The Hi-Desert Cultural Center is a mere 35 miles from downtown Palm Springs. It’s a place where artists from around the world have come to express themselves while being surrounded by nature.
The center hosts a theater and a philharmonic. It’s been around since 1964. Red Skelton even performed there—and there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of it. Therefore, you may want to consider one of the center’s most popular events, a twice-a-year evening that will return for its seventh edition on Saturday, Aug. 18.
“Desert Stories is a one-night event that offers … local, high desert artists the chance to tell their stories,” said Michael McCall, the art curator for the brand-new Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center, an “annex” of the Hi-Desert Cultural Center. “It’s an interesting event. I went to the one in January. The event is amazing; you’ll have 10 to 12 people doing a presentation, and it usually is a sold-out full house. Each presentation is done differently; somebody will do stand-up comedy; some of it is a musical presentation, or a visual presentation with imagery on the displayed on the wall behind the person.”
McCall has been busy; he’s also working on Desert Icons, a show at the new Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center. It’s slated to open on Aug. 25; the current, inaugural exhibition, Ground to Sky, will be on display through Aug. 11.
“The show centers around the desert in art, and how artists interpret it,” he said. “It is extending what an idea of an icon is. I wanted to do a show that is about the desert and its icons.”
McCall moved to the high desert around the start of the year after living in Los Angeles for more than 35 years, so he has a fresh take on how the desert influences art.
“It’s amazing to see the talent that comes from both the high and the low desert—to see what’s going on creatively and how people are creating here,” he said.
While McCall is a new high desert resident, he did visit the area often before his move.
“I was always looking for a place that I thought was close enough in case I needed to go back to L.A. for anything—like to see art shows, or see museums,” he said. “I started coming up here a few years ago. I really dug it, and I liked the people, so when I was offered this job, I thought it was kind of an amazing golden nugget. I have had the opportunity to build a (new center) from the foundation to the sky.”
The Hi-Desert Cultural Center developed the Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center in a 15,000-square-foot building that used to be a motorcycle dealership. The space, at 58325 Twentynine Palms Highway, gave the Hi-Desert Cultural Center the chance to expand more into the visual arts.
McCall said the high desert allows artists to have experiences they can’t have elsewhere—but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.
“The desert extremes or the weather extremes can beat the crap out of materials,” he said. “… But in the Coachella Valley you still have a lot of light pollution. We don’t have that, so you can see the night sky in a way that you’ve never seen before. It’s quite an experience.”
On Aug. 18, Desert Stories XIII will showcase some of the high desert’s best artists and storytellers. Come and see why the event usually sells out.
Desert Stories XIII, hosted by Cheryl Montelle, takes place from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center, 61231 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $32 to $40; this is an R-rated event due to adult themes and strong language. For tickets or more information, call 760-366-3777, or visit hidesertculturalcenter.org. For more information on the Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center, visit yvarts.org.