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29 May 2017

Celebrate First Wednesdays: Hiding on the Backstreets, You'll Find Great Art

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The Backstreet Art District, tucked away against the mountains off East Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, may be hard to find, but once you make the discovery, you will encounter a diverse collection of galleries where you can meet artists, wander through working studios—and possibly find that perfect piece of art.

The various galleries on Cherokee Way have their own hours and showing times, but they all come together to hold an Art Walk on the first Wednesday of every month, from 6 to 9 p.m., bringing together artists, gallery owners and prospective patrons.

Kelly Truscott, from Artize Gallery, explained how this collective got started.

“Backstreet was born by accident in the year 2000, when three artists had left their door unlocked one day, which resulted in people coming into their space,” she said. After meeting the artists and getting the backstory behind the art, these intruders bought some pieces. This chance occurrence launched the location as an art district—a place where a diverse collection of art and artists can be found off the beaten path. The available spaces are leased only as artists’ work spaces and galleries. If a gallery or art business leaves, another art gallery will take its place.

Annette Marie, a painter and jewelry designer at Studio 13, has been at Backstreet for 11 years. “There is constant change here rather than growth,” she said. “It started out and remains an intimate group of artists.”

Melanie Brenner is a gallerist at the newest member of Backstreet, Rebel Art Space. She emphasizes the diversity and evolution that is at the heart of the district.

“The art changes here every month,” she said. “We’re not curators; we are here to sell art.”

Rebel Art Space is a collaboration between Brenner and two friends who share a Southern heritage and a desire for emerging artists to be exposed to the “burgeoning art world of the Coachella Valley.”

At the Tom Ross Gallery, you’ll find works by the artist known as Rosenberg, who moved to Palm Springs in September 2016 after 25 years in Santa Fe, N.M. Rosenberg works with large-scale paintings on clear acrylic panels, using a process known as reverse painting.

“With this technique, there is always an element of surprise,” said Rosenberg, aka Tom Ross. The work is a visual adventure, often surprising the artist himself with the direction of the final piece.

Fusion Art was started by award-winning artist Chris Hoffman to “promote and connect emerging and established artists with collectors and art enthusiasts.” Originally started as an online gallery, it opened as a physical gallery at the Backstreet Art District in May 2016. “We are fully committed to exposing new artists to Palm Springs on a regular basis,” he said. “We’ll be here doing this every first Wednesday—even in July and August”.

Other worthy galleries include the David A. Clark Studio, featuring a namesake who teaches encaustic printmaking across the United States and in Europe; and Maxson Art Studio and Gallery, featuring the paintings and ceramic art of Palm Desert artist Linda Maxson.

One notable thing about the Backstreet Art District is the wide range of prices—including a lot of great, affordable, original art. Many galleries connect the artist to the buyer in a way that is both personal and immediate.

The Backstreet Art District is located on Cherokee Way behind the Mercedes Benz dealership. The city has even provided a directional road sign now, so there is no longer an excuse not to stop by and open an unlocked door.

The next Backstreet Art District Art Walk will take place from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, June 7. For more information, visit www.backstreetartdistrict.com.

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