off. Wendy’s also a writer, so she understands. She’ll ask, ‘Who am I talking to right now: the hit man, the rabbi or my husband?’

“I’m a kind of method actor when I’m writing. I need to replicate a character’s language and keep it in my head; otherwise, the character doesn’t feel human. I’m fascinated by what gets people to kill. People make irrational decisions when they feel pressed against the wall. There are lots of great books about killing in a war, but in crime fiction, there’s a glorification of violence I find disturbing. In my books, there is always a ripple, a ramification, a consequence.

“I write because I have to, and because it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve satisfied what I always wanted out of my life: a beautiful wife, and the desire to write and to teach.”

Tod Goldberg has a lot to say, and he has found a way to build his life around saying it.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

“The history of man is the history of crimes, and history can repeat. So information is a defense. Through this we can build, we must build, a defense against repetition.” —Simon Wiesenthal

Tom Dugan is bringing his one-man off-Broadway show Wiesenthal (Nazi Hunter) to Palm Desert for two shows—one already sold out—as the start of a nationwide tour.

When I spoke to Dugan, I had to ask: Why did he tackle a subject as heavy as the Holocaust for this one-man show?

“My father was a product of the Great Depression, and when he fought at the end of World War II, he went to liberate one of the death camps,” Dugan said. “He saw all these people starving and dying. He saw that there was plenty of food in the reserves for all these people. (The Nazis) chose not to give it to them—and instead, to use it against them—and he never quite grasped the reason why people would do that to each other.

“I always wanted to create a piece that was powerful and uplifting at the same time. I didn’t know how to do that until one day, I was reading about Simon Wiesenthal.”

Wiesenthal (1908-2005) was a Holocaust survivor who spent about four years in various concentration camps. After he was freed, he dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals.

“The point is just to take a sliver out of time and life,” Dugan said. “… Simon was a good subject to pick, because he was an aspiring amateur comedian before World War II, so it’s easy to add levity to the story. There are many friends of his who have relayed his anecdotes and jokes to me. The experience is meant to be an uplifting and poignant night out.”

Dugan said Holocaust survivors who have seen the show have expressed gratitude.

“The most fulfilling of surprises have been when survivors from the Holocaust come to the show and bring their families. Oftentimes, they will come up to tell me that I could tell their story better than they could—and now they feel that their family can truly understand the experience they had,” he said.

I had to ask Dugan what Wiesenthal would think about the resurgence of nationalist movements, both in the United States and abroad.

“I can only make a speculation that he would not be surprised,” Dugan said. “Things have been moving this direction for a while. It works in a cycle. People who (lived through the) experience are gone, and the others forget. Then things go back. He is often quoted of speaking about the human savage, and it is mankind’s job to control and contain this savage within us. The lessons from this play are very topical in our country today. Wiesenthal’s mission was to give voice to those who were silenced, encouraging future generations to fight against hatred and intolerance for all people.

“This is what is fun about the questions and answers after the show. You never know who will show up or what they will say. I once had a student even tell me that the show ‘didn’t suck like I thought it would.’”

While Dugan has a number of TV and film credits on his résumé, his most notable successes have come via the one-man historical shows he’s written.

“I wrote a play called Shades of Gray about Robert E. Lee,” he said. “It’s gotten too controversial to do now, because who Robert E. Lee was is not who the general public thinks he was.” Dugan also wrote and directed a show about Frederick Douglass, In the Shadow of Slavery; The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln; and Jackie Unveiled, about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

I asked him whether it’s harder to write about real people than fictional characters.

“You can’t make things up,” he said. “You have to know who you’re writing about and really learn who they were.”

Wiesenthal (Nazi Hunter) will be performed at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 9, at the Riverside Theatre on the UC Riverside-Palm Desert Campus, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Palm Desert; a question-and-answer session follows each show. Tickets are $55; as of our press deadline, tickets remained for the 2 p.m. show, while the 7:30 p.m. show had sold out. For tickets or information, call 866-811-4111, or visit wiesenthaltheshow.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is a program offered at both the Cal State San Bernardino and the University of California-Riverside campuses in Palm Desert. Osher offers noncredit courses targeting the 50-plus population “interested in learning for the pure joy of it” at more than 100 universities in all 50 states.

Osher instructors include college professors and experienced professionals, and subjects cover a wide range of subjects, from movie-making to blogging to financial planning to philosophy. But not just anyone can join the Osher faculty; some prospective teachers “audition” with a one-day presentation, to determine whether a proposed course will meet Osher’s standards.

That is how I met Vinny Stoppia.

Vinny is the author of The Austrian Woman, aka Marie Antoinette, Queen of Versailles. Most of us know little about the infamous French queen beyond, “Let them eat cake!” Stoppia has culminated a lifetime obsession with this fascinating woman in his well-researched and enjoyably readable book. He had a tryout with Osher in front of a packed house.

How does a guy born and raised in Queens, N.Y., end up obsessed with Marie Antoinette?

“My parents weren’t readers, but when I was 8, I got a library card,” he said. “I read every book in the children’s section, and at 10, they let me browse through the adult section. I became focused on history and got interested in George Washington and the American Revolution. I found lots of references to a ‘Citizen Genet,’ the brother of the French queen’s lady-in-waiting, who came to the U.S. to try to influence America’s policy toward France. I wanted to know more about him, and no matter what I read, particularly about the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette’s name kept surfacing.

“I became an admirer of her,” said Stoppia, “when I read that when the odds were stacked against her, her response was, ‘I’m going to go forward.’ I found that so inspiring. I made a vow at 19 that I would one day write a book about her that would alter people’s perceptions of her.

“Everyone thinks of her as the pre-incarnation of the infamous Leona Helmsley of New York—self-absorbed, insular, thinking only about herself. But when she had to, she stepped up to the plate.”

Stoppia majored in French literature at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, because he had decided he wanted to read Marie Antoinette’s letters in their original French.

“I had always wanted to be a teacher, and I received two fellowships which would have taken me toward a Ph.D., but I was No. 30 in the draft lottery (during the Vietnam War),” he said. “I decided to apply for conscientious-objector status. I knew French really well, so I thought of going to Canada, but I made it past the draft board and then had to do two years of service in lieu of going into the military. Just as I was about to be assigned to a mental hospital, the United Nations took me instead.”

Stoppia wound up spending 23 years with the UN, specializing in meeting services and in keeping delegates happy. “I met all of the big world political figures from the 1970s to the 1990s,” he said.

While in New York, Stoppia worked as a volunteer with HIV/AIDS patients. “They didn’t even call it AIDS then,” he remembers. “It was a terrible experience to watch men die. People were so afraid to go near them. They even wanted us to suit up like astronauts before we went into someone’s room. I remember Easter of 1985, and one man who knew he was close to death, crying out, ‘Please, help me.’ I had to clean him up, and I remember thinking, ‘This is a privilege, a parting gift I can give to him.’ I’ve learned that not living with blinders on makes life much more interesting. There are so many stories.”

Stoppia came out to his own family at 28. “I knew it was going to be difficult. When they found out, they wanted to sell the house and move. They never got to 100 percent acceptance.

“My mom taught me about service and knowing how to get what you need, how to survive. My relationship with my dad was rocky; he always wanted to ‘toughen me up.’ I never cried as a kid; I had to ‘be a man.’ But I once had a flashback to when he was giving me a bath at about age 4, and he caressed me; I had forgotten he could be nurturing. One of my regrets in life is that I wasn’t present enough to speak with my father about his impending death, to help him on his final journey.”

Stoppia came to Palm Springs in 1993, and loves it. He has volunteered as a docent at the Palm Springs Art Museum for 17 years, teaches Spanish classes, and has given time to a local hospice.

“I got sick with AIDS after I got here, and decided, ‘This isn’t going to kill me. There’s still something important that I have to do,’” he said.

After attempting to write about Marie Antoinette during every decade of his life, Stoppia finally hit his stride and completed the book in three years. The amount of research he has done is evident—not only via the gossipy insider stories from behind palace walls that he can tell, but also via amazing photographs illustrating his presentation.

I thought Stoppia might have been a frustrated standup comic based on his flamboyant sense of humor and his ability to connect with those crowded into the auditorium, but he said he perfected his audience-friendly style in his many years of leading museum tours. “It was when I realized that those skills are what I should be bringing to my writing that the book finally just rolled out.” His take-away message: “To strive, to seek, and not to yield.”

Stoppia’s “audition” to teach the Osher course about Marie Antoinette was successful, and he is on their schedule for the upcoming season. He will show that the French queen is about much more than eating cake.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays at noon on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Film

Screening of ‘Tim’s Vermeer’

Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all of art: How did 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically, 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers. This is a Penn and Teller Film, produced by Penn Jillette. Q&A to follow with Lisa Soccio, assistant professor/gallery director at College of the Desert. 6 p.m., Thursday, April 16. Free. University of California at Riverside—Palm Desert, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert. 760-202-4007; palmdesert.ucr.edu/programs/ArtDoc13.html.

Music and More

Aiden James

Don’t miss Aiden James performing his latest single, “Last Reminder,” from his album Trouble With This, which launched at No. 28 on the iTunes Top 100. Dinner at 5:30 p.m., with show at 7 p.m., Friday, April 10. $20 show only. Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 800-838-3006; purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Best of Sam Harris

Sam Harris’ career has run the gamut from singer and songwriter to actor on Broadway, film and television, to writer, director, producer and now, author. After winning Star Search in its premiere season, Sam and his powerhouse pop, gospel and theater influenced vocals have never looked back. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 11. $60 to $75. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Cabaret 88: Donna Theadore

An American actress and singer who first came to attention as a headliner at many famous nightclubs during the 1960s, Theodore won a Theater World Award and Drama Desk Award, and received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 1975 musical Shenandoah. She is best remembered for her appearances with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, making more than 50 guest appearances. 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 8. $88. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Comedy at the Symphony

Piano humorist Wayland Pickard leads an evening of music and comedy in the PBS tradition of Victor Borge, Roger Williams, Peter Nero and Liberace—all rolled into one. His impressions include selections from famous “piano men” such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Scott Joplin, Jerry Lee Lewis and even Schroeder from “Peanuts.” 7 p.m., Saturday, April 11. $25 to $45, with discounts. Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-360-2222; www.cvsymphony.com.

Opera in the Park

This free annual concert is a celebration of opera music. Bring a picnic lunch and join thousands of Coachella Valley residents and visitors to enjoy an afternoon of incredible music in an informal, tranquil outdoor setting with a professional orchestra and eight young up-and-coming opera singers. Noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 12. Free. Sunrise Park, 401 S. Pavilion Way, Palm Springs. 760-325-6107; palmspringsoperaguild.org.

Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus Presents: Extrabbaganza

The Swedish pop group ABBA topped the music charts from 1975-1982. Their music found new life in movie musicals. The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will perform a long list of ABBA’s hits. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 25; and 3 p.m., Sunday, April 26. $25 to $50. Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, Palm Springs. 760-219-2077; www.psgmc.com.

Tachevah, A Palm Springs Block Party

A concert for music fans midway between the two 2015 Coachella weekends. The celebration of music and our city takes place outside the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs, and a DJ will keep the party rolling in between band sets. 5 to 10 p.m., Wednesday, April 15. Free. Spa Resort Casino, at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Calle Encilia, Palm Springs. Facebook.com/Tachevah.

The USO Variety Show

The USO has been entertaining troops worldwide in times of peace and war for more 70 years. Now, the Bob Hope USO needs you to laugh, enjoy and have some fun remembering the good ol’ times. Join us for a live nostalgic tribute to Bob Hope and his band of Hollywood celebs; enjoy free tours of the museum pre- or post-show time. 2 p.m., Thursday, April 9. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; palmspringsvacationtravel.com.

Zero Gravity: Music Festival After Hours Party

Zero Gravity will feature a mixture of top talent, emerging artists and special guest appearances. This year, the fairgrounds will be transformed into a mega-club party with amazing sound, lighting, lasers, larger-than-life artwork, exceptional VIP services and more. 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 10-18. Must request an invitation at the website; lineup and ticket prices TBA. Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, Indio. Rocketboyevents.com.

Special Events

Cathedral City LGBT Days

Not your typical Pride event, this weekend promises to be interactive, festive and OUTrageous! Enjoy area restaurants, music, hot air balloon rides, the costume “charity bed race” LGBT films and more. Various times, prices and locations in Cathedral City. Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 5. 760-770-0340; www.discovercathedralcity.com/index.php/event/cathedral-city-lgbt-days.

The Dinah Shore Weekend

Club Skirts presents The Dinah, the largest girl party music festival in the world, rocking Palm Springs since 1991. Various times and locations, Wednesday, April 1, through Sunday, April 5. Prices vary; weekend passes $269. Thedinah.com.

White Party Palm Springs

The largest gay dance party in the world. DJs, live performances, pool parties and more. Various times, prices and locations, Friday, April 24, through Monday, April 27. Jeffreysanker.com.

Visual Arts

99 Bucks Sale

The Palm Springs Artists Council presents this annual major fundraiser for the Education Department. Celebrities as well as Artists Council members and other artists create artwork on 5-by-7 canvases for this popular and intriguing one night event. The purchaser selects works to buy, and only after purchase do they learn the name of the artist. 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, April 11. Free. Riviera Resort and Spa Grand Ballroom, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-4850; www.psmuseum.org/artists-council.

Indian Wells Arts Festival

More than 200 award-winning artists featuring hundreds of pieces of one-of-a-kind artwork available for purchase. The Second Annual Objet Trouvé Found Art Festival joins once again, featuring award-winning found artists creating a “festival of festivals.” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 5. $13; children 12 and under free. Indian Wells Tennis Garden, 78200 Miles Ave., Indian Wells. 760-346-0042; www.indianwellsartsfestival.com.

Submit your free arts listings at calendar.artsoasis.org. The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun

Many works included in Figuratively Speaking—the art show now on display at the University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus—could very easily be found in a higher-end gallery on El Paseo or Palm Canyon Drive. The show’s curator, Ryan “Motel” Campbell—whose own works in the show are notably strong—expertly selected drawings, paintings and sculpture that depict how artists capture the human condition.

The show consists of some 30 works; it extends from the first-floor atrium/gallery space to the second floor. Unfortunately, a number of the larger pieces presented on the second floor are difficult to appreciate fully; they are too large for the space, and the lighting is poor.

Russell Jacques’ bronze, “She,” elegantly and simply presents his subject. While not as simplified and streamlined as, say, the sculptures of Constantin Brâncusi, “She” shows Jacques aiming to find the essence of the female form.  The not-highly-polished sculpture creates a midcentury sensibility, with its various curved surfaces.

Gary Paterson’s canvases are the show’s most fun. His approach is a clear nod to pop-art masters who take aim at popular culture (e.g., soup cans). Here, however, there is a difference: Paterson takes aim at those artists.

Paterson’s backdrop is a geometric pattern. He notes that his “patterns are created primarily from textiles—stitch patterns, quilting patterns—and in some cases using Notan, light/dark patterning originating in Japan.” Paterson’s subjects are also seen through the same pattern, usually painted in lighter colors. Essentially, the subject lives between the background pattern and what might be thought of as a foreground scrim.

“Blue Nude” is clearly inspired by the Henri Matisse classic. Paterson creates a background grid in ice-blue and off-white, which continues across the front of the nude—now in a darker blue that contrasts with his painting of Matisse’s iconic figure.

With “Wesselmania,” the artist spoofs Tom Wesselmann, melding the characteristics of the late pop-art icon’s works. Paterson’s brightly colored geometric rectangles, on the diagonal, create a backdrop and a sense of movement behind two nude women lying—or perhaps wrestling—on a couch. They are less people and more object, like many Wesselmann nudes: The women have big hair and no eyes, and, as the artist notes, “come across as brainless.” Behind the women are typical Wesselmann props (e.g., flowers, a stylized partial sun, flat planes of color outlined in black).

Paterson’s more-subtle use of the aforementioned grid in front of the women makes the viewer seem like a voyeur looking through sheer bedroom curtains.

Meridy Volz’s paintings—both large and midsize canvases—are among the most socially conscious pieces in the show. Up close, her use of intense, bright colors (yellow, red, blue) and sharp textured brushwork seem disjointed and, at times, jarring. However, with some distance, the impasto softens, and the imagery—even when Volz addresses difficult subjects—becomes inviting.

“Betty in Repose,” a large horizontal canvas, captures a woman, quite likely homeless, asleep on a park bench, on top of what appear to be her belongings. In the background, clusters of figures are clearly doing their own thing. These background figures—much smaller and in muted colors—push Betty forward, making her seem more isolated and disenfranchised.

Volz’s smaller painting, “Incarcerated Boys,” conveys a similar sense of aloneness. Her composition includes three adolescents positioned behind vibrant blue-white bars. The contrast is disconcerting: While the prison bars are vibrant, the boys appear isolated, confused and in disbelief.

“Socialite” is Volz’s most-optimistic painting. Dressed in a colorful, well-draped dress with a matching turban, the statuesque model stands alone. The socialite gazes away—even though her head looks straight toward the viewer. “Socialite” is reminiscent of the works of American impressionists like William Merritt Chase and John Singer Sargent. However, Volz applies her own distinct style (thick brush stokes, intense bright colors), creating an entirely different experience.

The weakest works in the show come from Alyssa Bixon and Luis Costo. Both artists are technically proficient; however, their paintings seem derivative and studied. Other artists in the show include Temo Aldrete, Larry Caveney, Gesso Cocteau, Marcy Gregory, Ming C. Lowe, Andres Orlowski, Adam Rodrigues, Laurel Thomas and Robert Yancy.

Figuratively Speaking is on display in University Building B on the University of California, Riverside, Palm Desert campus, at 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, through Jan. 31. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 760-834-0800, or visit palmdesert.ucr.edu/programs/exhibitions.html.

Based in Cathedral City, Victor S. Barocas is a photographer, author and educator/business coach. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Visual Arts