Music and the visual arts are quite different—but they’re now being brought together in a beautiful way, right on El Paseo.
The new Melissa Morgan Fine Art Sculpture Garden is a place where vibrant 3-D art collides with live music, creating both an auditory and visual experience for appreciators of art at any level.
“I fell in love with collecting, trading and selling art,” said Melissa Morgan during a recent phone interview. “My partner, Alec Longmuir, has a fine-arts background from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and he comes from a heavy sculpture program, so between the two of us—with my love of art and his fine-arts education—we sell mid-career to blue-chip art.
“I’ve been doing this 20 years; he’s probably been doing it for 25. We do art design as well for commercial and residential applications. We work with institutions, museums, architects and developers; we help advise on people’s collections, or how to grow their collections. … We also do probably six to eight art fairs around the country a year. We have a lot of different facets.”
Morgan said she wanted more community involvement with her gallery—and that’s where the sculpture garden comes in.
“We did it before the shutdown, and since then, it’s just become super, super popular,” Morgan said. “The city has embraced it; the community has embraced it. Early in the morning, sunset, it seems like there are always people down there. We’ve got some interactive programming; we have a wall of chalkboards that we kind of change the themes on, but it allows people to express themselves. … We’ve got a concert series every other week that’s starting to get popular.”
The idea for a sculpture garden actually started at the gallery’s previous location, simply as a place to showcase art for sale.
“We sell 2-D, 3-D and new media artwork, so we place a lot of large-scale outdoor works, and they show differently,” said Morgan. “Our former space was where Eddie V’s restaurant is, and we had a sculpture garden there, and it was really popular. When we moved to our new building, I think in 2018-2019, we lost the ability to show outdoor works. So we leased a lot, which used to have a bank there that burned down. … A lot of our collectors have big homes with outdoor space, and they’re looking for fine art for their outdoor space. Everything in the sculpture garden is for sale.”
Having more community events in the sculpture garden was a natural next step, Morgan said.
“We’ve over the years lent our space to just about any not-for-profit that asks; we like to be able to give back and to participate,” she said. “Knowing the importance of community involvement, and community activation … is super important to us. Whether it’s the bookstore, or music, we’re activating the space so that people can participate and interact.”
The garden will host the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Opening Reception on Friday, May 6.
“We’re doing an exhibition in the gallery for the Idyllwild Arts Academy students, and their artworks will be for sale; we don’t take any profit out of that,” Morgan said. “For a lot of these students, that will be their very first sale, and it will help them learn about the professional and commercial sides of the business. They’ll actually get to attend the reception and talk to collectors about their work—and hopefully sell some works. The Idyllwild Arts Academy student band will be playing over at the sculpture garden. Art has always been indoor and outdoor at a community gathering space, so we just wanted to continue that.”
You may have noticed Morgan mentioned a bookstore. Yes, the gallery and garden really does include a bookstore.
“We feature a lot of not-for-profit publishers and books, and we sell our books at face value; we’re not marking our books up,” said Morgan. “They’re really about education, and most of our books, if they’re not (by or about) artists we represent or their related artists, they’re relative to other people in our region. I’ve got Jim Isermann’s new book out by a not-for-profit publisher. We don’t show Jim Isermann, but he’s such an important part of our community, and he’s active in the Palm Springs Art Museum.”
Morgan said she’s been happy with how the live music events have gone thus far.
“It’s been really diverse, from students and little families, to our snowbirds who live behind gates at the club coming out and really loving the comfortable, casual experience of getting to interact with the art and watch great music,” Morgan said. “We (had) Jesika von Rabbit, high desert musician and performance artist … and we just had a high desert artist who’s pretty accomplished, Brad Byrd, play. We’re really open to musicians who want to play here. … Meeting some of their followers and expanding our audience also is a nice plus.”
Morgan said she’s open to hosting any event in the sculpture garden that makes sense.
“We have more performance art, not just specific to music or concerts, that we’ve been looking into,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to engage the community. We will also be doing some book signings and maybe some lectures, and we’re looking at putting up a movie screen.”
The Melissa Morgan Sculpture Garden is located at 73785 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. For more information, call 760-341-1056, or visit www.melissamorganfineart.com.