For many years, the California Desert has been a source of inspiration for artists, musicians, actors, designers and creators from all walks of life. In 2017, we saw the first installment of Desert X. A truly unique, awe-inspiring, site specific - contemporary art exhibition, with the Coachella Valley and the California Desert as its backdrop.
Over nine weeks, Desert X engaged millions of visitors from across the globe via social and digital media channels and received multiple awards for both its education and community programs and partnerships. Needless to say that when the 2019 exhibition was announced, a sense of anticipation and excitement swept the desert yet again. One of the things we admire most about Desert X is that it’s a true community experience. From the installations themselves, to the symposiums, panels, tours and participation of local businesses it represents so much of what makes Palm Springs and the desert a unique place to call home.
As huge fans of the arts and the mission behind Desert X, we were excited to sit down with the non-profit’s Executive Director, Jenny Gil Shmitz, to get the inside scoop on the 2019 exhibition and what we can expect looking forward.
F10 - What was the initial inspiration / catalyst behind Desert X?
JGS - The idea of Desert X is to bring renowned international artists to the Coachella Valley to reflect on the beauty and wonders of our valley through the lens of contemporary art; and by showing large scale public art projects outside of the traditional institutions such as the museum or the gallery to expose a very large audience to the ideas and stories that these artists are telling.
F10 - How do you select the artists / installations?
JGS - Neville Wakefield is the Artistic Director of Desert X and he, along with his co-curators, invited about 30 artists to discover the Coachella Valley during the 18 months that we had to prepare the show. Eighteen of these artists developed projects that were produced for the 2019 exhibition. The selection is made by the curators but the conditions that the show deals with such as the vastness and diversity of the space, the scale of the landscape or the environmental conditions end up influencing the artists’ projects to the extent that Neville says the desert curates the exhibition.
F10 - What do you hope Desert X will do for the Coachella Valley?
JGS - I am hoping that Desert X will turn the Coachella Valley into a cultural destination and will make contemporary art more accessible to all of its communities. Armando Lerma, who is a local Coachella artist and has participated in both Desert X exhibitions, told me when he was growing up here he felt as an art orphan, with very little access to the ideas of art history or contemporary art that are generally shown in museums and galleries in major cities like Los Angeles or New York.
F10 - What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting Desert X 2019 off the ground?
JGS - The challenge was to beat the first exhibition in 2017 that was a total success with over 200,000 visitors and media coverage around the globe.
F10 - If you could tell the Coachella Valley one thing, what would it be?
JGS - I would like artists to continue to come to the Coachella Valley to tell their stories and relate to the stories of the Coachella Valley and its communities.
Desert X 2019 ran from February 9th through April 21st. If you didn’t get a chance to see the installations in person, you can follow their story on social media, check out the full list of artists, installations and images on their website or check out their new podcast available on iTunes!
Interested in being a part of the next Desert X? Check out their involvement page to see how you or your business can help make it possible.