Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Desert
Edwards Harris Center

ABOUT US


Museum Mission Statement

As a cultural and educational leader in the greater desert community, the Palm Springs Art Museum provides extraordinary creative encounters based on its collections of modern and contemporary art and traditional art of the Americas:

  • By acquiring groundbreaking art works, working with leading contemporary artists, and creating unique exhibitions of world-wide importance. 
  • By creating innovative education experiences through interactive engagement with the region's diverse communities. 
  • By presenting outstanding multi-disciplinary events within its theater and other museum venues.

Museum Summary

Located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Art Museum features a sophisticated collection of art, loaned or donated by the area's affluent residents. The museum has an art collection that rivals urban metropolitan museums, and includes works from Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Robert Rauschenberg, Antony Gormley and Ansel Adams. Spread over the 150,000 square feet, the museum boasts major collections of modern and contemporary art, glass, photography, architecture and design and Native American and Western art. It has two outdoor sculpture gardens, a café featuring American and Continental cuisine, and a museum store that includes one-of-a-kind gifts and art-related merchandise. The museum is open every day except Mondays and major holidays, and is always 75 degrees, providing a welcome respite from the Palm Springs summer triple-digit temperatures. It features free admission every Thursday evening from 4-8 p.m. and every second Sunday of each month.

Museum History

La PlazaPalm Springs Art Museum was founded in 1938 as the Palm Springs Desert Museum, specializing in Native American artifacts, the natural sciences, and the environment of the surrounding Coachella Valley (original site was in La Plaza, pictured at left, circa 1938).

The museum moved several times within the downtown Palm Springs area before building its first permanent structure in 1958, located on the southwest corner of Tahquitz-McCallum Way and Indian Ave. To add to the appeal of the museum, galleries located upstairs in the new building were designed to exhibit fine art. In 1963, the museum held its first concert. These new ideas were the seedlings of the Palm Springs Art Museum we know today.

Stewart Williams The 1960's were a busy time for the museum. Executive Director Frederick Sleight arrived on the scene in 1965 with a vision of making the museum "the prime cultural center of the desert." Alice Sleight founded the docent program that same year. As programming grew, so did attendance. By the late 60's it was evident the 10,000 square foot building was quickly becoming too small (designed by E. Stewart Williams, the structure is pictured at right).

In 1974, architect E. Stewart Williams was commissioned to design the current building for the museum. Further growth resulted in the construction of the Doris and Walter N. Marks Administration Building and the 1996 completion of the Steve Chase Wing and the Education Center.

Museum Model Review Sculpture Court Art Museum Today

Museum Director Frederick Sleight and Walter Marks review the model of the new museum (finished 1976)

The interior sculpture court, now enclosed,
was once open to the sky.

The Palm Springs Art Museum today.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, Palm Springs Art Museum has 28 galleries, two sculpture gardens, four classrooms/resource centers, an artists' center, five storage vaults, a 85-seat lecture hall, a 433-seat theater, a 1,000 square-foot store, and a locally popular café.

In April 2004, the Board of Trustees of the Palm Springs Art Museum instructed the director and staff to shift the museum's focus from a multi-disciplinary museum to a world-class art museum with a vibrant theater program. In evaluating our current strengths and directions, it became clear that our art collections were growing and that our art audience was expanding – primarily in the areas of architecture, photography, and contemporary glass. Further, a study of the area's other institutions brought a realization that there are other established organizations providing programs and exhibitions in the natural sciences.

One year later, in April 2005, the museum officially changed its name to reflect its emphasis on the visual and performing arts. Pictured at left is the changing of the name.

Nine active councils interface with museum efforts: Annenberg Theater Council, Architecture and Design Council, Artists Council, Contemporary Art Council, Docent Council, Museum Associates Council, Museum Service Council, Photography Collection Council, and Western Art Council. A major fundraising arm of the Board of Trustees, the Museum Associates Council (MAC) boasts exceptional success in planning and carrying out innovative fundraising events. Each year MAC and the Board of Trustees host a gala to raise the necessary dollars for the museum's general operating budget.

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 more than 410,000 within its 450-square-mile area, expanding to more than 600,000 during the winter months. Museum membership numbers at more than 4,500. Exhibitions, education programs and performing arts productions at the museum are made possible in part by admission fees, private funds, donations, memberships, and grants.

The museum's goals remain solid as we continue to serve as an innovative community cultural center expanding our exhibitions, programs, and services in the visual and performing arts. The Palm Springs Art Museum remains committed to addressing the needs of a microcosm of the world where diversity and unique cultures are blended into a vibrant community.