Paul Anderson, who for several years directed the Sausalito Arts Festival, has been chosen to promote La Quinta’s new signature arts festival, which is scheduled to debut in March.
The La Quinta City Council unanimously appointed Anderson on Tuesday night after nearly two hours of interviews and discussion.
“We’re going to have fun,” he told the council when his appointment was announced. “This process has been amazing, thorough and complete.”
The yet-to-be-named event, to debut March 5-8 at the Civic Center Campus, will build on the legacy of the nationally recognized La Quinta Arts Festival, which had traditionally been held the first weekend of March since it began in 1982.
La Quinta Arts Foundation announced in June it was canceling the festival after 37 years.
Eager to not let a year pass without a festival, possibly losing artists and visitors to other March events, the city created a tight schedule for proposals and a decision by the council to create a new signature event in 2020.
“We have essentially taken a four- to six-month process and cut it down to 60 days,” Community Resources Director Chris Escobedo said.
An application review committee, comprised of an artist, residents and city staff, interviewed the top three of nine applicants and narrowed the finalists to Anderson and Arizona-based Thunderbird Artists.
Anderson told council members he has attended nine of the last 10 La Quinta Arts Festivals. In contrast, Thunderbird Artists President Denise Colter told the council she had never attended a La Quinta festival.
When asked why not, Colter said, “I’m always working.”
Overall, Anderson plans to continue the legacy of the event with some minor changes the first year, including the addition of a digital pavilion.
“I would do nothing different from what they (La Quinta Arts Foundation) did,” Anderson said. “I want to emulate and enhance.”
In announcing its cancellation of the festival, which regularly featured more than 200 artists from around the world, the La Quinta Arts Foundation said it had outgrown the Civic Center Campus.
Anderson said he found the campus is the right place for a festival with up to 220 participating artists. If parking becomes an issue, Anderson said he can arrange for shuttles or valet parking.
Council members liked that Anderson, coming out of retirement, is not currently organizing any other art events and would be able to devote 100 percent of his time to the La Quinta festival.
It’s imperative that artists and patrons have in 2020 a quality art show, as they have traditionally come to expect in La Quinta, Mayor Linda Evans said.
“I love the vision, the creative idea of doing different things but I really feel that 2020 does have to emulate and enhance because that’s our credibility year to then say we can do this … and then start exploring other means,” Evans said.
Anderson was also the top choice of the review committee.
Longtime La Quinta resident and artist Kathy Caldwell was on the committee and said she polled about 12 core artists, all of whom said Sausalito’s festival was most comparable to La Quinta’s.
“From an artist’s point of view … it’s a better match” for La Quinta, Caldwell said of Anderson.
The La Quinta Arts Festival was voted No. 1 Fine Art Festival in the nation five of the past seven years by “Greg Lawler’s Art Fair SourceBook.” The festival also earned the No. 1
Fine Art and Design Show 2019 recognition from Sunshine Artist. The event drew 5,000 to 8,000 people per day, officials said.
‘Time for a change’
For many artists, the festival was a top income earner for the year. The foundation reported that the event generated more than $56 million in art sales over the years, used to award more than $1.3 million in college scholarships to Coachella Valley students.
“It’s time for a change,” said Kathleen Hughes, a former longtime employee of the La Quinta Arts Foundation, who also served on the application review committee.
“I feel the last couple of years, the passion wasn’t there. We need someone who has that,” said Hughes, who recused herself from the committee vote when Anderson and Thunderbird Artists both said they planned to hire her to help organize a new festival.
The city is entering into a one-year contract with Anderson, with an option for extensions, depending on how the 2020 festival goes. The contract allows the city to terminate the agreement at any time with or without cause by giving 30 days notice.
The event still needs a name, which has to be run through legal channels to be sure it doesn’t infringe on the trademarked La Quinta Arts Festival name, which is owned by the La Quinta Arts Foundation.
While the promoter will shoulder the cost for putting on the event, the city will:
- Allow the use of Civic Center Campus and Wellness Center for March 5-8 at no cost to event producer; waived use fees total about $28,000;
- Allow use of city parking properties — including City Hall parking lots — for the March 2020 event at no cost to producer;
- Expedite business licensing for artists/vendors;
- Underwrite the cost of event trash services, up to $5,000;
- Market and send out news releases to support the event; and
- Commit advertising dollars up to $35,000.
Before he could be approved, Anderson had to show proof he had the financial ability to put on the event, which the city received on Tuesday, Escobedo said.
After every event, Anderson said, he would provide the city with a written report of revenue; expenses; attendance; and other items.
Experience: About 40 years of experience with art events in a “myriad of ways.”
Sausalito Art Festival managing director, 2013-2017. Begun in 1952 in Sausalito, California, and held annually on Labor Day weekend, the festival draws 250 artists from around the country and about 30,000 patrons per year. The festival has been ranked No. 1 in the nation by Art Fair Source Book several times. The festival also includes entertainment, special exhibitions, food, beer and wine vendors.
La Quinta festival vision: 220 artists showing in 14 media, drawing 20,000 patrons over four days; elevated food, music and other interactive art experiences; 200 local volunteers will be recruited to augment event staff of 10.
Juried artists: Interested artists will use Zapplication to apply to participate. A jury of 50 peer artists and professionals will select participants.
Local office: Anderson said he will have a La Quinta office from Oct. 1 through March 31.
Regular updates: Anderson pledged he will coordinate with the city monthly and provide audited financial statements within six months of the event.
Nonprofit support: Anderson has chosen Tools for Tomorrow of Palm Desert, which offers after-school literacy enrichment programs that integrate writing, drama, art and music for Coachella Valley elementary children, as the local nonprofit to benefit from some of the proceeds of the art festival.
The council meeting was attended by several local artists who applauded the decision.
“Although I am really unacquainted with both Paul Anderson and Thunderbird Artists, the appointment of Paul Anderson stands out to me to be the right choice for several reasons,” La Quinta artist Gary Heath said.
“First off, he is a free agent that can dedicate all his energy to a new event. Secondly, he is a West Coast promoter familiar with the market needs of our region. Arizona is a very different market from us, in terms of artistic style,” Heath said.
“Thirdly, by all appearances, Paul Anderson has an enthusiastic demeanor that should make things hum along nicely and make for a pleasurable experience for all,” Heath said.
Councilman John Peña has been in La Quinta for all 37 of the arts festivals.
At the first one, “I remember sitting on an ice chest, selling sodas … and hot dogs. It was a little festival as we started, and I’ve been to everyone since,” he said.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the mid-Coachella Valley cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at email@example.com or (760) 778-4694. Follow her on Twitter @TDSSherryBarkas