Like most local nonprofits, the Palm Springs Cultural Center has learned how to become more creative to stay afloat during the last few years. Camelot Theatres, which the center runs, has not been immune to those pandemic challenges. But a valiant third act appears to be on the horizon.
“There’s a lot to be excited about now,” says Michael C. Green, Palm Springs Cultural Center executive director. “But we have a way to go. After we reopened, there was still a lot of concern among folks about coming back into an indoor venue, especially theater space. One of the things we’ve been doing over the last few years is trying to diversify our programming. Just as Covid hit, we launched, then recently relaunched, our live music program.”
The relatively new endeavor features live music on the second-floor lounge every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Special events take place on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. There is no cover charge and a happy hour menu is offered.
“It’s one of the things that allowed us to get people to come into a smaller setting where they felt more comfortable,” Green adds. “And when the weather is nice, we open the doors to the balcony. It’s a great space to go and experience live music.”
Undoubtedly an ideal locale, Green notes that the space has not been renovated since 1999. Tables and chairs may need to be replaced or re-upholstered. The walls could benefit from a fresh coat of paint. Carpets need to be replaced. The electrical system needs standard maintenance.
Green says when philanthropists Ann Sheffer, IECF board member and former chair of the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission , and her husband, Bill Scheffler, learned of the situation, they “jumped right in to help us recreate and remodel the upstairs lounge.
To that end, Palm Springs Cultural Center recently received a grant from Inland Empire Community Foundation through the Sheffer/Scheffler Donor Advised Fund. The funds will be used to assist with the remodel, which, Green says, will enhance the entire live entertainment experience offered.
“We really want to continue to energize that program, which has been very important to us because the whole point is to invite people into a space where they feel comfortable, and it’s worked,” he shares. “So, while movie attendance has been down, attendance to the live musical events has been up and, in many cases, selling out on a weekly basis. This will be a great help to us from that standpoint.”
Typically, the lounge can hold 50 people; 65 in ideal weather with the balcony doors open.
Overall, Green cites the need to keep performance spaces active in uncertain times. Funding plays a key part of that.
Philanthropists Ric and Rozene Supple bought Camelot Theatre in 1997, primarily as a portal for the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The Supples donated the theater to the Palm Springs Cultural Center in 2017 and the venue has remained active as a nonprofit center ever since, offering new programming, including lectures and live theater.
Rozene Supple’s death in July generated attention and, perhaps, offered a reminder of the initial philanthropic intentions and the mission at hand for the center: to offer the Valley unique experiences in the realm of arts and culture, film, education, live performance, and more.
“Many people may make the assumption that somehow we were subsidized by the Supple family, and we’re not,” Green says. “We’re thrilled to have had the family’s support throughout the years but we’re still a nonprofit organization. We’re not guaranteed money by anybody. We have to look for funding. We have to raise money, either by getting grants, or doing events and getting sponsorships.
“Because this has been such an institution, we’re working very hard to raise funds to keep the building prosperous and available to the community,” Green adds, noting that sometimes within any given month, the organization can work with 100 different local groups who either want to rent space or need a space donated for meetings.
“I think now more than ever, funding is critical,” Green explains. “A lot of folks may think the pandemic crisis is over, but for arts organizations, it certainly isn’t. Funding has become more difficult to get than ever before because so many people are in need right now. We were fortunate to receive the government funding that was available, but the challenge now, after a year and a half of being under forced closure, is clear: we must keep moving forward.”
Learn more about Palm Springs Cultural Center at https://psculturalcenter.org/pscc.
This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun, August 2022
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