Desert Sun: Artists Council Moving into the Galen

Updated: Jul 14

Palm Desert arts nonprofit moving into the Galen; opening exhibition in October

(Desert Sun article by reporter Brian Blueskye, May 17, 2021)


The Artists Council, a Palm Desert arts nonprofit, is moving into the Galen. The organization signed a three-year lease with the city of Palm Desert last month and plans to expand the site's exhibitions, workshops, lectures, education programs and more, according to Board Chair David Hatcher. "We have this vision of the Artists Council building to become a hub of artistic activity for the greater Palm Desert community and across the Coachella Valley," Hatcher said. The Galen, located off Highway 111 near Westfield Palm Desert, has showcased contemporary art and some rotating special collections, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden, for nearly a decade. The Palm Springs Art Museum helmed programming and operations for years but recently cut ties amid cost-saving measures. The Artists Council plans to open with an exhibition in October, Hatcher added. The two-year-old nonprofit will lease the building for $1 per year, according to a lease agreement provided by the city to The Desert Sun. Palm Desert Mayor Kathleen Kelly said the value of the nonprofit in the local art scene will enhance the city's identity as the "cultural core of the Coachella Valley." The organization hosts juried and non-juried art exhibitions, educational classes, critiques, book clubs lectures and salons. "The Artists Council now joins the McCallum (Theatre), The Living Desert (Zoo & Gardens), the art galleries on El Paseo and a robust public art program to enhance the cultural amenities in Palm Desert," Kelly said in a prepared statement.

Sculpture garden will remain The Galen's sculpture garden isn't going anywhere. The Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden features significant works from the Palm Springs Art Museum’s permanent collection among native plants, winding walkways, and water features. Artworks on view include pieces by Fletcher Benton, Betty Gold, Donald Judd, Dan Namingha, and Jaume Plensa, among others. The garden is under a 20-year lease, which began last fall, with options to renew every five years with the city of Palm Desert, museum spokesperson Scott Slaven said. The Artists Council plans to utilize the pavilion and fountain areas for exhibits, receptions and special events, Hatcher said. The Palm Springs Art Museum cut ties with The Galen last November. The museum's Executive Director and CEO Louis Grachos told The Desert Sun last year that it was one of many measures taken to tighten its overall annual operating budget; the annual estimated cost of the Palm Desert site was $400,000 to $500,000, he said. The Galen opened in March 2012 with its first exhibit "Rodin to Now: Modern Sculpture" that included works by Pablo Picasso, Robert Therrien and Joel Shapiro. Palm Springs architect Reuel Young designed the 8,400-square-foot building, named after philanthropist Helene Galen, who donated $1 million to the museum site. There are no plans for any indoor structural renovations, but Hatcher said the nonprofit will install new display lights and furniture and add a gift shop within the next two years. The Artists Council also will add new activities such as art films, visiting artists-in-residence along with "sip and paint" evenings and studio tours. Additionally, plans include working with local K-12 students and hosting exhibitions that showcase arts, music, dance and video and more.

The nonprofit offered virtual education programs and art sales during the pandemic, expanding its membership from 280 to 330 people, including new members from around the world, Hatcher said.

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