Sunday, September 23, 2018

Seeing the Desert through a New Lens

~ Zack Sanchez-Chong Cuy, Education Specialist

On Saturday, September 22, the Imperial Valley Desert Museum hosted its Desert Photography Day with Macro Photographer Robert Marcos.  As a member of staff at the IVDM, I was fortunate enough to attend this exclusive event. Beforehand, I had no experience whatsoever in photography.  I was definitely nervous: I knew nothing about photography as an expressive art form, and this was my first event working for the museum. Thankfully, none of those fears came into play.

From the beginning, I was quite comfortable.  Many of us came to event with little or no experience, instead united by our love for desert photography and, really, the desert itself. This made for a very warm and welcoming experience for all of us.

Robert Marcos talked to us about his approach to macro photography, where one views what would typically be considered a common object through a zoom lens and the manipulation of that object using lighting and angles.  The result is an incredibly up-close and detailed view of objects that we otherwise overlook, which teaches that even the most common of things are quite complex and that there is beauty everywhere within nature when one takes a closer look.  Robert Marcos calls this his “revelation of finding beauty with the most minute things that inhabit the earth.”

Following his informative and quite entertaining lecture, we followed with a short hike across the museum property where we all applied what we had just learned. Robert Marcos' approach to desert photography was fresh and insightful, and was a great tool to add to my interpretation of our desert environment which ultimately carries over into other things.  There is beauty in everything around us: we just have to look at things through a different lens. Sometimes, it requires another person's perspective to help shape our own. I had a blast at the event and look forward to continue learning and growing along with the great people who support the museum and everything we do.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A New Curatorial Research Fellow

~ Ryan McHale, Curatorial Research Fellow

Hello my name is Ryan McHale and I was recently hired by the Imperial Valley Desert Museum as the new Curatorial Research Fellow. I was born and raised in Hamilton, New Jersey and still call Hamilton home. I lived in Burlington, Vermont for four years while completing my Bachelors’ degree in History with a minor in Italian Studies at the University of Vermont. Upon graduating I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I completed a Master’s degree in Ancient History at the University of Edinburgh. 

I aspire to be a curator and am eager to gain more professional experience in museum management. Previously, I was an intern at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont working within the Collections Department. I also worked at two museums in Perugia, Italy in exhibitions and archives. I was particularly drawn to IVDM because of its aim to expand beyond the traditional notion of a museum. I find it extremely important to preserve local history and engage with the community. IVDM does this in a very unique way with art, art education, and the promotion of traditional crafts. The chance to interact with history and the surrounding desert environment creates a memorable experience and makes history relevant to each visitor. 

With each passing day, I am realizing the rich culture and history within the Imperial Valley. History is my passion and I strongly believe that anyone can like history, it is just a matter of finding something that they can relate to. I strive to develop the same passion and curiosity that I have for history in others. While at the IVDM I will be working on a number of curatorial and archival projects. I am eager to explore the museum’s collection and share with you what excites me. Stay tuned for my first temporary exhibit! 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A New Education Coordinator

~Andrew Alvarez, Education Coordinator

My name is Andrew Alvarez, and I am happy to anounce that I have been hired by the Imperial Valley Desert Museum as the new Education Coordinator. Born in Northern California to migrant parents, I’ve come to live in multiple places.  Merced, Oakland, Imperial Valley, and most recently Mexicali, Baja California, are some of the places I’ve called home, but none of them have seen me grow as much as Imperial Valley.  In the Valley, I was (and still am) able to develop a sense of self through schooling, experiences with my community, and institutions such as Imperial Valley Desert Museum.  There was also an opportunity to grow on academic settings, which allowed me to express myself through essays, research papers on a variety of subjects, and presentations in and outside the US. 

It was through the SDSU-IV’s History Department that I gained a renewed appreciation for our region.  As with everyone that has lived in the valley, I could not wait to get out.  Circumstances led to me remaining in the Imperial Valley, and I enrolled at SDSU-IV where I was able to enroll on courses that changed my perspective about the region and myself.   At SDSU-IV, I developed an interest in my family history and the migration of my family through Mexico, and eventually, the United States.   This sparked interest in the migration of people from other countries to the United States, and people from the United States to other countries.  In my personal research, I’m exploring the topic of "Stateless Women", who were Mexican women married to Chinese men, who were then deported during Mexico’s anti-Chinese sentiment movements. It was also at SDSU that I met Dr. Neal Hitch and Marcie Landeros, who together introduced me to Imperial Valley Desert Museum as a research intern.

As for the future, I have reenrolled in SDSU-IV to complete a teaching credential with a bilingual authorization.  This would allow me to share my experiences and reach out to students who are struggling with who they are as migrant students, English Language Learners, or commuting from Mexicali to Imperial Valley every day.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Desert Survival Training

~Marcie Landeros, Museum Manager

Today was an exciting day here at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Members of the United Kingdom's Military, who are stationed at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro for desert training, came out to learn about desert plant identification and some basic desert survival tips. After a short presentation showcasing the types of plants and animals that they may encounter in our deserts (and prepping them what to do if they do encounter them), we then went out into our desert for a short hike, so they could see some of the life in the wild.

While out on the hike, we encountered serveral of the Yuha Desert's residents, such as the Desert Iguna and the Zebra Tailed Lizard. We encountered several sets of tracks, most likely belonging to a coyote, and evidence of the Whiptailed Lizards. We also discoved a new tarantula burrow, so we had the opprotunity to learn how to identify the differences between burrows. Then we were able to find several types of cacti, and talked about what parts were edible.

It was a bittersweet event for me personally, as it was the last field trip that I will do in the capacity of Education Coordinator. I won't be going to far, I have accepted the position of Museum Manager here at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. While I will miss running our education department, I look forward to the challange that comes with keeping the museum organized and running smoothly.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Giant Purple Cactus

-Neal Lucas Hitch, Artist-in-Residence

The latest installation of desert-sized art at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum is the interpretive execution of a child's rendering of a purple prickly pear cactus brought to life.  Now a trio of brightly-painted sculptures, these large cactus give new life as defining characteristics on the landscape and greet visitors to our desert.

The cactus are made of rebar-supported plywood.  During construction museum staff tested multiple ply materials to determine the optimum deformation of the sculpture in the wind. As residents of the area know, Ocotillo is no stranger to high winds.  Gusts exceeding 45 miles per hour are common experiences, and are always a consideration in new construction: this land of extremes requires extreme installations.  Against this, building three desert-sized art pieces, each essentially acting as its own sail in the wind, was no small task.

Lucas takes a break in the shade of his cactus before painting
The result is a kinetic sculpture that gently sways in the wind like a real cactus.  Its upper areas are painted an assortment of bright colors, designed to reflect the life and diversity of the real purple prickly pear cactus, and to be just as eye-catching in its presence. Getting up close to it, visitors will see an even greater detail.  The base of the sculpture is covered in a mosaic made from hundreds of pottery sherds, collected from failed pit firings of pottery first made by children at the museum.  Their inclusion speaks to the nature and success of the desert itself: everything comes from something and the desert is a place of infinite resourcefulness and repurpose.

As with all museum installations, the giant cactus will be added on to over time.  Coming soon will be a small kiosk or sign explaining the art, as well as a landscaped trail guiding visitors the short distance from the road over the wash to the sculptures.  Small solar lights to spotlight the statues at night have already been added. Museum staff have seen many people stop by to admire the cactus and take pictures of them, and we hope this exciting trend continues! If you snap a picture, consider sharing it on social media and tagging the museum, and let’s get the hashtag #giantpurplecactus trending online!

Desert-sized art before paint

Desert-sized art after paint

Monday, May 14, 2018

Monumental (Mosaic) Achievement

~ Marcie Landeros, Education Coordinator

Today marked a monumental day, not only for the museum, but for me personally. Today was the dedication of a mosaic sign that will sit at the front of the museum property, welcoming visitors as they turn up Frontage Road to the museum. Having worked on every part of putting this sign together, from writing grants to get funding, to working with students to make the sign, to helping pour the cement, I was overwhelmed with joy to see it completed.

We started in 2015, with a grant from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation, and support from Imperial County Board of Supervisors, designing the sign through Rainforest Art Project. During the 2016-2017 school year, I worked every Wednesday with Seeley Elementary’s afterschool program to construct the sign, with the guidance of Rainforest. Working with students whose grades ranged from 2ndto 8th, we pieced together the 3-foot-high, 11-foot-long sign. 

Once the sign was completed, Home Depot worked with us to pour the foundation of the sign, and donated all the materials for the foundation. To build the wall that the sign is attached to, individual volunteers came out to support the museum. Were it not for the people who helped throughout the process, this dream would never have come into fruition. As Dr. David Breeckner said, “This project is a lot like a mosaic. A lot of different pieces came together, to create something truly beautiful.”  

Jessica Villalobos, Jennifer Hernandez, Jorge Casteneda, Pablo Quintero, Megan Herndon, Julissa Anaya, Alana Rodriguez with Pam Morton at the official unveiling of their mosaic sign 

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Night of Wine Tasting

A night of friends, fun and wine!

Southwest High School string quartet provided beautiful music all night

Last night the IVDM Society Board held their annual Wine Tasting event- and a great time was had by all!  125 museum members, guests, and wine lovers from across the county joined us at the El Centro Community Center for a night of wine, music, conversation, and high stakes bidding on a range of silent auction items. All wines were from Fernando Gaxiola and Baja Wine Food.  Beautiful chamber music was provided by members of Southwest High School's talented orchestra.Interim Director David Breeckner said "It was great seeing old friends tonight, but also really exciting to see so many new faces!"  More than half the people in attendance were at their first IVDM event.

Silent Auction- bidding war!
Over $13,000 was raised this year and all proceeds from the Wine Tasting go to the museum's Endowment Fund. When fully funded, the Endowment will support two permanent staff positions at the museum: a Head Curator and a Cultural Collections and Programs Manager.  These positions are vital to retain the necessary expertise for collections management and preservation on staff.  Every successful museum program stems from the preservation and accessibility of our local collections. Best of all, through 2019 all donations towards the Endowment are being matched by a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities!  The goal of this five year grant has been to raise $1 million for the Endowment Fund and before last night, we were less than $300,000 to our goal.  Through July, the NEH grant will match donations dollar for dollar, so everyone's contributions are doubled! If you are interested in donating towards this grant, please click here.
Edgar rocked the hair and the wine pouring all night!