Whimsical art coming to city’s Swim Center may also inspire courage as it welcomes visitors
Plenty of children have taken the plunge at the Palm Springs Swim Center, but soon the facility will welcome its first tot.
“TOT” is the name artist Richard Becker applies to a series of sculptures he creates in his San Diego studio. They depict a young boy contemplating what may be his first leap into the unfamiliar waters of a swimming pool. Today, a tot will be installed at the Swim Center in preparation for a formal unveiling Tuesday at 10 AM.
Becker, whose early sculptures were classically anatomical — including busts on display at the Television Academy Hall of Fame — turned toward more whimsical creations following restored hearing after a cochlear implant in 2014. His work caught the eye of the city’s Public Arts Commission when he was a Commissioner’s Choice selection at the 30 X 30 Public Arts Show in 2019.
That show featured 30 ideas for public art in Palm Springs. “TOT” will be the fourth piece commissioned by the city from an artist featured at the event and the 12th piece of art to be placed within the confines of Sunrise Park. The $18,000 cost of acquiring the art and installing it comes from the City of Palm Springs Public Arts Fund. “I was very intrigued by these tots,” said Palm Springs Public Arts Commissioner Russell Pritchard. “For me, it’s the combination of the materials. It’s stainless steel and uses automotive paint. There’s the shiny stainless steel and then a really, ‘wow!’, pop of color. It’s a marriage that’s meant to be.”
“I love the brightness of stainless steel, how it reflects the light,” Becker told the San Diego Union-Tribune before a showing of his work in 2018, explaining that the tots, bald boys wearing swim trunks and goggles, were inspired by a commissioned piece of a “goggled-eyed kid” he named “Queen of the Sea.”
At 42 inches high (including its base), the Palm Springs tot is on “the smaller side,” Pritchard said. But it may offer a big message. “It’s not just about fun,” Sonya Sparks, a San Diego gallery owner who hosted Becker’s work, told the Union-Tribune about Becker’s tots. “But there’s also a quality of bravery about going forward.”
Moving the city forward and making it think about the bigger picture is what Pritchard said he hopes the Public Arts Commission will be able to accomplish in the years to come.
“We want to turn Francis Stevens Park into a social issues park,” Pritchard said. “Whenever a rally happens, that’s basically where it happens. We’d like to do an installation that can change to address social issues that arise.”
The timing for that forward-thinking about the purpose of art in the city is now, Pritchard said. He pointed to the fact the George Floyd mural along North Indian Canyon Drive became a rallying point during the cries for justice that followed Floyd’s death and that David Cerny’s “Babies” — 10 fiberglass sculptures in a pit near the Palm Springs Art Museum — are often the subject of wonder by locals and visitors alike.
“Were in the fortunate situation here in Palm Springs, where it’s coming out of the old guard thinking that everything needs to be beige and ‘oh my god, we can’t do this or can’t do that,’” he said. “The younger generation is welcoming ideas like ‘Babies.’”
WHEN & WHERE: The installation of “TOT” will take place at 10 AM on Tuesday, December 21, in front of the Palm Springs Swim Center, 405 South Pavilion Way.
COD DOCUMENT SENT, PROMPTS WARNING:A study that leadership at College of the Desert (COD) has claimed was needed before breaking ground in Palm Springs already exists, COD’s president said late Thursday. But that’s still no guarantee that ground will be broken in the city any time soon. COD President Dr. Martha Garcia made the revelation in an email to Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton last week, providing a 36-page document outlining the need for a satellite college campus in the city written in 2016. Late Friday, the city released an email response to Garcia written by Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton. She thanked Garcia for her correspondence and for acknowledging the study existed. Still, Middleton warned Garcia that public support for the college was at risk. READ THE COMPLETE STORY HERE.
SCHOOL THREAT INVESTIGATED: Authorities Friday investigated a potential school shooting threat made in Palm Springs and said they discovered no danger. The Palm Springs Police Department alerted the public on social media that a local student reposted a threat on TikTok, which depicted the student with an air-soft rifle. Authorities investigated the student’s home where they located the air-soft rifle but found there to be no crime committed and no known immediate threat to the school, officials said.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, hosts a widows or widowers gift exchange, a holiday sing-w-long, and more, starting at 8 AM. You can find a complete list of all today’s classes online here.
MIRACLE ON THE TARMAC: The Palm Springs Air Museum hosts an event with Santa from 5:30 PM until 8:30 PM. The event is a drive-thru on the tarmac with a Christmas light spectacular for children young and old to enjoy. A goody bag filled with holiday treats for each car is distributed. Tickets are $25 per car and are available at this site.
HUMAN RIGHTS: The city’s Human Rights Commission holds a special meeting, starting at 5:30 PM, via Zoom. Information on how to participate in the meeting, or simply view it, can be found here
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
INTERFAITH EVENT: Several city congregations are collaborating to present “Blue Christmas: Longest Night Service” on Tuesday at 6 PM at The Church of St. Paul in the Desert, 125 West El Alameda. The service is designed as a contemplative service for those carrying grief and trying to manage the holiday season with so much loss and pain.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE CRAWFORDS: Desert Rose Playhouse in Palm Springs presents “Christmas With the Crawfords” at 7 PM Thursdays, 8 PM Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 PM Sundays through Sunday, December 26 (no shows on Dec. 25), The playhouse is located at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 16. Tickets are $34-$37; high-top tables (for four) or VIP couches (for two or three) are $175. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for entry. For tickets or more information, visit desertroseplayhouse.org.
WHITE CHRISTMAS: The all-time holiday classic, “White Christmas,” is playing at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 East Baristo Road, for a special one-time screening on December 25 at 7 PM. Experience this beloved holiday musical extravaganza on the biggest screen in the Coachella Valley! Proof of vaccination is required.
AUNTIE MAME: Join Among Friends at the Palm Springs Cultural Center for the grand return of an annual Palm Springs holiday tradition — “Auntie Mame!” Dress up like characters from the film or don your most fabulous holiday attire for a roaring 1920’s cocktail party starting at 6 PM and hosted in front of the theater by our very own Mame, Miss Bea Haven. Then see the classic movie you love come alive as a special interactive version featuring audience participation, live action, and surprises. Proof of vaccination is required.
10K YOUR WAY: Angel View’s biggest fundraiser of the year — the 10K Your Way event — begins December 31. The public is encouraged to register to swim, run, walk, bike, or roll 10 kilometers and collect donations to support their efforts. Funds raised will support the organization, a nonprofit founded in 1954 that is dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities. Last year, despite the pandemic, more participants joined in than ever and fundraising surpassed $80,000. Anyone interested in raising money through swimming is invited to the Palm Springs Swim Center, 405 South Pavilion Way, during its open hours on December 31. To register, send email to [email protected] or call 760-835-0464.