By Crystal Harrell
Greater Palm Springs is synonymous with trailblazing artwork and creative culture, making it an ideal destination to explore in search of picture-perfect art installations. To make road-mapping your quest even more simple and convenient, Visit Greater Palm Springs has re-launched the ArtsGPS app, featuring more than 100 outdoor public art installations throughout Greater
This re-launch is part of the Oasis of Art Campaign, with a goal of drawing attention to the many art and cultural treasures available in this picturesque oasis. In addition to the re-launch of the ArtsGPS app, the campaign also includes an Art & Sol artist video series, highlighting local artists and what inspires them.
The ArtsGPS app acts as a free resource to find public art, events, things to do, and places to stay in Greater Palm Springs. Available on both Android and Apple iOS platforms, users can view the app’s digital map to explore works of art within all eight of the desert cities and beyond, and take a self-guided tour of murals, sculptures, and art galleries.
Not only catering to art, the ArtsGPS app also includes helpful information for travelers on events, things to do, and places to stay. The “Events” section lists happenings across Greater Palm Springs in a calendar format while “Things to Do” includes dining, attractions and shopping. The “Places to Stay” section allows users to browse accommodations by category.
With the helpful aid of the ArtsGPS app, I took an artistic journey of my own to see what wonders awaited me. Using my trusty map as a guide, I was able to view breathtaking artworks—from fixtures nestled in the barren sands of the desert to vibrantly colorful installations situated on bustling city streets. With the ArtsGPS app as my navigator, I knew my path would be successful from art to finish.
The first stop in my ArtsGPS road trip led me to Salvation Mountain, a rainbow-hued, hill-like art structure located several miles from the Salton Sea. The mountain is painted with designs of nature and Biblical scripture embedded on adobe clay, culminating into large text reading “GOD IS LOVE” towards the top of the mass. Late artist Leonard Knight spent decades creating this structure, standing 50 feet high with a breadth of 150 feet. Salvation Mountain is made entirely out of adobe bricks, discarded tires and windows, automobile parts, and thousands of gallons of donated paint. Throughout the years, Salvation Mountain has appeared in various newspapers, and on television shows and films — including Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild and pop star Kesha’s music video for the song “Praying.” When taking in the sight of Salvation Mountain in person, I couldn’t help but notice how the colorful art piece acted as a lingering embodiment of Knight’s labor of love that he hoped would unify and bond those who viewed it.
The next stop in my oasis odyssey took me out to the city of Coachella, where a unique art structure lives among the residential businesses and houses. Easily viewable within the heart of Downtown Coachella is Etherea—a Neoclassical, Baroque-inspired building that glows in the dark at night and stands at 54 feet. According to the ArtsGPS app, the artist behind Etherea, Edoardo Tresoldi, first featured the building at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Tresoldi’s wire-mesh structure exudes a ghostly presence and while I viewed its open-air design and observed Etherea from within its open center, I realized how much this art piece imbeds itself into the environment—letting visitors contemplate the dimensional landscape while being able to see the open sky through its translucent design.
Traveling from Coachella to Indio, the ArtsGPS app led me to Old Town Indio—home to several large-scale murals chronicling the historical significance of the city. One mural, called “Agriculture in Indio and the Coachella Valley,” stretches 18 feet by 95 feet and depicts how the desert was transformed into lush fields and gardens while recognizing the farmworkers who feed the nation and the world. Another mural, “Old Indio,” features workers of the Southern Pacific Railroad when the depot opened in 1876, in Indio territory that was formerly Indian Wells. According to the app, Indio experienced additional growth when U.S. Route 99 (The Main Street of California) was constructed in the 1920s as part of its 1,600-mile connection between the Mexican and Canadian borders. Witnessing the amount of detail presented in these large murals, I not only got a better understanding of the history behind Indio, but also a greater appreciation for the effort it took to build the city into the Oasis it is today.
Traveling from Indio to Palm Desert, the ArtsGPS app took me to a hub of shopping and fine dining: The Gardens at El Paseo. Right at the entrance of The Gardens stood the next art piece on my tour, which was its main Fountain centerpiece. The piece consists of a series of large boulders, the tallest of which stands at 10 feet, that have been minimally shaped and drilled to incorporate the water feature. The water gently bubbles from the top of the stone and cascades to a collecting pool below. At night, the fountain is illuminated with the peaceful blue glow of lights at the bottom of the pool. I took in my surroundings and found that the placement of the fountain added a perfect contrast of tranquility as it is situated within the hustle and bustle of El Paseo, and provides a spot for visitors to collect themselves after an evening of shopping.
The next stop on my self-guided tour took me to Downtown Palm Springs, where directly across from the Palm Springs Art Museum, stands a colossal statue depicting the queen of vintage Palm Springs herself, famed actress Marilyn Monroe. The Forever Marilyn statue stands at 26 feet and weighs 34,000 pounds, comprised of painted stainless steel and aluminum. The statue pays homage to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic scene in 1955’s The Seven-Year Itch. Originally displayed in Chicago, Illinois, the Forever Marilyn statue made its way to Palm Springs in 2012. Forever Marilyn then left Palm Springs in 2014, being displayed in New Jersey, Australia, and Connecticut before returning to Palm Springs as a permanent fixture in 2021. Seeing the size of the Forever Marilyn statue firsthand, I was completely enamored with the larger-than-life presence that Marilyn Monroe captivated audiences with onscreen, and how she continues to do so with this statue created by Seward Johnson.
For the final stop in my self-guided art journey, I located the picturesque, and totally Instagram-worthy, Love Letters sculpture. A popular centerpiece in Downtown Palm Springs, this art piece is highly interactive, inviting visitors to help complete its message by stepping in for the letter “i.” Standing six feet tall, the bright red letters perfectly embody Palm Springs’ popular hashtag #PSILOVEYOU. Stepping in to the center of the Love Letters statue, I felt myself becoming immersed with the Palm Springs lifestyle—reflecting leisure, style, and discovery. As with every stop on my art tour, I was able to embrace the cultural heritage and environmental immersion that each art piece represented across Greater Palm Springs. With the ArtsGPS App, I not only discovered an Oasis, but came to recognize it as unique work of art.
“For more information about the Oasis of Art campaign, the ArtsGPS app and the Art & Sol series, go to www.artoasisGPS.com.”