Funds to install AIDS Memorial approved; mural decision postponed

 The Arts Commission approved covering the costs of installing the planned AIDS Memorial Sculpture. It tabled a decision to help breathe new life into an existing mural significant to the city’s Black community.

One significant public art project is a step closer to reality, but the fate of funding for another faces a delay following a Palm Springs Public Arts Commission meeting Wednesday evening.

Driving the news: The Arts Commission gave unanimous approval during its regular meeting to cover the costs of installing the planned AIDS Memorial Sculpture in the city. But it tabled a decision to help breathe new life into an existing mural significant to the city’s Black community.

  • The AIDS Memorial Sculpture is planned for the new Downtown Park. The Commission committed spending up to $65,000 for site preparation and installation at the park whenever the artwork is finished.
  • The mural is located on the south wall of the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center. The initial work of converting the painted mural to a tiled mural is estimated to cost $100,000, but additional costs could be as much as $200,000.
  • Arts Commissioner Shawnda Faveau was the lone no vote against tabling a decision about the mural until city officials can work with the artist to determine the exact final costs.

A touchstone: The memorial sculpture will be carved out of limestone by local artist Phillip K. Smith III. It will be gifted to the city and its residents.

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  • More details on the effort behind the artwork — including how to donate for costs associated with its creation — are available here.

Fading history: In the case of the mural, converting it from paint to tile is crucial to its survival. Since its creation in the summer of 1997 by artist Richard Wyatt Jr. it has had multiple repairs due to sun and water damage.

  • We told the story of the mural, its meaning to the Desert Highland Gateway Estates neighborhood, and how area students helped in its creation, in a story last September.
  • If commissioned, Wyatt would draw on experience creating one of his better-known pieces – Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972 – in recreating the mural in tile.

What they’re saying: “It’s important to get a more current estimate from the artist,” Arts Commission Vice Chair Russell Pritchard said of the vote to table a decision about the mural. “Everything in the world has increased in price. So, I don’t think we should discuss it until we have a firm budget.”

Next steps: Backers of the memorial sculpture said they are “in heavy fundraising mode” and hope the installation takes place in late summer or early fall 2023. As for the mural, city officials will be tasked with reaching out to the artist to get a final project estimate.


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