Stacey Gregory’s “The Penny Test—Ledbetter v Goodyear” (assemblage: used tire, pennies, mirror, Swarovski crystals) is one of the Reflections 20/20 Jury Award recipients.

There’s a lot of art in the Coachella Valley. From paintings at the Palm Springs Art Museum to sidewalk graffiti in Coachella, art is everywhere—and it’s going to take a lot more than a pandemic to diminish it.

The members of the Artists Council certainly haven’t been letting the coronavirus dampen their creativity. In fact, they’re celebrating their latest virtual exhibition and sale—a juried show called Reflections 20/20. Some 89 artworks, selected by jurors Rodney D. Lubeznik and Robert S. Leathers, were selected among submissions by Artists Council members from 20 states and three other countries. The show will be on display at artistscouncil.com through Friday, April 2.

The pivot to online shows is just the latest change the Artists Council has navigated in recent years.

“The Artists Council had a 15-year history as part of the Palm Springs Art Museum,” said David Hatcher, the Artists Council board chair, during a recent phone interview. “In 2018, for various mutually agreeable reasons, we parted from the museum and became an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit. I joined to help organize the new corporation, and to formulate a new board and policy. My wife is an artist, and she was on the board, but I got recruited to help with the business side.”

“The Artists Council that was a part of the museum had this tradition of having a very professional exhibition once a year, with a large number of artists that would join. When it became mutually agreeable, we took that and moved it to our own organization, where we could expand and could do more than one show a year. As part of that, the museum made available to us the use of The Galen museum in Palm Desert. … The first (show) was in March and April of 2019, and the second one was in November. They were quite successful. … It expanded the ability of the council to put up more pieces and get more people involved in a juried show.”

The Artists Council was just hitting its stride as an independent organization when the pandemic arrived.

“We had a third exhibition all planned,” Hatcher said. “Tony (Radcliffe, the director of exhibits) and his committee had worked extra hard, and we were all set to go. That was going to start on April 1, 2020—then, of course, came COVID, so we had to cancel it.”

It turns out the Artists Council members had already started the process of mounting online shows—even if they didn’t realize it.

“Interestingly enough, we had started some virtual, online, IT projects to automate our membership system, our donor system, e-commerce, etc.,” Hatcher said. “We continued with that after COVID hit, and that became a major platform for us to launch virtual exhibitions. We actually pioneered the use of what’s called the ‘360 exhibition.’ The Galen museum let us in to take pictures of the blank walls, and we are able to actually place electronic pictures in this virtual setting—so you can actually walk around like you’re actually in the museum.

Linda Stokey’s “Timeless” (Prismacolor colored pencils on Grafix Dura-Lar .005) is one of the Reflections 20/20 Jury Award recipients.

“It was a challenge, but we did it in a sort-of phased approach. We had our initial virtual exhibition back in September. We took some of our artists who had been doing extra volunteer work for us, and we were able to show them. We only had 10 pieces, but we were able to set up the whole process of how the photos were taken and organized, and made sure that they were the right resolution. Then we had a very successful second show, which was actually a fundraiser called Holiday Squares, where we mounted 80 pieces which were all 8-by-8-inch squares that were donated by our artists. They were sold for $100 each, and it was extremely successful. Out of the 80, we sold 36 pieces.”

This prepared the council for Reflections 20/20.

“It’s going to be the virtual equivalent of what we’ve always done for our Artists Council exhibition annual shows,” Hatcher said. “It’s been exciting.”

Radcliffe explained the show’s theme.

“We picked Reflections 20/20, because it could mean that you are reflecting on what happened in 2020, or you are honing your vision to look at what can be better in the future,” Radcliffe said. “We had about 157 artists apply through the call-for-entry system. Because the call-for-entry system is a national and international system, we have artists from 23 other states, and three artists from Italy, one from Romania, and one from Canada that joined our membership.”

The influx in members has come as a welcome surprise to Radcliffe.

“We found 44 new members,” said Radcliffe. “It’s being recognized around the country and around our region in the Coachella Valley. We get highly qualified jurors outside of the Coachella Valley. Also, we have a beautiful venue to show the art in—or we show the art as if it were in The Galen, which is a beautiful building. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why people are getting excited about being in our exhibitions.”

While the future is uncertain, one thing is for sure: The Artists Council will continue to utilize their virtual tools to expand the reach of the art.

“I think we see it as a part of our ongoing legacy,” Hatcher said. “We’ve been so successful that we’ll continue to have virtual shows—but we are anxious to get back to the physical shows. There’s nothing like seeing the actual piece of art, but we think there’s a role for this, and maybe it’ll allow people to be able to see things that they couldn’t see otherwise.

“We are anxious to get back to the physical world, but the way COVID has gone, we’re not sure when that will be, whether it’s going to be the end of this year—or hopefully, at the latest, by the first quarter of next year.”

Because of the uncertainty, the Artists Council is continuing to plan strictly virtual shows—for now.

“We’re in the beginning process of thinking about a member open show for the summer,” Hatcher said. “Our Holiday Squares annual event will be in December. There’s a show that Tony is planning for the October to November timeframe, so we are planning to have four major shows.”

The Artists Council has also been using new technology to expand its educational programs.

“We have a very robust program of virtual art classes that have been going on,” Hatcher said. “It’s two to three classes per month with lectures. Our education director has really pre-thought quite a robust program that’s going to go virtual, at least for the rest of the year, but hopefully move into live capability once we can get access to the building.”

Radcliffe added that he’s hoping the Artists Council will eventually be able to do even more at The Galen—with which the Palm Springs Art Museum cut ties last year.

“In the future, we’re hoping to have more events in The Galen—classes, all sorts of discussions and talks about art, demonstrations of art, etc., while the shows are going on.

“We’re looking to try to help make the desert a center for artists, and kind of a hub for people like our patrons and people around the country, because I think this is going to grow. A lot of people are going to be interested in what we’re able to do.”

Reflections 20/20, a virtual 360-degree exhibition and sale by the Artists Council, will be on display through Friday, April 2. For more information, visit www.artistscouncil.com.

Bart Baxter’s “Topple” (pencil on paper) is one of the Reflections 20/20 Jury Award recipients.

Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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