"Blast Off Mr. Jones" by JD Shultz, a Spectrum Indian Wells exhibitor.

While Indian Wells will be the focus of the tennis world for much of March thanks to the BNP Paribas Open, art will share the spotlight from Thursday, March 17, to Sunday, March 20, thanks to the first Spectrum Indian Wells, a juried contemporary art show.

During a recent interview with Eric Smith, the Spectrum Indian Wells founder and Redwood Media Group CEO, he explained his local ties. After spending 13 years in Cleveland, Smith now makes his home here in the Coachella Valley.

“We don’t really do art festivals—we do art shows,” Smith said. “It’s hard walls about 10 feet high with truss lighting systems, and it’s more of a gallery atmosphere. We do six across the country: San Diego; we do two in Miami; New York; Santa Fe; and one here in Indian Wells. I was the original founder of the Palm Springs International Art Fair in 1999. I ran that for five years until I sold my company. I got to escort Dolores Hope around the show, and Mary Bono was there, too. It was really fun. I think I was a bit ahead of my time, and I really enjoyed producing that show. It was smaller, and it was at the convention center. … I ended up buying it back in 2009, and I live here in Palm Desert.”

Smith is an avid tennis player who closely follows the BNP Paribas Open.

“I always thought there was a missing link of something to do during the tennis tournament,” he said. “That was kind of the motivation. During the last week of the tennis tournament, you’re down to semifinals and finals. There’s not much going on. Everyone is looking for something to do, and I thought, ‘Let’s start another nice art show in the Coachella Valley.’ The Renaissance (Indian Wells Resort) was available, and that’s where a lot of the tennis players stay, and a lot of wealthy individuals are here for the tournament, so it just made sense. The (target) demographic is the people galleries are looking for. Plus we have a large following and a large exhibitor base. But with all that being said, it’s hard to start a first-year show.

“When I went to the Renaissance, they asked me, ‘Do you think people will come during the tennis tournament?’ I said, ‘That’s what everyone asks me, and here’s my explanation: I think they’re going to come in droves. I play tennis and go to the tennis tournament. During the last four days, the only court that’s left is Center Court, and that’s it: 450,000 people attend that tournament, and for the last couple days, there are 14,000 attending each night, and that’s it.’ They can come over, eat at the Renaissance, have another glass of champagne, tour the grounds—and that’s the idea.”

Smith is producing the show with his own money and the help of UBS, which is the art show’s main sponsor. He described the art that will be on display at the show.

“(There will be) some great photography, and two- and three-dimensional work,” he said. “We have that great rose lawn at the Renaissance, and we’re going to place some sculptures out there. It will be a combination of traditional, modern and contemporary work. We’ll have realism, impressionism, landscapes and abstracts. We have a lot of great artists. (There is) not a lot of glass work or anything like that. We’ll have about 50 exhibitors, and it will really be a nice atmosphere. It won’t be like La Quinta, and it will be more like the Palm Springs (Fine) Art Fair.”

Smith said he really wants people in the area for the tennis tournament to come to the show.

“Anybody who has a tennis-tournament ticket can come in for free,” he said. “Our goal is to grow it over the next three years and provide a nice aesthetic and a wonderful atmosphere for artists and galleries to sell their work.”

Smith’s message to both tennis-tournament attendees and the general public: Come and enjoy.

“There will be some mid-career artists, a few emerging artists, and artists who have been around awhile,” he said. “There’s a nice mixture and a lot of galleries, too.

“Come and enjoy yourselves. It’s a great week for the Coachella Valley with the tennis tournament, and we’re just adding a little spice to it.”

The Spectrum Indian Wells art show takes place Thursday, March 17, through Sunday, March 20, at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa, 44400 Indian Wells Lane, in Indian Wells. Admission prices vary; a general-admission day pass is $20. For tickets or more information, visit spectrum-indianwells.com.

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...