In Greater Palm Springs, the entire region is like an al fresco exhibit of public art and I seem to find creativity wherever I look.
The arts, of course, aren’t limited to festival times,so let’s check into our hotel and then explore. I love The Saguaro, a former Holiday Inn transformed into an artistic palette of desert wildflower and colors in every shade of red, orange, pink, and yellow. I could spend all day sitting on my balcony and looking at the pool, surrounded by palms and the brightly hued balconies of the other rooms, the sun glowing on the mountains (yes, it actually glows). They’ve done such a job at transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
I also love the Kimpton Rowan, which opened in the heart of town in late 2017 and has immediately become a hit for its coolly designed rooms, amazing mountain views, and the city’s only rooftop swimming pool. As I walk out the back door of the hotel, I’m startled to see a group of babies crawling across an abandoned pit. I relax when I realize the children are fiberglass (and about ten feet long). It’s all the work of Czech artist David Cerný. Entitled “Babies on the Move,” it’s scheduled to run for about two more years, at which point construction will take its “exhibition space” away. Meanwhile, it’s an intriguing and disturbing piece of public art that’s well worth seeing.
While downtown, I visit the Palm Springs Art Museum, a beautiful museum with three floors of art. The collection isn’t huge but it’s wellcurated and displayed, with some stunning pieces. I admire Native American baskets and ceramics, both contemporary and dating back as far as 300 BCE. I pause before an amazing painting of a tiny bird at the center of a huge canvas by Cuban-American artist Enrique Martinez Celaya. I’m fascinated by a carpet from Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed that seems to melt down into the floor, sending its intricate designs down into a puddle of color. I see works by David Hockney and Dale Chihuly, both instantly recognizable. Spanning the centuries and beautifully laid out, the museum is at turns comforting and challenging, modern and age-old, multi-cultural and very Southern California. About ten minutes’ walk away is the Museum’s Architecture and Design Center, one room of constantlychanging exhibits (on display now through June: an exhibition about Hugh Kaptur, the well-known Palm Springs architect, and his organic desert architecture). There’s also a branch in Palm Desert, a quieter town 15 miles down the road, and it’s well worth a visit for the four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden—a perfect way to combine Coachella Valley weather and great art!
One essential area to visit is Palm Springs’Design District, on the north end of town, mainly along Palm Canyon Drive. Here, there is gallery after home furnishings store after antiques shop after gallery, and I easily while away the entire afternoon looking through some of them. A different and unique take on design awaits at Revivals, an orgaization that raises money for the Desert AIDS Project. They’ve taken the art of resale to a new level with their own brand of new design elements called Mode at Revivals, and you can pick up a bit of that “The Palm Springs look” with home furnishings that don’t break the bank. Even the clothing, largely secondhand, has some new gems in it: they’ve partnered, for instance, with designer Will Stiles, and you’ll often find some of his fashionable creations at jaw-droppingly low prices. Many local artists and designers contribute their work, and a new line entitled “Sewing Hope” consists of recycled fabric works done by clients and patients of Desert AIDS Project. Wander through the store: to one side you might find a designer couch, pillow, or vase in a distinctly 1970’s style, while across the store you could find a similar item that’s actually FROM the 1970s. It’s a unique and eclectic mixture, driving design forward while at the same time preserving the vintage aspect (which is kind of Palm Springs in a nutshell).