Spend some time outdoors to view eclectic street art.
The avenue shows off a new side by night, as the sidewalks start to glow beneath twinkling streetlights. It's an atmosphere that begs you to linger outdoors in the balmy air. So make a thing of it, and take a self-guided tour of El Paseo's street art.
This community has long celebrated creativity. Palm Desert became the first city in Riverside County to adopt a public arts ordinance in 1986, requiring that developers showcase artwork in some way in their public projects or face a fine. The city's Public Art Department oversees the placement and maintenance of such installations, and that extends to the large-scale sculptural works that are displayed on the median along El Paseo. These diverse roadside creations comprise the biennial EL PASEO EXHIBITION.
The 2021–2022 exhibition features 18 sculptures from artists local to the Coachella Valley and around the United States. To hear each artist describe their work — or to view the exhibition virtually, from anywhere — download the OTOCAST app, available on Google Play and the App Store. You'll see installations like "Fossils of the Future" by Tyler Burton, a multimedia artist who splits her time between Palm Springs and Los Angeles. Burton's trio of concrete totems (located between Ocotillo Drive and Sage Lane) are layered with plastic waste and intended to look like core samples from the Earth.
"I really like the idea of using what would be landfill and creating some kind of beauty with it," she shares in her Otocast audio message. "I encourage you to walk around the sculptures and touch them as much as you want. Maybe look closely to see if you can find any familiar objects. There's some fun ones in there."
In addition to works in the biennial exhibition, on your walk, you'll come across murals, smaller sculptural objects in front of storefronts, and artful window displays. At THE GARDENS ON EL PASEO, the center rock fountain by Matthew Naylor of Architectural Blue is a popular backdrop for photo-ops. At El Paseo and San Luis Rey Avenue, the MELISSA MORGAN FINE ART SCULPTURE GARDEN features a rotation of sculpture and interactive artworks that illuminate at dusk.
Arrive early for your dinner reservation, or stay awhile after dessert. There's so much to see if you just get out and look.
MEET A LOCAL
Owner Melissa Morgan Fine Art
"There's an intimacy or dialogue that happens when [people] look at art," Melissa Morgan says. "You get to share what you like, what you don't like, what you see. I like the language of art."
Morgan founded her namesake fine art gallery in 2002, where she curates 2D, 3D, and new media works from well-established, award-winning artists.
More recently, she opened an outdoor sculpture garden on a half-acre lot that sits catty corner to the gallery. There, aesthetes can visit an on-site bookstore and get up close and personal with the garden's massive interactive works, including "Portal Icosahedron" by artist Anthony James. The steel and glass sculpture captivates viewers with James' use of mirrors and LED lights.
"[I love] work influenced by California light and space," Morgan explains. Glowing blue and seemingly infinite, the icosahedron checks that box — and it's sure to inspire conversation.