The Palm Springs Art Museum is located in downtown Palm Springs, California and was originally known as The Palm Springs Desert Museum when it was founded in 1938. The Museum specializes in Native American artifacts, the natural sciences, and the history and environment of the surrounding Coachella Valley.

The Museum has moved several times until fining its current and permanent home in 1958, located on the southwest corner of Tahquitz-McCallum Way and Indian Avenue. The Museum held a variety of different events to attract visitors to their galleries, including hosting their first concert in 1963.

When Executive Director Frederick Sleight joined the Museum in 1965, he tirelessly pursued his dream of making the Museum "the prime cultural center of the desert." Needless to say, the 1960's were then a very busy and exciting time for the Museum. One of the biggest changes was the addition of another building to expand upon the 10,000 square feet of display space that was quickly growing too small.

1.History & Mission

History & Mission
© Palm Springs Art Museum

The Museum underwent years of expansions, additions, and branching into that pursuits of various art forms, ultimately leading to the changing of the Museum's name in 2005 to reflect its focus on the arts as a whole.

Currently, the Museum boasts a vast and sophisticated collection of priceless historic artifacts that has been loaned or donated by the community's generous residents. The Museum is 28 galleries and consists of more than 150,000 square feet and has collections representing modern and contemporary art, glass, photography, architecture and design and Native American and Western art. Within these collections, the Museum proudly houses pieces by world-renowned artists like Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Ansel Adams.

There are also two outdoor sculpture gardens, a cafe featuring American specialties, four classrooms/resources rooms, five storage vaults, an artists' center, an 85-seat lecture hall, a 433-seat theater, and a 1,000 square foot museum store with one of a kind gifts and mementoes.

The mission of the Palm Springs Art Museum is to serve the community as an innovative, creative, and culturally focused visual arts center. The hard-working staff at the Museum hope to reach this goal by continuously expanding their exhibits, programs and services. The Museum staff hopes to continue the original goal of Executive Director Frederick Sleight and remain “the prime cultural center of the desert".

The Museum and it's hard-working staff plan to achieve this goal by focusing on three important aspects of their mission statement: first, by preserving vibrant and unique cultures by focusing on their rich history and contribution to the community; second, by acquiring groundbreaking pieces of art and creating unique exhibitions; and third, by creating innovative educational experiences in various outstanding multi-disciplinary events.

With a museum filled with such rich history and emanating such a promising future in the visual arts, members of the entire family are sure to find something to entertain and inspire them at The Palm Springs Art Museum.

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2.Permanent Collections

Permanent Collections
© Palm Springs Art Museum

The permanent collection of The Palm Springs Art Museum consists of 8 main categories: Architecture and Design, Contemporary, Contemporary Glass, MesoAmerican, Modern, Native American and Art of the West, Photography, and Special Collections.

The Architecture and Design collection is one of the more recent developments at the Museum, commenced by prominent community architect Albert Frey in 1998. The collection features photographs, drawings and the Albert Frey House II and the E. Stewart Williams architectural archives. The collection is still fairly modest but it is constantly expanding and growing in importance.

One of the featured artists throughout this collection is Julius Shulman and his collection of photographs representative of mid-century modern architecture. The architectural photographs and drawings of L.J. Cella have recently been donated to the Museum and features 114 original renderings.

The Contemporary collection feature the works of Contemporary American artists. A wide variety of photographs, paintings, and drawings make up this favored collection. Artists like Paul Jenkins, Robert Bechtle and Kenneth Noland are all featured. The Contemporary Glass collection is a recent addition to the Museum but has become a center of study and major strength of the Museum's collections. Distinctive, creative and innovative glass works by significant artists from around the world are on display.

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3.More Permanent Collections

More Permanent Collections
© Palm Springs Art Museum

The ancient MesoAmerican collection on display in the Museum features figures that are estimated to be produced more than 2000 years ago for funerary purposes. The figures are believed to represent a wide variety of hobbies and traits of their owners. Figures interpreted as warriors, musicians, and religious omens were meant to be buried with members of high-society during the MesoAmerican time period.

The Modern collection features pieces from American, European, and Mexican/Latin American artists. These pieces include sculptures, paintings and drawings representative of the first decades of the 20th century. The colonial time period and the MesoAmerican time period perfectly co-mingle their imagery in some of the Latin American works. This is a result of the Catholics attempting to convert the indigenous people, but ancient traditions still hold true, creating a hybrid of Christian and ancient imagery.

The Native American and Art of the West collection is the Museum's primary area of specialization, this collection truly holds a special place in the heart of the community. It features a traditional and informative blend of American Indian, Latin American, and current American cultures, landscapes, historical forces, and ancient artistic traditions. This collection is approximately 2,150 pieces, including paintings, drawings, and American Indian artifacts from the 19th century onward.

The Photography collection is supported by several archives and focuses largely in two major areas: celebrity photographs from the early eras in Palm Springs, California, and desert landscapes. The Museum hopes earn recognition for having one of the best collections of fine photographs in the United States.

The Special Collections gallery features various archives of drawings and photographs, as well as the Weiner Sculpture Collection. This collection represents the vast archival holdings of the Museum.

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4.Past & Present Exhibitions

Past & Present Exhibitions
© Palm Springs Art Museum

There are some truly exciting exhibitions currently on display at The Palm Springs Art Museum, including one featuring contemporary glass and the methods used to blow, shape, and create intricate glass works. There is an exhibit featuring the influence of water on the human experience, it is entitled Reflections on Water.

There is a focus on the Weiner Family Sculpture Collection entitled A Passionate Eye. This collection is believed to be one of the most important collections of modern art ever assembled in the Southwest. The spirited collector, Donna MacMillian has an exhibit featuring the world of fine art, fashion, and design entitled Baroque to Bling! High Art and Low from the Collection of Donna MacMillian.

And finally, special pieces from the L.J. Cella Collection featuring the diverse process of architects, designers, and artists as they create their masterpieces. This exhibit is entititledFirst Hand: Architects, Artists, and Designers from the L.J. Cella Collection.

Upcoming Exhibitions

There are so many exciting exhibits coming soon to the Museum, including: Wester Stories, Artists Council Exhibition 2016, MetaModern, Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Women of Abstract Expressionism, and Pat Lasch: Journeys of the Heart. Each one more exciting than the next, visitors are sure to find something exciting.

The Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibit will be on display at the Museum from February 18 - May 29 2017. It celebrates the often unknown female artists of the twentieth-century art movement. There are more than 50 major paintings on display by artists who lived and worked on the East and West Coasts during the 1940s and 1950s.

The MetaModernexhibit will be on display at the Museum from October 9th 2016 to February 27th 2017 and it will feature modernist designs and the incorporation of these designs into modern works. The Western Stories exhibit will be on display at the Museum for a year beginning in September 2016. The works in this exhibit features pieces anchored to the adventurers and dreamers who braved the perilous Western terrain.

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5.Planning your Visit

Planning your Visit
© Palm Springs Art Museum

There is never a dull moment at The Palm Springs Art Museum, there are countless programs, events, theatrical productions, and galleries to explore. Visitors should be sure to visit the website to learn more about various ticket offers and rotating exhibits and shows.

The Museum offers many different tour options and experiences for every member of the family, as well as valuable resources for teachers. School field trips, lectures, and student workshops are all available for scheduling. Private or group tours and events are also offered to visitors.

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Ongoing Programs and Education

There are so many different programs, lectures, classes, special events, art parties and educational workshops to take part in at the Museum.Drawing sessions with live models, creative painting sessions, and various artist in residence experiences can all be scheduled ahead of time.

The Annenberg Theater also features many exciting shows, films, and live performances. Currently showing is the uniquely adventurous Broadway's Best…In the West!" This enthusiastic and historically representative show is sure to delight members of the entire family.

Back to: 25 Best Things to Do in Palm Springs, California, Things to Do in Palm Desert

101 N Museum Dr, Palm Springs, California 92262, Phone: 760-322-4800

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Things to Do in California: The Palm Springs Art Museum