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Cathedral City, an artsy desert town you shouldn’t ignore

The Pelton Cottage worth a visit when you can

Fountain of Life sculpture in Cathedral City, a 15-minute drive from Palm Springs and 2.5 hours from San Diego.
Fountain of Life sculpture in Cathedral City, a 15-minute drive from Palm Springs and 2.5 hours from San Diego.

This is not another getaway to Palm Springs article. The Coachella Valley actually consists of nine cities, and Palm Springs is the best-known one.

Indian Wells is where the very rich have second homes, including Bill Gates. It’s also the home of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, owned by billionaire Larry Ellison. In Rancho Mirage you can visit the amazing Sunnylands, the former Annenberg Estate where Presidents stayed at many years ago.

But there’s a city adjacent to Palm Springs that you might not know. It’s called Cathedral City — but there are no cathedrals there. The person who named it thought some rock formations looked like a European cathedral. Thus the name stuck.

It was incorporated in 1981. Locals call it “Cat City” for short. It’s not a long drive, and runs a little over two hours. I stayed at a friends’ home, so I didn’t need to reserve a hotel.

If you want a luxury stay, the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage is a couple of miles away. If you prefer casinos with a hotel, the well-rated Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa is about four miles from Cat City.

The Pelton Cottage

There are two significant artistic sites in Cathedral City. One is not open to the public except once a year, when there’s an open house. An exception is that members of the media and scholars/college professors may visit by appointment only. The other site is open to the public daily.

In Cathedral City is a historic house formerly owned by an extraordinary transcendental artist, Agnes Pelton (1881-1961). It has not, however, been designated as a historic structure by the city. Today it’s owned by multi-talented creative individuals Peter Palladino and husband Simeon Den. Both are professional photographers. Den is also a dancer, and he teaches meditation and yoga. Palladino is a superb artist who creates intricate and somewhat whimsical mosaics outside the house.

Guest bathroom mosaic in the Agnes Pelton Cottage.

After moving to the desert and buying the house, they founded the Agnes Pelton Society to spread the word about Pelton’s amazing art. The couple didn’t know the history of the house when they bought it.

Peter Palladino

Palladino told me his realtor gave him a book, which introduced him to the art by Pelton. He said he had “never seen art like this before, and became obsessed with it.” They renovated the home, and later purchased many original Pelton works that are now displayed there.

Pelton is often described as a “desert transcendentalist.” After years of study of painting and world travels, she moved to Cathedral City in 1932. She built a house in a very remote area with few homes, and remained there until her death in 1961. Pelton never married, as she was lesbian.

Agnes Pelton (courtesy of Cathedral City website)

Palladino said she never achieved the fame of another artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, primarily because she had no promoter, and because her work didn’t fall into a particular genre. O’Keeffe was fortunate in having art dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz to handle that for her.

Palladino added that O’Keeffe captured the beauty of nature in her paintings, while Pelton revealed the spiritual essence within nature.

Simeon Den surrounded by Agnes Pelton works.

Their ultimate plan is to eventually get a Pelton museum built in Cathedral City, to celebrate the marvelous paintings she left to the world. At this point, they are getting little support from the city to achieve this goal, but will continue their quest.

Fountain of Life

The Gregory S. Pattis Fountain of Life is outside City Hall in Town Square Park. It was designed by artist Jennifer Johnson in coordination with architect Reuel Young, A.I.A.

The fountain features three central stone columns surrounded by sculptures of tortoises, big horn sheep, lizards, wildflowers, fish, shells, birds and other creatures found in the area.

The overall theme in the design is the spiral, a symbol of continuous birth and never-ending rejuvenation. The fountain's lighting system consists of low-voltage lights mounted on wooden trellises that provide overall lighting. Additionally, 300-watt lights submersed in water illuminate the fountain’s bowls. Fiber optic, computer-operated lights offer changing colors, brightness and timing.

More art

The city has an app called “Cathedral City - Where ART Lives.” It offers a listing of public art, a directory of local artists, information about parks and city events, and listings of art galleries and historic sites. Get it from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Visiting:

Agnes Pelton Cottage

Open House for Pelton home: The event for Sunday, Feb 27, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. has been postponed due to Covid. Look for events in the future.

Den said they hope to bring together diverse residents, including a large number of Latinos who live in Coachella Valley.

Book recommendation: “The Pelton Papers” novel paperback, published April 2020. Available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Fountain of Life

68700 Ave Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City, CA 92234

http://www.cathedralcity.gov/residents/fountain-of-life

Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., free

Not visited this time, but check it out:

Museum of Ancient Wonders (69028-B E. Palm Canyon Dr., (442) 268-5004

This is a new museum devoted to discoveries in the fields of paleontology, paleo-anthropology, and archaeology, MoAW was expressly founded to provide access to exhibitions of this nature and scope for residents and visitors of the Coachella Valley on a permanent basis.

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Fountain of Life sculpture in Cathedral City, a 15-minute drive from Palm Springs and 2.5 hours from San Diego.
Fountain of Life sculpture in Cathedral City, a 15-minute drive from Palm Springs and 2.5 hours from San Diego.

This is not another getaway to Palm Springs article. The Coachella Valley actually consists of nine cities, and Palm Springs is the best-known one.

Indian Wells is where the very rich have second homes, including Bill Gates. It’s also the home of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, owned by billionaire Larry Ellison. In Rancho Mirage you can visit the amazing Sunnylands, the former Annenberg Estate where Presidents stayed at many years ago.

But there’s a city adjacent to Palm Springs that you might not know. It’s called Cathedral City — but there are no cathedrals there. The person who named it thought some rock formations looked like a European cathedral. Thus the name stuck.

It was incorporated in 1981. Locals call it “Cat City” for short. It’s not a long drive, and runs a little over two hours. I stayed at a friends’ home, so I didn’t need to reserve a hotel.

If you want a luxury stay, the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage is a couple of miles away. If you prefer casinos with a hotel, the well-rated Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa is about four miles from Cat City.

The Pelton Cottage

There are two significant artistic sites in Cathedral City. One is not open to the public except once a year, when there’s an open house. An exception is that members of the media and scholars/college professors may visit by appointment only. The other site is open to the public daily.

In Cathedral City is a historic house formerly owned by an extraordinary transcendental artist, Agnes Pelton (1881-1961). It has not, however, been designated as a historic structure by the city. Today it’s owned by multi-talented creative individuals Peter Palladino and husband Simeon Den. Both are professional photographers. Den is also a dancer, and he teaches meditation and yoga. Palladino is a superb artist who creates intricate and somewhat whimsical mosaics outside the house.

Guest bathroom mosaic in the Agnes Pelton Cottage.

After moving to the desert and buying the house, they founded the Agnes Pelton Society to spread the word about Pelton’s amazing art. The couple didn’t know the history of the house when they bought it.

Peter Palladino

Palladino told me his realtor gave him a book, which introduced him to the art by Pelton. He said he had “never seen art like this before, and became obsessed with it.” They renovated the home, and later purchased many original Pelton works that are now displayed there.

Pelton is often described as a “desert transcendentalist.” After years of study of painting and world travels, she moved to Cathedral City in 1932. She built a house in a very remote area with few homes, and remained there until her death in 1961. Pelton never married, as she was lesbian.

Agnes Pelton (courtesy of Cathedral City website)

Palladino said she never achieved the fame of another artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, primarily because she had no promoter, and because her work didn’t fall into a particular genre. O’Keeffe was fortunate in having art dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz to handle that for her.

Palladino added that O’Keeffe captured the beauty of nature in her paintings, while Pelton revealed the spiritual essence within nature.

Simeon Den surrounded by Agnes Pelton works.

Their ultimate plan is to eventually get a Pelton museum built in Cathedral City, to celebrate the marvelous paintings she left to the world. At this point, they are getting little support from the city to achieve this goal, but will continue their quest.

Fountain of Life

The Gregory S. Pattis Fountain of Life is outside City Hall in Town Square Park. It was designed by artist Jennifer Johnson in coordination with architect Reuel Young, A.I.A.

The fountain features three central stone columns surrounded by sculptures of tortoises, big horn sheep, lizards, wildflowers, fish, shells, birds and other creatures found in the area.

The overall theme in the design is the spiral, a symbol of continuous birth and never-ending rejuvenation. The fountain's lighting system consists of low-voltage lights mounted on wooden trellises that provide overall lighting. Additionally, 300-watt lights submersed in water illuminate the fountain’s bowls. Fiber optic, computer-operated lights offer changing colors, brightness and timing.

More art

The city has an app called “Cathedral City - Where ART Lives.” It offers a listing of public art, a directory of local artists, information about parks and city events, and listings of art galleries and historic sites. Get it from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Visiting:

Agnes Pelton Cottage

Open House for Pelton home: The event for Sunday, Feb 27, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. has been postponed due to Covid. Look for events in the future.

Den said they hope to bring together diverse residents, including a large number of Latinos who live in Coachella Valley.

Book recommendation: “The Pelton Papers” novel paperback, published April 2020. Available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Fountain of Life

68700 Ave Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City, CA 92234

http://www.cathedralcity.gov/residents/fountain-of-life

Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., free

Not visited this time, but check it out:

Museum of Ancient Wonders (69028-B E. Palm Canyon Dr., (442) 268-5004

This is a new museum devoted to discoveries in the fields of paleontology, paleo-anthropology, and archaeology, MoAW was expressly founded to provide access to exhibitions of this nature and scope for residents and visitors of the Coachella Valley on a permanent basis.

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Simeon Den emailed me today with this update: "Unfortunately, due to the Omicron uptrend and not unlike many other public events, we are having to postpone the open house."

Jan. 17, 2022

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