Most people encounter art in a museum, gallery, or maybe at a local art show. Rarely do they get to step inside an artist’s world. That’s what Desert Open Studios wants to change.
This weekend, more than 100 local artists, including 25 in Palm Springs, are opening their studios for art lovers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. It’s the last of two weekends for the event in its second year.
Nearly all mediums are represented: painting, sculpture, mixed media, photography, ceramics, jewelry, glass, and fiber arts.
The self-guided tour started last year with about 60 artists participating. It was created by local artists Lynda Keeler, Anne Bedrick, and Kim Manfredi, as well as Chris Blades.
If you go
Desert Open Studios concludes this weekend with studios open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday. You can find complete details, including a map of the studios, at this website.
Keeler says the event has two goals: Make gallery visits less intimidating, and help bring Coachella Valley artists closer together.
“We want to build a community,” she explains during a visit to her studio this week. “Artists work independently, but it’s so important to have others you can lean on for feedback. It’s wonderful.”
The unique experience puts art lovers in direct connection with the artists and allows insight into their creative process. Instead of seeing the pristine finished product hanging in a gallery, studio visitors get glimpses of artwork scrapped during trial-and-error.
“It’s more than just a chance to look at art,” Keeler says. “You can observe the artists at work, in their space. They can see the process and the messiness that is a studio.”
Being able to smell the paint fumes and feel the clay also demystifies the artistic process, and it may even inspire some to pick up a palette of their own.
“That’s part of the fun. People can sign up for classes at the CREATE Center in Palm Desert or at the Coachella Valley Art Center in Indio,” says Bedrick.
There’s art for sale for every level of collector, including pieces as low as $20.
“Of course, we want people to become art collectors, and smaller pieces are a way people can dip their toe into the art world,” says Keeler.
Desert Open Studios started with Keeler putting the word out to artists she knew and now includes a database of 500. Keeler says it was essential to have local representation, given that other large-scale art exhibits here have been criticized for not highlighting enough local artists.
“We think Desert X is amazing, and they bring in amazing artists,” Keeler says. “But we’re a counterpoint to it. We’re emphasizing the talent of the local community.”
While the inclusion of artists from Palm Springs to Pinyon Pines is important, Keeler acknowledges the diversity of the artists remains a work in progress. Older, white artists are overrepresented on the tour, but efforts are underway to change that.
“We’re working with the James O. Jessie community center and College of the Desert to bring in more diverse points of view,” says Keeler. “We want to make it accessible to artists of all situations, even if they don’t have a studio.”
For artists who can’t afford a studio or don’t want to open up their homes to the tour, Keeler and Bedrick say they’re doing everything they can to find studio space for them to participate.
“We’re going to reach a lot of those populations,” adds Bedrick.
Reaching people who visit the galleries is easy. An online tour guide acts as a treasure map of local artists, with studios often tucked into otherwise invisible locations.
“People go to a nearby Walgreens and have no idea what’s going on a few doors down. Art is happening right under their noses,” says Keeler.
As for the tours happening this weekend, no two will be alike. Participants can organize their visits around a city or a particular art style. When those art admirers need a break, they can find more than 40 restaurants on the map recommended by participating artists — more proof that this is an event by locals, for locals.
As for the future, organizers say they hope to see it grow to be a tourist attraction as popular as Modernism Week.
“We love the feedback from collectors and artists,” says Bedrick. “People love what we’re doing. We hope to continue it for 20 years.”
Given the response from the artists, Keeler says, there will be no shortage of talent to show off during future events.
“I’m so blown away by the range and talent of the artists,” she says. “From the landscapes to the jewelry, people are so creative. There’s something in the air.”