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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Let’s face it: When you think “shopping mall,” you don’t think “cool cultural events.” Yet for the past three years, that’s exactly what’s happened at the Westfield Palm Desert with the popular and ever-growing STREET event.

STREET takes food, art, music and fashion—and incorporates it all into one fantastic event. This year’s fourth annual STREET on Friday, Nov. 2, features a music lineup including The Flusters, Ocho Ojos, C-Money and the Players, DJ Day, the Yip Yops and the Academy of Musical Performance. On-site food vendors include Stuft Pizza, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Jo Jo’s Grill-A-Dog, Baby’s Bad Ass Burgers, Ramona’s Express and Royal Red Velvet Cupcakes. Interactive art exhibits by YMCA of the Desert and Flat Black Art Supply will highlight the event.

STREET is different this year in one big way: The Coachella Valley Art Scene is no longer involved. But during a recent phone interview with Franchesca Forrer, the marketing director for Westfield Palm Desert, she said she hopes to work with the Coachella Valley Art Scene and its CEO, Sarah Scheideman, in the future.

“I have hopes that they’ll emerge in some other entity,” Forrer said. “We’re actually going to be working with Sarah on social media and doing events. So stay tuned, because they’ll be involved again, or at least Sarah will.”

Where did the idea for STREET come from?

“(Our former GM) was looking for something different to do on the property that would tie in with some of the retailers we have that are edgier and cool—that have some of that street edge, like Hot Topic and Vans as an example. She saw the third-level parking deck; this is one of the highest levels in the desert that has panoramic views of the mountains and the city of Palm Desert. I wanted to do something that celebrated the art that’s tied into the Coachella Valley, but also offer things such as food, fashion, food trucks, music and all of the things we love about street culture in one space.”

Forrer explained what people can expect to find at STREET.

“As events grow, so do the number of partners, which makes it all the better, because it’s bigger and better each year,” she said. “The event is sponsored by the city of Palm Desert, which has been extremely generous and supportive of this event, which is great to see. The event is curated by Flat Black Art Supply; they have been working with artists all year, and these artists come from all around Southern California and San Francisco. There’s a giant spray can that will be interactive, and there’s much more interactive art sponsored by Flat Black Art Supply. In addition, the YMCA of the Desert is on hand to help us with kids’ crafts, and we’re going to be doing everything from bubble art to wire sculptures, and making our own graffiti T-shirts and bandannas. People can come and work with graffiti spray cans and help artists make large-scale murals. It should be a lot of fun.”

STREET has grown significantly over the past three years, Forrer said.

“STREET has become an official art setting and is listed as a public art tour by the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “We had around 1,500 people the first year, and last year, we had just under 5,000. It’s great to have a free event for all ages; that’s part of the appeal. I think there’s something to be said about an event where we invite the locals, but we also invite our visitors.”

The mall doesn’t seem like a place where you’d find a lot of local music, but the Westfield Palm Desert has actually worked with many of the STREET performers before.

“Having the Academy of Musical Performance speaks to two things,” Forrer said. “One, we are a community gathering space for families as well as a place to shop and dine, and two, we love all kinds of music, including rock and how great it can be done by teenagers in a School of Rock style. A lot of the artists this year, we have had play in the mall at special events and retailer openings. Some of the bands have made contact with some of the major brands, which is the link between art and fashion.”

STREET will mark the first time the Palm Desert band Yip Yops has played a local show in about a year; the group has been focused on shows out of town.

“Their career trajectory has just blossomed,” Forrer said. “They’re playing really solid Los Angeles spots now, and this is the first time they’ve been back to the desert in about a year. It’s great to see them come home.”

Forrer said she hopes STREET continues to grow.

“We want to focus on doing more sculpture, because we believe that’s an important piece we want to bring into the (shopping) center,” she said. “We know that shopping is a very different experience now. It’s completely about experiences now, and to document that moment that you couldn’t have online, that you have with your family and friends. I think that art and music coming into the center will be part of that experience.”

STREET starts at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2, at the Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.westfield.com/palmdesert/entertainment/the-street.

Published in Local Fun

The Coachella Valley Art Scene (CVAS) has come a long way since founder and executive director Sarah Scheideman started the whole thing as a blog in 2008.

Since its humble beginnings, the organization has left a unique footprint on the Coachella Valley with its arts-related events. The 111 Music Festival, in collaboration with the Sunline Transit Agency, places local bands inside buses; the musicians perform as the buses travel down the road. Last year, CVAS put on its first Street festival at the Westfield Shopping Center in Palm Desert. The group has been a part of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival for multiple years, and after operating a gallery in Cathedral City that closed in 2016, CVAS moved to the Westfield Shopping Center.

Today, CVAS continues to evolve. In fact, when I went to interview Scheideman at the location inside the Westfield mall, known as “MAKE,” the group was preparing to move to a smaller, less prominent storefront, giving up the “MAKE” space for the seasonal Halloween and Christmas stores that occupy it during the fall and winter months.

Scheideman said she’s delighted with the relationship that the Coachella Valley Art Scene has with the Westfield mall.

“It started when they had the idea for the ‘First Fridays’ events,” Scheideman said. “They wanted to have art and music on the top floor of one of the parking structures. They wanted to have something that could cater to their audience here at the mall. They wanted to partner with an organization to really take on the art aspect and the direction for it. After they did some research and visited our old gallery, they met us and asked if we wanted to do some art pieces. It seemed like a great fit. It started out with us producing the Street festival, but then they really believed in what we did and continued it. It’s been an organic and harmonious relationship.”

When CVAS was given the keys to the now-former “MAKE” location in the mall, the group had one week to prepare and open. Now CVAS is prepping to make the smaller space, called StreetHQ, its next temporary home. Scheideman expressed a positive outlook about the change.

“It’s totally understandable,” she said. “It’s kind of fun for us, because we can take a break from having a space so big and go back to something smaller, then we can revisit back in here and do what we’re doing in here better. … After about three months, we’ve found out how to work within a mall setting, and it’s been a learning experience.”

CVAS has now been a nonprofit organization for more than a year, and that transition has not been easy. The group recently established a board of directors and rolled out a new membership program with three tiers: members can contribute $10, $30 or $100 per month. Donors who commit to $100 a month will have the opportunity to become board members of the organization.

“We have a board of directors right now, but it’s very small,” Scheideman said. “… We’re fairly new to building a structure for (being a nonprofit) and all that. But we’re going through and involving a whole new board of directors, initiating a membership program, and developing our organization to serve our community the best that we can.”

Scheideman said it’s often been difficult for CVAS to generate revenue, given the organization’s focus.

“We like to feature upcoming and young artists and stay focused on trying to inspire the younger and millennial generation to stay here in the Coachella Valley and keep creating art. It’s hard to make money off of that,” Scheideman said. “When you’re creating culture like that, money isn’t really a main focus. As soon as we opened the gallery in Cathedral City, we realized the essence of what we were doing was community service.”

While Scheideman praised CVAS’ homes inside the Westfield mall, she said she hopes CVAS one day has a permanent space.

“The mall has been a great opportunity, because it gave us the ability to expand beyond our online presence,” she said. “But the dream would be to have a location where we can have more art shows and a venue that would be open later at night. That’s what would make a permanent location nice to have.”

The new location in the mall will serve, in part, as a three-month-long promotion for the second annual Street festival, which is focused on hip-hop culture, spoken word and poetry; mark your calendars for Nov. 4. CVAS is also getting ready for the third annual 111 Music Festival, and for the return of a classic Coachella Valley Art Scene event.

“We’re in the process of trying to bring back Doo Wop in the Desert, which is our retro Valentine’s Day-themed party that we did that featured all ’50s doo-wop music, with the costumes, the décor and the whole thing. We had been doing that for about five years until we stopped doing it last year, but we’re bringing it back and making it better this year.”

After a turbulent year, Scheideman said she’s looking forward to further establishing CVAS’ presence.

“After the three-month activation of Street, we’d like to move back in here (to the HERE space), and we really want to have better programming,” she said. “We want to have classes. … We also want to develop poetry and literary scenes here in the desert.”

For more information on the Coachella Valley Art Scene, visit www.thecoachellavalleyartscene.com. Full disclosure: Brian Blueskye has done freelance work for CVAS in the past.

Published in Local Fun