The Amazing Art and Culture of Palm Springs

When you think of Palm Springs, all sorts of things might come to mind. Resort-style living, celebrity spotting, grandpa on a golf cart. But what about Palm Springs’ culture? Is there even such a thing as Palm Springs art or Palm Springs museums? Let’s dive into some of the less talked about attractions in one of America’s favorite resort towns.


Oh, and by the way—if you’ve been searching for new homes in Palm Springs and you’re a big fan of the arts, this article might put you over the edge. So beware.

Palm Springs Culture

Before we get too into the art scene, let’s talk more generally about Palm Springs’ culture and where its background comes from. Early Spanish explorers originally referred to the area as La Palma de la Mano de Dios or "The Palm of God's hand". And by 1853, map-makers had decided to coin it “Palm Springs.” Of course, the name refers to the palm trees we all know and love. So it makes sense. 


By the 1870s there was a small stretch of railroad and Dr. Welwood Murray had established a hotel, but the area didn’t really become fashionable until the early 1900s. In 1909 a second hotel and sanitarium popped up (sort of an odd mixture and foretelling of its celebrity future, don’t you think?), called the Desert Inn. By 1927, the Desert Inn had expanded into a more modern hotel. And why does any of this matter? 


Because one of the hotel’s founders (her husband was more involved in the beginning), was named Nellie N. Coffman. And it was Nellie who really put a driving force into making Palm Springs more of a tourist attraction. More hotels followed suit and by the 1930s, movie stars were flocking into the dry, sunny, and secluded area. Then a whole two wars happened, but it didn’t take long for the movie stars to return once the fighting was over. Architectural modernists flourished around this time with commissions from the stars, experimenting with unique and innovative designs like steel houses with prefabricated panels and folding roofs, a glass-and-steel house in a boulder-strewn landscape, and a carousel house that turned to avoid the sun's glare.


By the 50s, Palm Spring had built up a sort of “spring break” reputation, which sometimes caused trouble (you know, things like people being way too drunk in the middle of the street).

But it’s from all of this mess and rubble that Palm Springs culture and Palm Springs art was born.

Palm Springs Art

There are many varieties of art and culture to explore in Palm Springs today, but here are just a few. 


Two of Palm Springs’ larger cultural attractions are the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films. From its movie star beginnings, this makes sense. But other interesting cultural events were born from the same history. 

Postmodern Architecture

Palm Springs culture harkens back to its architectural roots every February during Modernism Week, an 11-day event featuring mid-century modern architecture through films, lectures, tours and its Modernism Show & Sale. And there’s a preview event during the fall. If its architecture is your ideas of Palm Springs art at its finest, you can also find architectural tours. 


While “spring break culture” wasn’t the most artistic endeavor, a more open culture also led to a more accepting one. And with that, came events like the Dinah—a five-day weekend getaway and music festival catering to the lesbian community. And there’s also Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival.

Palm Springs Museums

There are also countless Palm Springs Museums to explore if you want to explore Palm Springs art in its most literal form. These include: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Palm Springs Historical Society Museums, Miss Cornelia White's "Little House”, The McCallum Adobe, Ruddy's General Store Museum, Palm Springs Air Museum, and the Palm Springs Art Museum. You can also find unique cultural oddities like the Forever Marilyn sculpture by Seward Johnson in downtown Palm Springs.


While spring breakers may still flock to Palm Springs every year, there’s much to Palm Springs culture that shouldn’t be overlooked. If all of this isn’t enough to encourage people in search of new homes for sale in Palm Springs though, the weather might clinch the deal. Unless of course, you just aren’t the type of person that loves endless sunshine and easy access to beaches, all tucked into an expected cultural hot spot.




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Published 8.23.2021

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