By Marissa Willman
April 9, 2012
Word Count: 565
There’s no denying the Coachella Valley is home to a thriving arts community. From Coachella and Stagecoach to Modernism Week and the Palm Springs Film Festival, local creative events beckon droves of tourists and pump millions of dollars into the local economy.
With such a strong repertoire of artistic events and attractions, former Palm Springs mayoral candidate Bob Mahlowitz wanted to explore the potential of the creative community as an economic force. But it seemed strange that when Mahlowitz invited dozens of members of the local artistic community to gather for an event, it was the first time many of these artists were meeting each other.
It became clear the local creative community needed a better sense of community if it was going to become a true economic force. And so the non-profit organization ArtsOasis was born.
“In order to grow the creative economy, we have to grow a creative community,” said Robert Stearns, president of ArtsOasis.
ArtsOasis seeks to promote creative arts events, provide a network for local creatives, educate others on the merits of supporting the valley’s creative community and advocating the growth of the local creative economy. The organization encompasses a larger group of creative professionals than one might imagine, including industries such as architecture, advertisement and agriculture.
“We include anyone who works with ideas,” Stearns said.
The organization has focused on conducting a study that will detail the economic vitality of the local creative community. The findings of the study, “Realizing our Creative Potential,” will be unveiled at the first annual Creative California Desert Summit on May 8th at McCallum Theatre.
ArtsOasis has also been working with local museums, attractions and the Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Authority to change the competitor mentality into one of partnership.
“We have to work together,” Stearns said, “not to get the audience away from the other guy but to get him to stay an extra day or two and visit more attractions.”
Arts Oasis is also promoting a local creative community through their website, www.ArtsOasis.org. Users can list their arts-related events for free on the site’s event calendar and independent artists can list their creative services in the artist directory.
Stearns sees the site as a “real Yellow Pages directory for creative services.”
The organization also provides complimentary consultations with creative organizations and independent artists to help grow their businesses.
“We see what we can do to help take you to the next step,” Stearns said, adding that it all ties back to ArtsOasis’ mission to drive jobs and increase economic activity in the arts.
“We’re about jobs, not snobs,” Stearns said.
The president of ArtsOasis sees plenty of opportunity for the Coachella Valley’s creative community to become an economic powerhouse in the near future but says education and resources are needed to not only attract business but to keep it here.
“There are little knots of potential that could happen here and it could be cheaper [than in Los Angeles or New York], but we need the equipment and trained staff,” Stearns said.
Still, Stearns believes with the right strategy, the sky could be the limit for the valley’s creative future.
“What’s really needed is a new brand as a vital creative community for the 21st century,” Stearns said. “We would love to see creative digital startups grow into a ‘Silicon Springs.’”