I’ve always liked the look of art that devours the sides of freeways and buildings but to be quite honest I never gave it much thought after my glance. I never really wondered was it graffiti or a well thought out mural, what paint was used, if the artist was well studied, or the deeper meaning behind the design. I’m actually somewhat disappointed with my curious self because the stories that accompany these giant wall canvasses are pretty cool. So cool in fact, I want everyone else to consider now what I had been missing.
That brings me to explain my assignment which led me to an eye candy project happening now in the city of Coachella. It’s called Coachella Walls and it’s the undertaking of artist and CV native Armando Lerma (AKA one half of the Date Farmers) and curated by Med Sobio the director of L.A.’s Academy of Street Art. The men say this is their opportunity to create an arts driven community revitalization project aimed at bringing cultural awareness to a city that rests on the edge of the Coachella Valley and has the largest poverty population of any city out here.
The multi-phase art project was started in 2014 and has since been added to by a dozen muralists and international contemporary artists. Phase one honored labor leader, Cesar Chavez and the anonymous farm worker. Phase two honored women, their struggles and their strength and phase three…I didn’t ask but I’m certain it will be rad.
We actually showed up to shoot on a day when one of the last walls in phase 2 was being painted by Said Dokins, a prominent street artist from Mexico City. Dokins is a Calligraffiti Ambassador and part of the Calligraphy Masters Team. From art showings to installations, Dokins calligrafiti art has been exhibited all over the world.
The wall in Coachella is done in his usual style and is captivating. It’s a series of concentric circles with just a few colors. In it he inscribed the names of organizations lead by women fighting for the defense of human rights in Mexico and Latin America.
One of the first murals in the Coachella Walls project was painted by Armando Lerma and his Date Farmer artist partner, Carlos Ramirez and is in true Date Farmer style. The mural depicts the groundbreaking grape boycott that started in 1965. It sits on the side of the historic Casa del Trabajador, building which is a place where Cesar Chavez once spent the night and still provides services to farmworkers.
Take a stroll down 6th and Vine, right through the heart of Coachella and see the rest of these social and cultural artifacts. You can find a map to all the murals here.
Perhaps my favorite highlight of all the highlights of this assignment was getting to visit The Date Farmers Art Studio which is just a short walk from downtown Coachella. This rad warehouse that Lerma bought and renovated is graced with large form art some from floor to very high ceiling.
Lerma paints here, hosts art exhibitions, and even turns it into a music venue around the Coachella Music and Arts Festival aka Coachella. And it’s his hope that more and more of those concert goers will make their way into the city of Coachella to view the public art that will continue to grow, populate more walls and in turn become a mecca and a day trip for mural enthusiasts from all over the world. I really just adore the fact that Lerma has chosen to live and work in his hometown and continue his craft.
Armando and Med are very protective of the Coachella Walls project. They made me aware that there’s a big difference between what they’re creating and other mural projects throughout the valley and beyond…but that brings me to tell you about a gem in the beyond section of Greater Palm Springs. It’s in no way, shape or form connected to the Coachella Walls project but it’s in every way, shape and form that I love it and felt the need to include it in this story.
This insane street art visual is in a place called Slab City, where really I’m not sure street art is the correct name because the streets here are mostly unpaved roads to who knows where. You may have heard of Slab City because of that movie, Into the Wild or because of the now Instagram famous Salvation Mountain.
It’s funny because as so many folks are so fixated on Salvation Mountain, they don’t notice that just beyond the colorful hillside is an insane juxtaposition of open space, sun drenched desert sands and a giant water tank bathed in a beautiful girl, a Xanadu girl, a girl who was proposed to by the director on our video shoot.
She didn’t say no but she didn’t say yes either. 😉
Next to the giant water tank girl is an open tank with a circular mural that populates the sides with even more pretty faces. Seriously the thing I love most is the contrast of landscape to structure that seems so foreign yet so desert comfortable.
It’s this contrast and the opportunity to interpret it in the way that you want that makes the trek to Slab City to see this art completely worth it.
Mural art is the oldest form of artistic expression and while it’s meaning, and each brush stroke is intentional it’s always up for interpretation. From Coachella Walls to the walls of this water tank, mural art, by its very nature, always comes full circle.
To learn more about the countless amazing adventures in Greater Palm Springs click HERE!