Desert Festival Flies Forward

Winds of change at Palm Springs Modernism Week make room for rising gust of popularity
Desert Festival Flies Forward
Gaining substance and momentum as it enters its 13th year, Palm Springs Modernism Week runs this year for 11 straight days, February 16 through 26. Photo: Jake Holt
Desert Festival Flies Forward
Desert bus tour eyes Del Marcos Hotel. Photo: Davis A. Lee
Desert Festival Flies Forward
Modernism Week parties abound.
Desert Festival Flies Forward
One of Modernism Week's many lectures. Photo: Davis A. Lee

In its early years, Palm Springs Modernism Week was merely a nostalgic dust devil each Presidents’ Day weekend, swirling a little sand in the desert.

Gaining substance and momentum as it enters its 13th year, the festival, now nearly two weeks long and running February 16 through 26, is a veritable tornado of mid-century modern activity highlighting the work of architect John Lautner, builder Joe Eichler, and others.

Lisa Vossler Smith, executive director of Modernism Week, concedes that the festival’s ever-increasing popularity puts some great events off-limits to many when they fill up fast.

“Usually that first weekend is what sells out,” she says of the holiday, which kicks off 11 straight days of shows, lectures, tours, and parties. Although registration for several dozen events filled up by January, she promises, “We’ve really tried to address that.”

Modernism Week was born out of a 2004 partnership between five local organizations, including the Palm Springs Art Museum, where Vossler Smith worked. It evolved into its own 501(c)(3) non-profit, and she is its only full-time staff. After a decade of growing popularity, the decision was made to expand the festival, a process that continues this year.

“There are actually quite a few new events on top of last year’s schedule,” says Vossler Smith, noting the inflation from 250 different activities last year to around 300 in 2017. Counting the multiple opportunities to breeze by several of them, the choices gather to a swirling gust of 900 events.

One of the themes added in 2015 was born of an opportunity to celebrate the ‘Desert Eichlers,’ three homes built in recent years by developer Troy Kudlac from original Eichler plans.

Unfortunately for latecomers, no tickets remain for the Eichler Day panel discussion and screening of Monique Lombardelli and Kyle Chesser’s film, ‘People in Glass Houses: The Legacy of Joseph Eichler.’ The day concludes with tours of the houses built by Kudlac, who is currently building two more, as we reported recently.