Darter bird on the Murray River
Mildura, New South Wales
The Museum has hosted it’s first all-Spanish exhibit, an art exhibit from Mexicali, Mexico. This is the first ever United States exhibition, making it now an international exhibit. The organizers of the exhibit are artists themselves and drivers of the artist community. They started this small format exhibit to provide an opportunity for their students to gain exhibit experience. Now, five years later, the blossoming students of CETYS Universidad are joined by artists ranging from Southern California to Mexico City and as far as Spain.
Based in a hallway of CETYS Universidad, the inaugural exhibit had 60 pieces. In 2013 the exhibit boasts 300 pieces (which I hung with an student curator – took 3 days) from artists ranging from Southern California to Mexico City and includes 2D, 3D and video format. The exhibit represents the vibrant artistic community just across the border.
This is one of the best events we have done at the museum. It engaged a new audience, had an amazing energy level, and epitomized the type of dialogue I want to encourage at this museum. I’m very proud of this one.
Earlier this year the Imperial County Film Commissioner’s Office brought the Sundance Institute’sFilm Forward Program to the Valley. We were invited to participate in a continuation of that program through a Google Hangout.
Last Saturday at the 3,000 artifacts event, we screened “Somewhere Between” a film about several young woman who were adopted from China into American families and their struggle for identity. This morning, we joined participants from across the country and internationally to compare and discuss the reaction of our communities with each other and the film’s director.
I watched the film apart from our group of participants, and I have to say I’m glad I did. I almost the exact opposite reaction as this group of college-aged students raised in a border culture. I thought of my very good friend who was adopted into a white family in a white dominated area and mourned. But even my friend’s experiences were different than those in the documentary – that is to say, American families aren’t in the habit of flying to China yearly. In the film, one of the girls’ families flew 4 people over to meet her birth family – as completely unthinkable in Imperial County as it is in middle Pennsylvania.
And Imperial County had no sympathy. The IVC student participants, one can generalize, are accustomed to differences. Even within their small group one person was the only Columbian in the room, another was the only white person. These young adopted Chinese women should not be so worried about their differences to from the world around them. They should find their self-worth in themselves and the people who love them. Thus concluded the group who are accustomed to being “different”.
The hangout discussion lead by the Film Forward monitors focused less on the film and more on the personal stories of the girls. The participants from Arizona State University included an adopted student who was born in China and was willing to share her experiences. Our group was extremely engaged in the discussion with her and her personal comments on whether her own journey to find identity was found inside or outside her physical appearance.
I absolutely love the Film Forward program and I love holding it at the museum. The students were enthusiastic and engaged with other students who were enthusiastic and engaged. It sparks conversations and broadens viewpoints for all involved. It was fantastic to watch; and to be a part of. After the discussion digitally concluded, we screened the film a second time and the lively conversation continued into the afternoon.
Following the watercolor workshops that ended our youth summer programs, we held two hikes into the desert for some plein aire painting. Here’s one of mine of Indian Hill in Anza Borrego State Park.
It was a good end to the slower summer months. At the Society of American Archivists conference I managed to garner a lot of encouraging support for the museum. Simmons College, where I completed my Masters, is very interested in establishing an intern program in Ocotillo.
Back on the home front its time to prep for the influx of visitors known as “snowbirds”. When the desert calms down and becomes more… tolerable…. the annual visitors to the Valley will start filtering back in to take advantage of our unique environment.
With a commitment from a new intern and a plan to stock the gift shop with local art, I’m excited to welcome the next wave of visitors to the new Imperial Valley Desert Museum.
There is nothing in the Imperial Valley Press that this county doesn’t see. This week the museum was featured on the press website in a video and article about our watercolor class. We are testing various programs to see what type of programming the community is interested in, while at the same time “being seen to be hard working” as Ben Franklin would advise. We are building an audience.
The museum is researching Desert Sized Art as part of it’s Artist-in-Residence program funded by the Stern Foundation. We have a wall assigned for dynamic research – as visitors place their votes for things that interest them, the artist finds similar art installations to hang, creating an interactive exhibit. As the exhibit grows, we develop the concept of Desert Sized Art and what types appeal to the local community.
We took a weekend to explore some local Desert Sized Art – the famous Salvation Mountain in Niland, just 40 mins north.
The Folk Art Society of America has declared Salvation Mountain a national folk art shrine worthy of preserving. Leonard Knight created the mountain out of adobe covered straw, tires, and natural wood supports. In the middle of the barren desert it’s a colorful haven and obviously a labor of love. He worked on it for over 30 years. It still has signs of expansion.
I loved the colored trees and in-sets like little treats that showed pictures and stories of the mountain’s progress.
While we were exploring the mountain, we saw in the distance the concrete water tanks that would have served the army base. They were covered in their own sort of art, but a very different theme than Salvation Mountain – The Karma Sutra.
I’m interested to know which art was placed first, though I think I have an inkling.
We also stopped to see the mud pots – geothermally heated boiling vats of mud.
The artist who arranged the museum’s Every Day is Earth Day exhibit invited Jenica and I to another opening this weekend. In Mexicali, Mexico.
The exhibit Madrecita: Arte en Miniatura allowed people to get up close and personal with the pieces. There were several that enticed the viewer with minute details, compelling a closer look and an intimate study of the work.
After the opening, which started at 9pm, we went out for karaoke, which was good for practicing our Spanish.
The artists didn’t stop working. (Sound familiar? I think we are going to get along with this crowd.)
Jorge Estrada, photographer
Pablo Castaneda, Visual artist
We got home as the sun came up.
Bernardo Olmedo joins in one of the many simultaneous discussions about expressions of culture through art.
If Earth Day is just one day, our days are numbered. At the Desert Museum, we celebrate the Earth every day – and we have an art exhibit to prove it.
The Desert Museum is a community-based project. Our philosophy is “if you need it, we can help you build it.” One of the artists participating in our new exhibit came to the Desert Museum to discuss a project partnership, and left with a commitment to fill our empty walls. There are very few galleries to show artists work, he told me, and people are always looking for new spaces to showcase their talents. “Bring me something,” I said, “and we’ll put together a show.” In a matter of weeks we had the commitment of 6 artists, all members of the Imperial Valley College Arts Faculty.
We have filled our empty walls with our FIRST exhibit, and the artists have a professional looking exhibit. On May 2nd the exhibit opens with an artist reception. The director is away at a conference, leaving me in charge of the event. He’s nervous, as you might expect. The reputation of the museum rides on each one of these early events. But he doesn’t know I was trained by the best gallery owners Rhode Island has ever seen. They’ve since retired from the business, but they left beauty in their wake.
support the arts….
On the way back from Anza-Borrego Archeology weekend, we had to stop to take a closer look at Dennis Avery’s famous desert sculptures.
This explanation from California Travel Expert:
“More than 130 sculptures are located on 3 square miles of Galleta Meadows Estates, which sits along Borrego Springs Road. Each metal sculpture was commissioned by Dennis Avery, owner of the Galleta Meadows Estate, and built by Sky Art artist Ricardo Breceda. Highlights include a field of farm workers, a stranded desert Jeep and an awesome 350-foot serpent that travels beneath the highway. Many of these larger-than-life sculptures resemble the prehistoric creatures that once roamed Borrego Valley, ranging from giant sloths and camels to wooly Mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. Outside the chamber of commerce, you’ll find a replica of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista De Anza, who blazed the trail from Mexico to San Francisco in 1775.”