Desert Inspires the Arts

Posted on 5th February, 2020

Ever since the ancient Cahuilla women wove intricate baskets with juncus, sumac and deer grass and, later, plein air painters captured—and still do—the mesmerizing landscape on canvas, the Southern California desert has enjoyed a rich tradition of art.

Photo Credit: Phillip K Smith 2017

Today, the Coachella Valley art scene is more vibrant and diverse than ever before. In 2017, the site-specific international art biennial Desert X made its debut, attracting more than 200,000 visitors for a major interactive art experience. The second Desert X was held in 2019; the  third edition is planned for February 6–April 11, 2021. Also highly anticipated: the new Agua Caliente Cultural Center, set to open in 2020 in downtown Palm Springs, will feature a museum, oasis trail and gathering center, spa and bathhouse.

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While the Palm Springs area’s outstanding museums house a plethora of world-class art and artifacts, lively art districts and galleries showcase artworks ranging from traditional to avant-garde and everything in between. And with more than 150 museum-quality works of art ranging from functional pieces like city bus shelters to giant abstract sculptures and more, you can spend countless hours exploring the expansive public art collections of all nine cities—if you have the time, be sure to take a walking tour of the fascinating street murals in the historic eastern valley cities of Indio and Coachella.

Likewise, the Greater Palm Springs calendar is consistently filled with first-rate cultural offerings—from outstanding live theater and dance performances, comedy and concert headliners, touring Broadway musicals, culinary festivals, and internationally renowned film festivals and music festivals (“Coachella” and “Stagecoach”)—within a convenient driving distance from our luxury Waldorf Astoria property.

Don’t know where to start? Read on for a list of editors’ picks to inspire your arts and culture itinerary in the Palm Springs resort region.


 La Quinta Museum

Located less than two miles from La Quinta Resort & Club, this charming, well-curated museum showcases La Quinta’s unique heritage and cultural arts via permanent and rotating exhibits, classes, and educational programs. Admission and events are free.

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Palm Springs Art Museum

Housed in an E. Stewart Williams mid-century modern gem, the Palm Springs Art Museum showcases one of the finest displays of contemporary arts in California. Beyond the world-class permanent collection and major traveling exhibitions, the museum features a dazzling slate of events and performances. A must-see: “Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe” exhibition running now through March 1, 2020. The museum has a satellite location in Palm Desert, as well as the Architecture and Design Center in downtown Palm Springs.

Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Photo Credit: Sunnylands

Known for its high-profile political retreats, the 200-acre estate is home to a lush, nine-acre art garden inspired by Impressionist paintings, the historic Annenberg estate, rotating art exhibitions in the contemporary visitors center, and scenic café. Sunnylands offers a roster of recurring events from November through April including yoga on the Great Lawn and free guided bird walks.

The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens

Photo Credit: The Living Desert

Recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the 10 best zoos in the country, this beautiful preserve dedicated to desert conservation spans more than 1,200 acres and is home to more than 350 plants and animals. Highlights of The Living Desert include behind-the-scenes tours, Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center, interactive animal counters, nature and hiking trails, special holiday-themed events, and much more.

 Worth a visit: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, Coachella Valley History Museum, Palm Springs Air Museum, Moorten’s Botanical Garden, and Children’s Discovery Museum.


Modernism Week

Photo Credit: David A Lee

You’ll see a variety of architecture styles in the Coachella Valley—La Quinta Resort’s Spanish-inspired architecture is one breathtaking example—but fans of mid-century modern architecture and design will want to be in town for Modernism Week (February 13–23, 2020). Choose from more than 350 experiences including diverse walking and architectural bus tours, lectures, parties, and film screenings (note: some events do sell out in advance so book your favorites soon). Modernism Week also hosts a four-day Fall Preview. If you can’t make it here for Modernism Week, local companies offer private and group mid-century modern architectural tours year-round.

Photo Credit: Gregg Felsen

La Quinta Arts Festival
Spread over La Quinta’s stunning, 17-acre Civic Center Park, this premier juried arts festival (formerly the La Quinta Arts Festival) makes its debut March 5–8, 2020. La Quinta Art Celebration will showcase more 220 world-class artists in diverse media such as painting, sculpture, photography, glass, ceramics, jewelry, wood, fiber and mixed media. Art-gaze to your heart’s content but do take a break to savor the gourmet food court, champagne bars, “Winery Row,” and live musical entertainment.

Fashion Week El Paseo

Want to indulge your passion for fashion and be on top of the latest trends? Plan a girlfriends getaway to La Quinta Resort & Club to experience the annual Fashion Week El Paseo running from March 20–28, 2020. Enjoy pool time and pampering in Spa La Quinta before heading over to the big white tent at The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and high-energy runway events showcasing both emerging and top designers. (The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival also takes place the last weekend of Fashion Week)

Indian Wells Arts Festival

Now in its 18th year, the Indian Wells Arts Festival (April 3–5, 2020) transforms the spacious plaza of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden into a picturesque artisan village highlighting more than 200 world-class artists. You’ll get a chance to witness mastery in action with onsite demos like glass blowing and sculpting. Enjoy wine tasting, live music and refreshments; the family-friendly festival offers an interactive art zone for the kids.


Art on Main Street

Old Town La Quinta features unique clothing boutiques and specialty shops, restaurants, a brewery and crowd-pleasing coffeehouse in an enchanting setting reminiscent of a picturesque European village. On select Saturdays from November through March, the City of La Quinta presents Art on Main Street where more than 100 artists showcase their works. Upcoming dates: February 15, March 14, March 28.

Old Town Artisan Studios

Now located in a historic property near old Town La Quinta, this immersive, nonprofit art center on a three-acre campus has been serving the community for more than a decade with a vision to provide positive art experiences for all people regardless of age, disability, or financial condition. Today, Old Town Artisan Studios offers an outstanding array of workshops and classes, ranging from painting, drawing and ceramics to fused glass, fiber arts and the newly expanded “Paint Your Own Pottery” shop.

Be sure to stop by the Concierge Desk while staying at our luxurious desert hideaway where our knowledgeable staff is happy to provide you with details on arts and culture attractions and activities in the Palm Springs area.

For more on the Coachella Valley arts and culture scene, including detailed event calendars, visit and