Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene

Palm Desert is a magnet for art and culture lovers.

By: Melissa Riche

Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene

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El Paseo, the city’s central shopping street, is Greater Palm Springs’ leading art destination. Browse and buy artworks in multiple galleries along the street, starting with the Melissa Morgan Fine Art Gallery at El Paseo’s western end, unmissable with its outdoor sculptures on Monterey Avenue. Imago Gallery just north on Monterey / Hwy 74 is a landmark with its eye-catching glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly in its second floor aerie.

Midway along the street, visit Coda’s new venue, changing shows at J. Willott and many more. On San Luis Rey, check out the Desert Art Collection gallery and sculpture garden. Further east, Heather James Fine Art on Portola near Hwy 111 often features famous artists like Picasso and Calder.

J Willott Gallery

As you stroll El Paseo, enjoy the intriguing artwork on the median. The collection is curated by the city’s cultural committee as part of its El Paseo Invitational Exhibition and changes every 18 months.

First Fridays have recently transformed into ‘Palm Desert’s First Weekend.’ Visitors can enjoy three evening gallery openings and special events on the first weekend of each month from Friday through Sunday, November through May. The Art Place is a group of 12 shops and galleries that holds art events and open evenings throughout the year.

Thanks to the City of Palm Desert’s Public Art program, you’ll find downloadable maps, guiding you to more than 150 public artworks. Walk through the 70-acre Civic Center Park next to City Hall to admire its 19 intriguing sculptural works. Since 1986, the City’s public art ordinance requires new build construction to incorporate public art in shopping areas or outside offices, easy to discover on a self-drive tour. The website gives details on free docent-led tours of public art or art and architecture, as well as news about the Community Gallery at City Hall featuring exhibitions by local artists.

Palm Desert is home to the Palm Springs Art Museum at Palm Desert with its special exhibitions and the delightful Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden. There’s nothing better than relaxing in the shade of a palm tree by a tinkling water feature, while contemplating art.

The Coachella Valley Art Scene is a community non-profit that promotes young artists. Their latest enterprise is a pop-up gallery and art workshop at the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert, called ‘Make,’ a 6,000-square-foot interactive art and music lounge. To date, they’ve featured more than 40 local artists on their walls. Make is open Thursday – Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Among Palm Desert’s many attractions, the McCallum Theatre is a highlight. From mid-October to early April, experience every kind of entertainment; whether you love ballet or Broadway, jazz or classical music, the theatre is one of southern California’s finest. With 1,100 seats in three tiers, pure acoustics and perfect sightlines, the McCallum Theatre describes itself as “a true jewel box of a concert venue in the finest tradition of European opera houses.”

McCallum Theater

Desert Theatreworks performs plays and musicals from September to April for runs of up to 10 days at the intimate Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Center. Find the full schedule here.

Palm Desert’s colleges often feature their own cultural activities, from sculpture gardens to lecture series and documentary movie programs, open to the public. Check out the events schedule for University of California Riverside, Palm Desert.   

Sculpture is on view at the California State University, Palm Desert campus, in the Betty Barker Sculpture Garden. The exhibition program is organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum. For the campus’ Indian Wells Theater performing arts events, check the schedule here.

For history buffs and the curious, the Historical Society of Palm Desert is a treasure trove of information about the city’s past. The society organizes lectures, exhibitions and events, as well as preserving the city’s archives. Open from October through May, stop by their headquarters near El Paseo in the original Fire Station, or visit their website to see what’s happening.

Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene
Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene
Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene
Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene
Palm Desert’s Vibrant Arts & Cultural Scene

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