Palm Springs Art Museum

(above; Palm Springs Art Museum, photos © 1999 John Hazeltine)

Palm Springs, CA




About the Museum

In 1938 the Palm Springs Desert Museum was founded and housed in a small room in La Plaza Arcade on Palm Canyon Drive and focused on the desert environment and the native peoples. On the edge of the present-day business district, the arcade was a gathering place for residents. Soon the growing Museum found temporary new quarters in a section of the town's library, then expanded again in 1947 into a section of a converted wartime hospital. The Museum had evolved to reflect the community's growing interest in its natural science and American Indian collections and programs.

A modern 10,000-square-foot structure was built in downtown Palm Springs in 1958, and in 1962 it expanded to include an auditorium and galleries for contemporary art exhibitions. The Museum continued to grow and a 75,000 square-foot building was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams for a site only a few blocks away. Adjacent to downtown Palm Springs, the architecturally innovative Museum complex enjoys a commanding presence at the base of Mt. San Jacinto. Soon the Museum's emphases became threefold: Art, Natural Science and Performing Arts. Educational programs related to each of the three disciplines were planned, and the new Palm Springs Desert Museum opened to the public in January 1976. The Museum expanded again in 1982 with the addition of the Denney Western American Art Wing, and classic western American art was added to the Museum's art emphasis.

In 2005 the Palm Springs Art Museum shifted the Museum's focus from a multi-disciplinary museum to a world-class art museum with a vibrant theater program.  The Palm Springs Art Museum's audience had expanded to areas of architecture, photography, and contemporary glass and a study of the area's other institutions illustrated that there are other established organizations providing programs and exhibitions in the natural sciences in the area.  As a result, the Museum officially changed its name to the Palm Springs Art Museum to reflect its emphasis on the visual and performing arts.

Today the permanent collection consists of more than 50,000 objects. 12,000 objects include fine art, photographic archives, Native American art, Mesoamerican art and artifacts from other cultures.

The intimate 433-seat Annenberg Theater presents internationally known performers and concert artists in music, dance and theater.

In 1982 the Museum earned national accreditation from the American Association of Museums. After a two-year process of self-evaluation in 1993/94, the Museum was commended as one of the country's extraordinary institutions and received subsequent accreditation until 2005. It achieved reaccredidation until 2015.

The Museum building had originally been designed with the possibility of adding a third level. The need for more exhibition space and educational facilities was recognized by the Board of Trustees, noting increased population and tourism in the Coachella Valley, in addition to the Museum's growing collections. An expansion project was initiated with a gift of $1.5 million seed money and 132 works of art from the personal collection of renowned designer and art collector Steve Chase.

The Steve Chase Art Wing and Education Center, also designed by E. Stewart Williams, opened in November 1996. The expansion included 25,000 additional square feet of art galleries, a mezzanine, a sculpture terrace, four classrooms, two art storage vaults and a 90-seat lecture hall. The entire Museum complex now encompasses 124,435 square feet and is an institution poised to greet the 21st century with exciting new educational opportunities for the region and for its national and international visitors.

The Palm Springs Art Museum is located at 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. Situated 120 miles east of Los Angeles, the Palm Springs Art Museum serves the greater Inland Empire, which covers Riverside and San Bernardino counties with a population of approximately 2.4 million residents. It is located in the Coachella Valley, which includes nine cities totaling a permanent population of over 300,000 within its 450-square-mile area, expanding to over 600,000 during the winter months. Museum membership numbers at more than 4,000.  Exhibitions, education programs and performing arts productions at the Museum are made possible in part by admission fees, private funds, donations, memberships and grants.  

Please see the museum's website for hours and fees.

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