APRIL 15, 2015 — Do arts and music festivals matter? The answer is obvious to those who live in the Coachella Valley, which is now recognized worldwide for Modernism Week, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
But the question nevertheless elicited some interesting insights among panelists at a special event April 14 that drew more than 130 people to Sunnylands Center & Gardens.
Zócalo Public Square, the Los Angeles-based public events and journalism nonprofit, staged the hour-long discussion before a community audience in collaboration with the James Irvine Foundation, Sunnylands, The Desert Sun, and KCRW. Zócalo Managing Director Dulce Vasquez said her organization is touring the state to “explore the many ways Californians are engaged in the arts today.”
They found no shortage of avenues in the Coachella Valley. Moderator Bruce Fessier, entertainment writer for The Desert Sun, said his beat largely consists of covering festivals as he named some of the desert’s 15 major arts festivals, from Stagecoach to the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.
“I’m thrilled to see the growth and diversity in our festival schedule,” said panelist Lisa Vossler Smith, executive director of Modernism Week.
Another panelist, Indio Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson, echoed those remarks, saying each of the region’s festivals appeals to different segments of the community. “Each festival has something to offer a different audience,” she said.
Other panelists were Los Angeles music writer and photographer Steve Appleford and Palm Springs Art Museum deputy education director Irene N. Rodriguez.
Ramos Watson said some of the more successful and enduring festivals are those that have deep community ties, such as the Indio tamale festival and the Riverside County date festival. “The tamale festival came from a councilman who had this crazy idea to make the world’s largest tamale and get us into the Guinness Book of World Records. And we did it!” she said.
Still, much of the discussion centered on the granddaddy of festivals, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, which, according to Ramos Watson, has a $250 million economic impact on the valley.
“Coachella really knows their audience,” Appleford said, citing the line-up of acts the festival organizers have presented year after year to draw as many as 100,000 people a day to its two-weekend runs.