Around the Counties: Peering into Palm Springs Arts and Culture with Patrick McGrew

Palm Spings by Mathieu Lebreton2.jpg

Today's installment of Around the Counties features columnist Patrick McGrew.

The architect tells us what he finds so appealing about Palm Springs, gives an overview of his favorite art spaces, and comments on the mid-century modern design trend occurring in the Riverside area. Lastly, McGrew recommends that you pay the Palm Springs Art Museum a visit to catch a pop art exhibit ending in just a few weeks.

Patrick McGrew.

What makes Palm Springs so attractive?

Invariably, the most popular answer to this question is the climate and the natural beauty of the setting. But a lot of other locales offer their own version of that. Maybe a better question would be: "What keeps 'em comin' back for more?" I would have to say the scale of the town and the ease of getting to know the place. After only a few visits, people feel like Palm Springs is their home away from home.... They know where to eat, where to party, and where to relax... Nothing is more than five minutes away, and there is always plenty of free parking. What's not to love?

What are some of your favorite art venues in Palm Springs? Why do you particularly enjoy them?

Over the years, the concentration of art galleries in Palm Springs has diminished as many of the important gallerists have relocated down valley to be closer to the wealthier communities. Fortunately some interesting and stimulating new galleries have arrived to take their place.

  • Among the most interesting is the Stephen Archdeacon Gallery because it specializes in the art of emerging figurative and abstract artists who live and work in Palm Springs. The gallery is located in the heart of the Uptown Design District and their summer hours are Saturday & Sunday, 12 - 4 p.m.
  • Another favorite is the Michael H. Lord Gallery at 1090 North Palm Canyon Drive. Housed in an historic garage building, Michael Lord features large scale Contemporary American and European paintings, sculpture, prints and photography. They always have something interesting on display.
  • Less well-known, and always evolving, the Backstreet Art District at 2600 South Cherokee is made up of a dozen artist-owned galleries and working studios featuring collections of original, contemporary art created mostly by local artists. In addition to paintings, sculpture, and photography, jewelry, ceramics and occasionally performing arts are featured at Backstreet.

I enjoy these venues because they often offer opportunities to interact with the artists who are oftentimes present and approachable, and willing to share insights into their work.

Instamatic Karma opening at Stephen Archdeacon Gallery. 2011. | Photo: Joe Bielawa/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Can you tell us about a project you're working on outside of Artbound?

As a semi-retired architect and on-going student of architectural history, I'm one of the lucky ones who gets to research and write about anything that catches my interest. Lately, I've been looking at the evolution of rancheros, rural ranch buildings, and the contemporary western Ranch house style that that swept the country in the 1950s. I grew up in a rancher in Oklahoma, and now live in a ranch style house in Palm Springs. Seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. I've written about this a little bit for Artbound, but it's all leading to creating a comprehensive architectural history of Palm Springs.

Do you see any art trends in Palm Springs?

The celebration of midcentury architecture continues to grow unabated as the town begins to gear up for Modernism Week, February 14-24. Without question, architecture as art continues to evolve in the mind of the public, and the influence of Palm Springs' midcentury architecture becomes better known beyond the Banning Pass. The event has become so popular that, even though there are more than 100 events during the ten-day festival, many sell out early. Consequently, the organizers of Modernism Week have developed an app that allows people to order tickets well in advance. (For more information, please go to the Modernism Week website.)

Palm Springs. | Photo: Mathieu Lebreton/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Can you recommend an art event to the Artbound audience that's taking place this weekend?

For an out of town visitor, the Palm Springs Art Museum is always worth a visit, and it is open on weekends from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Recently updated and refurbished, it is a world class boutique museum and the only major art museum located between Los Angeles and Phoenix. The Museum's permanent collection features 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century works focusing on contemporary California art, classic western, Native American art, Mesoamerican art, Mexican art, European modern art, glass studio art, American mid-twentieth century architecture, and American photography. Currently being featured is a really entertaining exhibition on Pop Art entitled "Pop Goes the Humor", which draws on examples from the Museum's permanent collection.

Sculpture Garden at Palm Springs Art Museum. | Photo: Rocor/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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Top Image: Palm Springs palms. | Photo: Mathieu Lebreton/Flickr/Creative Commons License

About the Author

Melody Soto is a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley.
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