By Lisa Morgan
The resounding echo of the all creative forces brought together under one roof by the first annual AMFM Festival was “Inspirational!” It is no small feat to inspire those, whose daily work is to be inspirational, but Rich Henrich and Robert Galarza, artists in their own right, along with an incredible collection of superheroes they called volunteers, made it happen. The festival, which included an awards ceremony that brought tears to nearly every eye, and catapulted all in attendance to their feet (including the beloved Ed Asner) left no one untouched, unchanged or unchallenged.
The event commenced with an outreach by the festival’s headlining band, Miracle Dolls, at the Boys and Girls Club of Cathedral City. After all, don’t all the big events that come into town kick off their big show by sitting down in a circle, holding hands with the community’s children, encouraging them to speak of their dreams and aspirations? And don’t they all provide them with a private concert, a pizza party and then leave them with guitars and tools to make their dreams come true? They don’t? Well, AMFM did. The moment moved both AMFM and Club staffers to tears and perhaps planted the life changing seeds of creativity in the young hearts and minds in attendance.
With nearly 20 independent bands, art galleries containing over 500 exhibits, three days of film screenings in four different theaters, parties and poetry readings “and more”, it was impossible to keep up with it all. Stars that have left a significant creative footprint were in attendance, ever so gracious and personal. It was networking in its most beautiful form, creating alignments that are sure to ignite powerful artistic collaborations in the future.
Kimberly Zsebe, Los Angeles based artist/photographer: “AMFM Fest was far more than a romp in the desert. It was a catalyst for change. The films and artists were chosen for their ability to change the world. To expose what is hidden and to call to action those who have the will to make the world a better place. Rich Henrich said he brought us all together because we had to meet. I will always be grateful for his and everyone who volunteered their time’s sacrifices to make it happen.”
Elizabeth Christopher Artist/poet/photographer: “AMFM Fest was a gathering of diverse creative hearts and minds, who share the desire to promote positive change in the world…what a powerful and moving experience it was for me! Thank you Rich and Robert for your vision! Thank you everyone who helped make AMFM FEST a reality!”
“The Second Cooler” was screened by first time film maker, Ellin Jimmerson, writer/director/producer. The Film for Change awards winner said, “I would go back to the AMFM Fest in a heartbeat! It was fun, exciting, and a great way to network. Sure we got to meet David Zayas, Viggo Mortensen, and Ed Asner. But more important, we got to be with other artists who, like festival organizers Rich Henrich and Robert Galarza, believe artists can be a force for good in the world. The sense of collegiality among the artists was the best I’ve experienced in any festival. Well done, guys! Keep it up!”
Director Christian Sesma and iconic film star, Jason Mewes, surprised fans at Tramps in Stereo’s performance, by stealthily meandering through the audience handing out flyers. The looks on the faces in the crowd were priceless as they slowly realized who was nonchalantly standing next to them striking up conversation. Front man Jesse Vasquez called Jason on stage stating, “It’s not fair if everyone else gets an autograph and we don’t”. Then, like the Pied Piper, Jason led a flock of attendees from outside the theater to the screening of his new digital series, “Vigilante Diaries” which received thunderous shouting and applause despite the fact that it was a midnight showing. Local director/producer/screenwriter, Christian Sesma stated, “The ability to showcase my new series in front of a hometown crowd with Jason Mewes was a blast. But being a part of Rich and Rob’s vision to bring the arts and that spirit of passion was what it was all about. AMFM was a success no matter what.”
In an awards ceremony that summed up the mission and purpose of the event, co-founders of the festival eloquently spoke from the heart:
“Your creativity, when it connects, is electrifying; it’s magnetic” shared Rich Henrich from the theater stage. “It’s what the arts are all about. We’re very fortunate to be here in Cathedral City, to have a mayor and a city council that recognizes the importance of the arts, the way they have for the AMFM Festival. Through the arts we can make change. We can inspire people; we can create all sorts of possibilities that never even existed. Solve problems; lift people’s spirits. We can engage each other; support each other. That only happens with a community of artists. I want to applaud all of you for being part of AMFM in our first year, and for being patient, because it’s been hard.” Then, finally breaking from the emotion of gratitude, Rich said in a heartfelt somewhat broken voice, “None of this would be possible at all without the endless hours of our staff.” The entire theater stood and the applause thundered. “We can’t thank you enough. We know what you went through; what we put you through. We are so humbled by what you gave to us; to this community… it means everything for us.”
Robert Galarza, co-founder shared from his own heart. “The one thing that all of us face every day as creators is our own fears and our own demons. There’s something about that vulnerability that we all feel when you’re looking at that blank canvas or that blank sheet of paper. There’s not one person in this room that hasn’t felt that fear and been overcome by it. The reason we’re here, is we are celebrating overcoming that fear. We’re celebrating each of you who created something; breaking past that moment of sheer terror when you’re putting yourself out there and becoming vulnerable with your creation. This festival for Rich and me was our blank canvas this time around. The vision we had was to create a space that people could come together and celebrate and share and create; a positive place where people could then walk away and see how art can move mountains, can change societies, and create revolution.”
“This has not been easy. But then it never is. I think that sometimes we forget that when we take these risks, when we overcome these fears, we continue to inspire those that are younger and newer than us. That is what makes the world a better place. When we get caught up in the system and take the easy route, we’re all going down stream. But we’ve got to be the pioneers that go upstream. We fight against the current that runs EVERY DAY. Every morning it’s there staring you in the face…this is for all of you.” Then he closed with, “Art is art – film maker, singer/song writer, poet… who cares. Let’s just be kids. Let’s just grab that box of crayons and go out and play.”
Already looking toward next years event, AMFM Festival founder Rich Henrich says, “The seed has been planted. Help us water it and watch it grow. See what these artists will bring to bloom in 2014.”