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29 Jan 2019

Making Art Active: The Goal of Art Palm Springs Is to Make Art an Experience—Not Something to Simply Be Viewed

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A photo from a previous Art Palm Springs. A photo from a previous Art Palm Springs.

This year’s Art Palm Springs—the large annual art show that takes place at the Palm Springs Convention Center—kicks off with an Opening Night VIP Preview on Thursday, Feb. 14, and runs through the entirety of Presidents Day weekend

Perhaps the word “large” doesn’t do Art Palm Springs justice; the show is truly massive and has been growing every year since its inaugural year in 2012. Nearly 80 galleries, from all corners of the globe, will be showing postwar and contemporary art, representing thousands of artists. Some of the Coachella Valley’s premier galleries, not surprisingly, are taking part.

These types of mega-art events—this one is put on by Urban Expositions, which also produces shows in Aspen and Chicago—are a relatively new phenomenon that is changing the shape of the art world. They are as much about the experience as the art itself—and the art-loving public in our community resoundingly approves, with 15,000 attending last year’s event.

In addition to the show itself, there’s a wide-ranging series of talks and events presented by critics, curators, gallery owners, collectors and artists. All of this is specifically designed to make modern and contemporary art a more-interactive experience for the public.

Debra Ann Mumm, the founder and director of the nonprofit CREATE Center for the Arts in Palm Desert, said CREATE will again have a booth at this year’s Art Palm Springs.

“The more events, the better it is overall for our community,” Mumm said. “This event is definitely an experience. It’s cool, and you can see so many different things from so many different places. As a contemporary artist myself, I think it’s worth taking a look. … As a nonprofit, it is a great opportunity to meet people interested in the arts. We’re always looking to pick up new members and donors. It gives us more visibility. We’ll also be doing silk-screen printing on tote bags and T-shirts in our booth throughout the event.”

I attended last year’s opening-night reception; it was my first experience with this type of show, and it was something I won’t forget. It was a heady mix of art, personalities, dress-up glamour and conversation, all with a friendly, open atmosphere.

Some changes have been made for this year’s event, including a new entrance to better accommodate the crowds and shorten the wait times to enter, and improved food and beverage service (which was my only complaint about last year’s event).

The Palm Springs Art Museum will be the beneficiary of this year’s VIP Reception. The 2019 Patron of the Year is Marilyn Pearl Loesberg; she has served for 10 years on the board of the Palm Springs Art Museum and is the chair of the Collections Committee.

Leah Steinhardt, Art Palm Springs’ group show director, answered a few questions about the event.

These types of mega-art events are a relatively new phenomenon, gaining popularity in the last decade. How do you think they are changing the landscape of the art world for artists, galleries and collectors?

The fairs are indeed changing the landscape of the art world, in that it is a different platform for galleries to exhibit art. Our goal is to create an environment where collectors and art enthusiasts can view art in a concentrated space.

Could you offer some insight into how you put one of these shows together?

We plan all year long for our shows, so there is very little downtime. As soon as one of our fairs is over, we are polling our exhibitors and attendees for their feedback. We then analyze those results and create a strategy for the next year’s show. From there, it’s a year-long process leading up to the fair. There are site visits, partner meetings and tons of outreach that happen on a consistent basis in addition to participating in all of the other essential art events throughout the year.

What is the impact of these events on the local communities that host them?

We work closely within each of the local communities, and our goal is to hopefully give platforms to the local art resources. For example, in Palm Springs, our opening-night beneficiary is the Palm Springs Art Museum, while in Chicago, we worked with ChiArts (Chicago High School for the Arts). We spend a lot of time building local relationships, because it’s important for us to have the community’s support as well as for us to support them in return. This past summer in Aspen, there were horrible forest fires. We worked with The Art Base to not only highlight their contribution to the art community in Aspen, but also create installations to thank the firefighters for all their efforts. We also invited local kids to create images that were installed in the entrance of the fair.

I attended last year’s Art Palm Springs opening. I found the opening-night crowd, participants and event itself to be as interesting as the art on display. Could you speak to the concept of art as an experience to be enjoyed as opposed to something that is simply viewed or collected?

We want our fairs to create an experience of discovery, whether it’s for an established art collector or a new enthusiast. Our goal is to create spaces where people can enjoy art and feel comfortable speaking to galleries and artists.

Art opens up a dialogue, and that is a goal at all of our fairs. Many of our galleries bring their artists, and collectors can have intimate conversations with artists that they might never have a chance to meet. In addition to the art, it’s important for us to create an environment where people want to spend their time.

Art Palm Springs takes place Thursday, Feb. 14, through Monday, Feb. 18, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Single-day admission is $25; VIP tickets, which include the Thursday night VIP reception and are good for admission throughout the festival, are $100. For tickets or more information, call 800-563-7632, or visit www.art-palmsprings.com.

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