When we entered the Cloud Room, Debra Ann Mumm sensed my surprise.

“Take a moment,” she said, joking, but not really. “Let yourself take it all in. Take all the time you need.”

The Cloud Room is the most bonkers part—I mean that in a good way—of the CREATE Center for the Arts’ brand-new home at 73600 Alessandro Drive, in the revitalized San Pablo area of Palm Desert. The 20,000-square-foot building was previously the home of both the Venus Healing Arts Center, a gym and wellness center for people, and Venus de Fido, a gym and wellness center for pets.

“The new space is completely fabulous,” said Mumm, the founder and CEO of the CREATE Center for the Arts. “‘Space’ is kind of the operative word there. We have room to do all our cool stuff that we were doing before, and more exciting new things.”

CREATE got its start a little more than four years ago at what was then Mumm’s business, Venus Studios and Art Supply. Her goal, as the website puts it, was to make “a collaborative and creative environment built for the community.” Most recently, CREATE was in a space—that the arts center quickly outgrew— on Fred Waring Drive. When Mumm discovered the former Venus de Fido space was available last year, she reached out to owner Lindi Biggi and struck a deal.

CREATE’s staff and volunteers started moving in December, and the unpacking process is still ongoing; they’ve had the luxury of time due to the fact that CREATE’s halls are quieter than normal, (no) thanks to the pandemic.

Mumm is elated that CREATE now has space for all the arts programs—except for a couple that we’ll get to in a moment—the center has been fostering over the last four-plus years. There are separate studios for the more-traditional arts, including textiles, paint, printmaking and photography—including an old-school darkroom. There are also spaces for newer forms of art, including a broadcast studio, and a digital design lab, containing virtual-reality equipment and 3-D printers (which spent much of the last year churning out badly needed personal protective equipment for local medical professionals). There’s the aforementioned Cloud Room, with its anti-microbial floor (!); it’s a space that could be used for performances, events and various other things. There’s a café. And there are spaces for things not traditionally associated with quote-unquote art—like gardening, for example.

The salt cave.

And then there’s … a salt cave? Yes, really, there’s a salt cave, along with massage and medical-therapy studios (that may soon be up for rent), full locker rooms for both men and women, and gorgeous outdoor patio spaces. This all hints at possible future programs for CREATE.

“With the existing wellness things built in, it makes sense for us to add those services, because I think art is good for you—and so including the healing arts seems like a natural win,” Mumm said. “And if you have a salt cave, you’ve got to use it.”

I asked Mumm to predict all of the things that would be happening at CREATE on a typical day, say, a year and a half from now, when the pandemic is fully in the rearview mirror (we really, really hope).

“I expect that each of the studio areas will have something going on—like somebody can be printmaking or screen printing, painting, drawing, natural dyes, knitting weaving, and spinning,” she said. “And who knows for that Cloud Room? We anticipate having a lot of different types of meetings in there. We just met with the (Palm Springs) Opera Guild; they’re going to be filming a little something for their opera students in that room.

“It’s all about how we can best be in service to the community and make this extremely wonderful facility available. We could potentially be doing dog-walking that day, because this used to be a dog park, and I know that there are some people who would really appreciate that in the summertime for their furry friends.”

Mumm is also hoping that by that point, CREATE will have reign over the entire building—including a portion the center does not currently occupy.

“There’s a 3,000-square-foot, two-level limo garage in the back that we are not occupying,” Mumm said. “But we have every intention of turning that into a woodworking and metalworking studio in the future. I’d like to get that going by the end of the year. We already have the equipment; we just need the space.”

While the halls of CREATE are fairly quiet now, Mumm said she anticipates that to change soon—COVID-19 willing, of course. The crew is working on adding more classes back to the schedule, as long as they can be done safely and within state guidelines. They’re also working on two related arts projects which will help introduce the community to the new CREATE Center for the Arts—again, pandemic permitting.

First: CREATE just put out a call for artists to participate in the space’s inaugural art show, Welcome Walls (The Art of Us). Anybody and everybody is invited to participate by submitting works at CREATE through March 12 during regular-for-now hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday). There is a $30 fee to enter; the fee drops to $15 for CREATE members, and $10 for artists 18 years old and younger. Proceeds from works sold will be split 50-50 between CREATE and the artist.

Second: The center is currently offering pom pom kits for $20 during regular business hours.

Those two projects will come together on Saturday, March 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for the opening of Welcome Walls (The Art of Us), and for the Wish Garden Planting Party, during which the pom pom creations will be “planted” outside of CREATE.

Mumm said she hopes the community participates in both events—and throws its support behind CREATE, so the center can survive and thrive in its ambitious new space.

“We signed a short-term lease. We have to be sure that we’re protecting the organization, and the landlord wants to make sure that we can meet our obligations,” Mumm said. “So this is our make-it-or-break-it year. Clearly, this is a facility that is a regional resource for the community, and things like this don’t survive without community support.”

CREATE Center for the Arts is located at 73600 Alessandro Drive, in Palm Desert. For more information, call 760-834-8318, or visit createcentercv.org.

The 3-D printers at CREATE.

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. A native of Reno, Nevada, the Dodgers fan went to Stanford University intending to become a sportswriter—but fell...

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