Sofia Enriquez: “It is a music and arts festival, and I think we hold this special quality where you get to create the experience that you want. Us giving people tools and crafts to just play is kind of the whole point of being out here." Credit: Matt King

Since it’s musicians who get the majority of attention at Coachella every year, it can be easy to forget that the full name of the event is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Every year features great statues, murals and massive art installations—and more often than not, those features play a background role in many thousands of Instagram posts. The physical art is just as important as the music at Coachella—and a few local artists are working hard to spread this message.

Founded in 2008, the Coachella Art Studios area is located inside the camping hub (which is open and accessible to noncampers). Inside the tent are multiple art stations where attendees can create their own crafts. You can make a charm bracelet or a collage using old magazines; there’s even a lamination station. The tent was filled with people when I stopped in for a chat with Sofia Enriquez, a well-known local artist who helped founder Sarah Scheideman (who ran the Coachella Valley Art Scene nonprofit from 2008-2018) maximize the art studios’ full potential.

“I was camping in 2014, I was a little hungover, and I stumbled upon the craft studios in the morning,” Enriquez said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is really cool; how can I get involved? I’m graduating from art school soon, and I really would like to pursue something in the arts.’ Sarah’s like, ‘Oh, I have a gallery out here; you should totally come and get involved.’ We hit it off, and we became friends, and then I started coming out to help her put stuff together.

“As the years went on, I was flexing my design muscles and being like, ‘Oh, how can I make this place a little bit more structured?’ We put in a floor; we put in the wall; we started to design furniture. It became, over the years, an art installation and a safe space for artists to just make stuff. You don’t have to be an artist to come and do any of it; you could just come here and craft.”

I walked around and saw many people having a blast, crafting bracelets or using markers and crayons to paint a picture of one of the models who posed on colorful structures.

“It is a music and arts festival, and I think we hold this special quality where you get to create the experience that you want,” Enriquez said. “Us giving people tools and crafts to just play is kind of the whole point of being out here. It’s a very vulnerable place, and being at a music festival isn’t that easy sometimes, especially if you’re used to having structure. Here, we’re able to just kind of let people do what they do. There are no instructions; no one’s telling you what to do. There are leaders who can help you do this, but it’s really up to the crafter and what they want to make. No one makes the same thing, and everyone has their own version of the craft.”

Enriquez brought up how she created “Mismo,” the giant paisley structure featured at Coachella in 2019.

“I was working here with Sarah for a few years, and then I got a bunch of courage and went directly to the director of arts, Paul Clemente, and I was like, ‘Hey, can I get a job with the art department?’” Enriquez saod. “I wanted to learn how to build stuff, and he took me under his wing. I learned how to weld and I learned how to do some carpentry. They taught a lot, and then after a few months of working, they asked me to propose a design for the festival. I thought they were kidding, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a little thing somewhere,’ but it was an actual sculpture. I learned how to make art really big, and ever since then, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is actually not that crazy; you just need to be supported.’”

Enriquez is all about building support for the arts community, especially for locals. She was proud to talk about featuring Coachella Valley artists at one of the biggest stages in the world.

“All of the art department is locals; everyone here is local,” Enriquez said. “There are a few people from L.A., but most people who make up the art studios are from the desert. Now I have an opportunity to help produce this space. I find people who are good at what they do out here in the valley, and give them jobs where they can flourish. That’s been really fun.”

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...

One reply on “Coachella 2023: Local Art, Big Stage—The Coachella Art Studios Space Features Local Artists and Gives Attendees a Place to Get Creative”

  1. Love knowing about the art workshops available at the campgrounds. Wish I had known sooner to spread the word. Knew ofcourse about the art but expensive to attend and music geared to a much younger audience. Next year I’ll know. Support and advocate for all these ventures.

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