Friday, December 21, 2012

Jacumba Hikers schedule

by Greg A. Curran, Member - Board of Directors

It is getting close to the New Year and some of you might be thinking of New Year resolutions. Well here is an option if your resolution is to get in shape and get out there and enjoy nature. Jacumba Hikers, an informal hiking group has put together a winter hiking schedule and Imperial Valley Desert Museum will be the meeting place for those wishing to join the scheduled hike.

Please take a moment to review the attached schedule to see if there is a hike that might interest you and I ask you to please help us get the word out by sharing this communication with your friends, family members, and others you feel may be interested.

Have a Safe & Healthy Holiday Season.

Monday, December 3, 2012

New resource for hiking groups

As information becomes available on local hiking groups, we will be posting the details to a new, dedicated webpage:

Keep us posted on your outings, and keep the facilities at the IVDM in mind as you are planning your meeting locations.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Society's Annual Meeting

The IVDM Society will be holding their annual meeting on December 2nd at 1:30 - 3:00, with a taco cart lunch at 12 noon (20$ suggested donation).

Also at 1:30pm there will be a free and open holiday ornament decoration class, donated by Lynn Hitchcock. RSVP to Greg Curran, as indicated below:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Local Hiking Options

The museum is exploring the hiking options in the region. This week we connected with a hiking group through the San Diego Natural History Museum's Canyoneer Hikes Program. Take a look:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Museo Comunitario de Tecate Partnership

Our newest addition to the gift shop signals the start of a new partnership with the Museo Comunitario de Tecate. A little bit about the museum from their website:

"The museum project began as an idea of Kumiai community members who dreamed of a place where Kumiai culture could be passed on to future generations.  Tecate area Kumiai community members have participated in the planning process, and have set clear priorities for the museum, which they hope will “instill respect for our territory (sacred sites, environment), cultures and customs; provide accurate information on the history of the native regions of Baja California; create a neutral space for all the communities, and involve Kumiai in the whole process. We want this museum to become a reality.”

The art now for sale is the work of Kumeyaay and Pai Pai artisans who partner with the Tecate museum. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ceramic Clay Grant hosted at museum

Dr. Hitch shows a paddle from the Museum collection, used to smooth out coils 

On Wednesday we were thrilled to have a group of 10 students and 6 parents from the California Virtual Academies  join us at the Museum to participate in Celebrating Our Desert Art, a program funded by the Imperial Valley Community Foundation.
The students spent all day building up and then squishing back down their attempts to make a base. "Don't be afraid to start over," said Dr. Hitch, "No one ever makes a good pot the first time. The 4th pot is always much better."
The students spent the day working with the clay with the goal of making a base they were satisfied with. Next week after the clay has dried a bit, students will meet again, this time at the Virtual Academy's space in the Christ Community Church in El Centro, to add more coils to their base, hopefully ending up with a large and awesome final pot. Or at least a creative snail.

Adding coils to a pot base

Monday, October 22, 2012

Intern Profile: Jacob

Jacob S. Metoxen is the new conservation intern responsible for the re-locating of collections from temporary storage into the Imperial Valley Desert Museum. Jacob's conservation experience includes working at the Arizona State Museum where he conserved American Indian materials including a Navajo beaded belt and Navajo Rugs for an exhibit highlighting southwestern American Indian/settler trade.

Most recently, Jacob interned at the National Archives and Record Repository in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was actively involved in processing Bureau of Indian Affairs materials from various regions in the Midwest. Jacob received his Bachelors of Science in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and subsequently a Masters of Arts in Information Resources and Library Science from the University of Arizona.

Jacob is a member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and is excited to be part of an organization dedicated to increasing the awareness of Imperial Valley community culture.  He looks forward to experiencing the rich culture of southern California and learning about the continued subsistence of communities in the area.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sunset Photography Event

"I never knew that little camera could do so much", said one participant to tonight's photography event. We spent an hour trying out the options on our cameras that had always been there, but now we knew what to do with them... sort of. A couple folks decided it would take some practice before they mastered it. 

Afterward, we set up the projector and reviewed the images on the big screen. Below is a tiny sampling of our work, you can see the rest on our facebook page. 

Thanks to Esther for organizing the event and Abby Perez for offering instruction on the camera features and composition. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Celebrating our Desert Culture Grant Begins

Today kicked off the Celebrating our Desert Culture Hands on Art grant funded through the Imperial Valley Community Foundation. This is the second round of funding to bring the museum's Ceramic Art Youth Program into county schools. This year we are including home school programs as well as continuing to work with high schools.

Today we met during the art class session of the Freedom Academy in Holtville to give an overview of ollas as history and as art. One student, the youngest, explored the structure of the clay and how to stretch the existing sides of her pot taller; with the idea that 2 inches is tall. By the end of this first class, the students got an idea of how difficult it is to make ollas - they are typically 15-20 inches tall. Next week, we'll take the basis we built and try for a 10 inch pot.

Monday, October 8, 2012

AASLH meeting

by Jessica Brody

The Association of American State and Local History is a national organization devoted to the support of local history institutions. Last week, I attended the annual meeting as part of a scholarship from their Small Museums group. To maximize the impact of their contribution, I'm sharing the information I learned here on the blog.

Probably the most important take away point from the conference was "invite leaders to participate." The theme for the conference was "exploring connections between people and place" and so inviting leaders to participate refers to community leaders, staff leaders, volunteer leaders - people who are passionate about what your organization is passionate about - create an environment where these people can participate in their passions. I love this concept because it's what I love about this particular museum: people suggest museum programming or put their collections on display or dictate the direction of our art research.

Then there things you would expect out of a conference like quotes to live by:  “vision without action is a daydream, action without vision is a nightmare” and sessions on "civic tourism". 

I was also able to evaluate where our museum sits when compared to other local organizations. You might recognize some of these themes from conversations around our curation tables:

- develop partnerships
- be inviting
- be interesting
- be relevant
- have fun
- escape your comfort zone
- be unforgettable

If you are interested in learning more about the conference happenings and themes, I'd be happy to discuss it with you: email me at

Friday, September 28, 2012

Creating Cultural Dialogue through Film

Earlier this year the Imperial County Film Commissioner's Office brought the Sundance Institute's Film Forward Program to the Valley. We participated in a continuation of that program through a Google Hangout today. 

Last Saturday we screened "Somewhere Between" a film about several young woman who were adopted from China into American families and their struggle for identity. This morning, we joined participants from across the country and internationally to compare and discuss the reaction of our communities with each other and the film's director. The IVC students who participated here at the museum were very interested in the discussion about whether identity is found inside or out with the Arizona State University group, a group which included an adopted student who was born in China and who was willing to share her experiences. 

After the discussion digitally concluded, we screened the film a second time and the lively conversation continued into the afternoon. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

3,000 artifacts in one day - well, almost.

Twenty-four volunteers helped curate 1,900 artifacts.

Saturday was an exciting day at the Desert Museum, exciting for museum curators anyway. The museum held a 14-hour, 3,000 Artifacts in a Day event. Twenty four volunteers made good headway toward the ambitious goal, contributing over a hundred hours combined.  People actually started working around 9:00am and came throughout the day. Even at the end of the day, a group of IVC students arrived at 8:00pm and worked through the night.  
“Normally our volunteers complete 600 artifacts in a week, so trying to re-curate 3,000 in one day was a pretty large goal.” admitted Jessica Brody, a curator at the museum. In the end about 1,900 artifacts were moved from temporary storage into permanent storage. The re-curation of the of the IVC archaeological collection has been the main work of the museum this year.
IVC students curated through the night.
 “I had to put in my time to help the museum,” said Eusebio Arballo, an El Centro resident.  “I intended to volunteer from 10am – 2pm, but I saw a sign on the wall saying that one person had curated 161 artifacts.” Trying to beat that number, Eusebio worked well into the evening establishing a new personal best at the museum with 181 artifacts re-curated.
Some of the archaeologists who originally collected the artifacts were on hand to talk about the significance of the collections and their experience in the field. Volunteers were also invited on tours of the collection rooms, where they received a behind the scenes look at the process of starting a new museum.

At the very end of the evening, the museum screened the movie “Somewhere Between” as part of the Sundance Film Forward program.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Volunteer Profile: Carline

Carline is one of our weekly curators at the museum, but sadly cannot attend our massive curation day on Saturday due to a prior commitment.

Today she turned up unexpectedly at the museum to see what she could do to help prepare for the event. This was great news! I thought the set up would take days, but suddenly it's all nearly finished. A little help goes a long way. Thank's Carline!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Developing an On-site Intern Program

One of the most important aspects of an on-site intern program is the quality of the housing. A happily housed intern can focus more on using the career opportunity afforded to them than one that has to worry about the state of his or her basic needs.

Bob Diaz, store manager at the El Centro Sears has arranged for the donation of two mattresses to support the Museum's on-site intern program. This is no small thing. The Museum strives to create a professional environment and empower its interns to focus their efforts toward developing their skills as emerging professionals. We thank Bob Diaz and museum supporter Betty for their efforts and support of the museum and its programming.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Intern Profile: Anne

Anne is completing a 3 month project to survey the museum archive and establish system by which the papers are digitally linked to the artifact collection through the Past Perfect database. In her most recent position at the Huntington Public Library on Long Island, NY, Anne completed a preservation report on the condition of 500 books from the Mary Talmage Local History collection, a collection dating back to the 1600's.

For the New England Conservatory in Boston, she improved the accessibility of the Jordan Hall archive collection. This collection of fragile pamphlets dating from 1903 to 1956 features the musical performances of college and professional groups and lecture series on topics ranging from why women should vote to the "latest" scientific health trends. The most interesting aspect of the programs, says Anne, are the advertisements. The content of the ads changed from war time provisions to funeral parlors during the influenza epidemic. Anne re-housed, preformed preservation cleaning, and developed a database to make the contents digitally searchable. For the first time in decades the programs can actually be used as a research tool.

Anne received her Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives from Simmons College in Boston. She received a BA in Ancient History magna cum laude from Lake Forest College in Illinois and in New Orleans, where she is originally from, Anne lead education programs geared toward instilling a love of volunteering in 9-12 year olds through the LA/SPCA's Care Cadet Program. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On Saturday the Museum hung six oil pastels completed by students from the Southwest High School SAVAPA arts program. The still-life artwork was completed last year based on ollas in the Museum's collection. This is third time the museum has exhibited these pieces, which were also on display for several weeks at the museum over this past summer.
It is exciting to see the work hung, especially when it is in support of other non-profits and their efforts. Though this was a one day exhibit, the Starts with Arts organization raised $3,600.00 to provide art supplies to the El Centro elementary school district.
Good job Starts with Arts! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

by Jessica Brody

Following the watercolor workshops that ended our summer youth programming, we've had two hikes into the desert to do plein air painting, one to Devil's canyon and one to Indian Hill.

I have done a watercolor everyday since the workshops ended. My first watercolor of the mountains was very heavily brown, but that was all wrong. If you have ever watched the mountains you know they change color. They can be orange, tan, purple and navy depending on the time of day. I've become obsessed with showing these colors in the paintings. The one posted here is from a very orange time of day at Indian Hill. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Youth Programming Report

The 2012 Summer Youth Programs hosted a total of 97 visits averaging 12 students per week. 

The Ceramic Art program continued for a second summer and attracted 32 participants. This summer we used a whiteware grog, as opposed to the red clay that was used last summer. The white clay eliminated many problems with cleaning the facility, but created new problems of the pots breaking during the firing process. Surviving pieces are currently on display at the museum.
The Karate class, in response to a request for an exercise class by Ocotillo residents, was generously funded by a DOVES grant. The program reached a total of 51 students averaging seven students per session. Through the grant, Gi's were purchased for the first seven students to participate. The gi's, along with the training, provided a sense of self confidence in the youth.  
The museum also piloted a video and technology program geared toward providing 21st century job skills and computer proficiency. The students shot on hand held video cameras and edited the footage into short videos hosted on the IVD Museum YouTube Channel and featured on the video blog. Four students regularly participated in the program and total of five videos were created. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Multiple Projects to Accomplish

by Jessica Brody

In the hot August months we've noticed a considerable drop off in volunteer participation at the museum, but this week one of our projects has found new life. Lauryl called me last week to offer to work with the Percy Palmer Lantern Slides, a collection featured in our current exhibit and that Lauryl thought was "fantastic". This week she is continuing a project I started when I first arrived in the Valley and, with the focus on the inventory project, had less and less time to work on. Moving this project forward would be impossible without her help. Thank you Lauryl!

We have a wall of projects - literally, a list on the wall - of all different sorts, and are open to new ideas.    From writing exhibit text, to capping sealings, and buying coffee mugs. The sky's the limit. Come and tell me your interests and we'll find something you'd like!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thank you Jenica & Hands on Curation

Jenica, our archeology curator, has left the building and we wish her all the best as she moves on to start her graduate program at Arizona State University. With Jenica's help we were able to recurate over 6,100 artifacts in 6 months.  That is 1000 more artifacts than were recurated over the past two years. According to Jenica's Inventory Project Progress Report, if we maintain this rate of curation, we will finish the project in 2 years. 

Jenica enjoying the beautiful scenery after the monsoon rains  earlier this month.
Our goal is to train 2 more curation groups so we can keep up a steady rate of progress. We can half the project time with just one more group of 4-8 people committed to curating every other week. We curate every Wednesday through Saturday so please consider bring a group out to see what's new at the museum and lending a hand with the inventory project. Call Jessica at 845-702-3968 or email at 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 4th @ Freedom Fest

Museum staff with Kohl's Cares volunteers, and the Desert Cruisers Car Club worked side by side to entertain the families that attended this year's Freedom Fest on the IVC campus. 100 kids enthusiastically recounted the results of the watermelon contests at the Desert Cruisers booth while they attempted making coiled pots. We saw some kids and parents we've seen at past fairs and some new ones who stayed for hours perfecting their art.

Hosted by KXO radio, the event "began in 1991, the year the Gulf War ended and has become
Imperial County’s largest single day event with over 65,000 people on the Imperial
Valley College campus grounds and many more witnessing and listening to this event
from their homes, roadsides and on canal banks around the valley." 

Gloria from KXO made sure everything went smoothly and we thank her and Ralph from Desert Cruisers for being so helpful and welcoming to the Desert Museum staff during their first year the Fest. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2nd Exhibit Opening and Artists Reception

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum invites you to the 

Exhibit Opening & Artist reception for


Saturday, July 14th 6pm - 10pm @ the Museum, 11 Frontage Road in Ocotillo, CA

Three new exhibits explore the role of collections in our lives. First, the Collectors exhibit features the life-long devotion of community members to the objects they collect. Second, the next installment of the on-going What we are Curating Today! exhibit displays the fruit's of one man's documentary efforts to collect images of 1930's Imperial Valley. The third exhibit features the contemporary artwork of Ivan Soto, the founder of the El Centro 7-Day chapter. The El Centro chapter was the second chapter formed in California  dedicated to community service-based programs. Ivan's art reflects his passion and shows the introspective side of creating collections. 

The Artist Reception and Exhibit Opening on July 14th will feature the musical talents of our museum staff (it's ok, they're professionals) and light refreshments. Come and meet our local collectors and celebrate the second exhibit opening at the new Imperial Valley Desert Museum. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Make Your Own Video" Wednesdays

Wednesday's youth program is the Make Your Own Video program. We have developed a dedicated Tumblr blog to showcase the work.

The program provides access to software and applications so students can explore the creative possibilities of video art. Kids interact intimately with the software and application media, cultivating an understanding of the technology and the science behind it.

You can see the work here:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

IMLS Learning Labs Grant

by Jessica A. Brody

Tomorrow I'm submitting an application to the Institute of Museums and Libraries Services to their Learning Lab grant. This is the second round the Museum is applying for, Last year the reviewers were apprehensive about our program sustainability. This year we are hoping that the success of the Ceramic Art Program will assuage their concerns. More about the grant from their website:
Grants for Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums will support planning and design activities for spaces that foster experimentation and creativity for middle- and high-school youth in library- and museum-based, out-of-school-time settings. The labs should be grounded in evidence-based research on youth, and should be designed to support youth learning in such 21st century skills as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
So today, while the other Colorado Desert Archaeology Society curation volunteers where hard at work, Jaime gave up her day of artifact curation (something she doesn't get to do often) to talk over the grant (something she often does for work). Her comments were extremely productive and I can't thank her enough for her assistance. In talking over some State Park programs and objectives, we were able to tailor the grant so that the Learning Lab (should our proposal be accepted) will reach an even broader audience.

Two heads are better than one, and it's this type of discussion and interaction that helps make the Museum programs even more effective than we could dream up on our own.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stern Foundation Grant

We have received a grant from the Sidney Stern Memorial Trust of California for an artist in residence. This is one of the applications we submitted as a result of the Grants Workshop late last year. The grant will fund an interactive exploration of what is Desert Sized Art. 

Our artist in residence, Martin Hitch, will lead research on that topic and post images of Desert Sized Art as part of an interactive exhibit at the museum. As people comment and vote on images they think embodies Desert Sized Art, we will explore those avenues and create a community vision of Desert Sized Art. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Youth Programs

This week is the first week of our Summer Youth Programs. We had three youth come this morning to work with the coiled clay program. One of the kids came yesterday and came back today to finish what she was working on. Last week one of the high school students from Southwest came to make a ceramic pot.

 We have pots and pots and pots sitting around. We need a kiln.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Youth Summer Programming

On June fifth the Imperial Valley Desert Museum will begin its summer youth programing, continuing through the end of August. See the schedule below or our calendar of events:

Ceramic Art Youth Program
Tuesday and Friday: Students will be working hands-on to build coiled clay pottery similar to the Kumeyaay pottery collection that is housed at the museum.

Make Your Own Video: Video Editing and Production
Wednesday: Students will have access to video cameras and video editing software in order to shoot and edit footage of the desert community. The Program is designed to tutor students in technology and 21st century job skills. 

County Free Library's Reading Program
Certain Dates on Wednesday: The library hours are open to adults, teens, and children. Youth will be encouraged to partake in the Library’s challenge to read five books over the course of the summer. Although the Library will only be here running the program on Wednesdays, the museum is encouraging students to come out any day of the week and take advantage of the facilities. 

Karate Training
Thursday and Saturday: Funded by a grant from the D.O.V.E.S. Organization. The Program is free, and there is no limit to the number of students that may attend. The first eight attendees will receive a free gi. The program is designed to promote a healthy, active life style. Although the students will be learning the fundamentals of karate, there will be no contact or fighting.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Curation Month Update

As one volunteer remarked, "This is truely a hands on process!"
Photo curtesy Sam Webb. 
May was curation month with the Museum's main focus on engaging volunteers and the community with the curation process. We started a very successful partnership with the Colorado Desert Archaeology Society this month and we've had two very devoted weekly volunteers. Our volunteer artifact curation skyrocketed from 230 artifacts to 1,366. Getting the collections into museum quality storage is the number one priority of the museum and the volunteers efforts to support this cause cannot be understated.

The curation process continues through the summer during our public hours Thursday - Saturday from 10am - 3pm.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Star Gazing II in the Desert

Stargazing events may become a signature event  at the Desert Museum. The energy developments being built near the museum might effect this, but right now we have pretty dark skys around the museum. On Thursday we hosted the El Centro Rotary Mystery Event. 60 Rotarians got on a bus and drove out to the museum, unbeknownest to them, for a Star Gazing Party and dinner.

On Saturday the museum held its second Star Party for the general public. The IV Press article on Sunday said that 70 people had come out, but the last count taken was 118 people. With the new art exhibit up and more of the building open, the flow of people at this event was much better than last January. There was plenty to do and see. The stars were the best just about the time the event was over and most of the people had left. But we had a few guests who were at the museum from 5:00pm until 10:30pm. That seems extreme, but I would bet those people had the best time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Exploring our Desert Culture Grant

The final report for the Exploring Our Desert Culture: Ceramic Art Program, a grant from the Imperial Valley Community Foundation Youth Grants Program, was written this week. The grant was to complete a coiled clay art pilot program. The outcomes listed in the grant included having 57 youth participate in coiled clay programs with the museum this year. This included the summer program in Ocotillo and working with one classroom at Southwest High School. The pilot program, however, has achieved outcomes far in excess of what was anticipated.

There were 433 documented participants in the coiled clay pilot program that the museum ran this past year. Of these, 243 were youth aged 14-22, the target audience of the grant. The museum anticipated that the program would be successful with high school art students. It was unexpected how well received the program was for younger children and adults. This is especially true for adults who participated with their children during the summer program in Ocotillo.

The Ceramic Art Youth Program at the Museum will begin again on Tuesday June 5th and will run every Tuesday and Friday until the end of August.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Partnerships are Everything

Sustainable partnerships are everything. The Desert Museum and the Colorado Desert Archaeology Society are partnering for several volunteer days to give a big boost to the re-curation of our archaeology colleciton. Affiliated with the Colorado Desert District California State Parks, the Colorado Desert Archaeology Society normally provides volunteer curation services to Anzo-Borrego State Park. They understand the research potential of our collection and its value as a complemetary collection to the artifacts housed at the curation facility at Anzo-Borrego, and are now also providing curation volunteers to help us with our Collections Inventory.

Twice a month they will drive from all around Southern California to help us curate in Ocotillo. Today, we had 8 volunteers who curated over 600 artifacts. Some people drove two hours to arrive this morning. They are a wonderful group to work with and we are so grateful for their help as we work to care for the collections.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Supporting the Arts: Madrecita - Arte en Miniatura

Our curation staff cut the ribbon at this Friday's opening of 'Madrecita: Arte en Miniatura' at Selene Nevarez Estrada's gallery in Mexicali. Bernardo Olmedo, who organized the museum's recently opened 'Every Day is Earth Day', was one of the organizers of the miniature's exhibit. The exhibition allows people to get up close and personal with the pieces. There were many that enticed the viewer with minute details, compelling a closer look and an intimate study of the work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

May is Curation Month

May is Curation Month at the Museum. Volunteer curation days will be held three days a week.

Thursday 10-3pm
Friday 10-3pm
Saturday 10-3pm (Saturday Ceramic Art program by appointment only for the month of May.)

During all public hours during May the curation lab will be open to volunteer curation. We estimate the inventory process is one-third complete and as the weather warms up are encouraging anyone aged 12 or older to come help us preserve this special part of Imperial Valley history.

Friday, May 4, 2012

First Exhibit Opening: Every Day is Earth Day

The first exhibit at the Museum officially opened on May 2nd. The exhibit, entitled Every Day is Earth Day allows us to see the world through the eyes of seven members of the IVC Arts Faculty.  We marked the occasion with a celebration of art and film that continued all evening.

Earlier in the month, we held a preview of the event for the Friends of the Museum, a support group of members who have made a commitment to support the museum with a gift of $500 every year for the next five years. Lauryl Driscoll, who attended both events, commented that her parents had worked for more than 30 years to see this museum get built, "and it is great to see it finally happen." 

The museum has had a long history with IVC and it is great that the first exhibit gets to be the work of professors. “I like the idea of having a new cultural institution that will support the arts,” said Bernardo Olmedo, who was instrumental in organizing the exhibit. Carol Hegarty, the Head of the Humanities Department at IVC, agreed, “It takes everyone working together in a community for local arts to be successful. It is not about competition, it is about partnership.”

The evening continued with a screening from the Sundance Institute's Film Forward program. Organized through the Film Commissioners office, the Film Forward program brought two independent films to the Imperial Valley with the film directors. Here at the Museum, we screened Bran Nue Dae an Aboriginal Australian film. The film has been viewed over 8 million times in Australia, a country with a population of just 2 million. Many attendees commented that the film was funnier than they thought it would be and the director, Rachel Perkins, explained that this film is one of only 3 Aboriginal comedies - and she has produced two of them. Usually, she said, films about Aboriginal people are somber and serious and she deliberately made a film that people could see themselves reflected in and laugh.

The night overall stimulated conversation on the commonalities and differences between cultures, cultural expression through art, and the charming grace of passionate communities. 

Ceramic Art @ Children's Fair

We served 200 youth at the El Centro's Children's Fair this weekend doing our Ceramic Art Youth Program, sponsored by the Ocotillo Optimists. It was a good opportunity to get the word out on what we are doing today at the museum. The booth was busy non-stop from the moment the fair opened. Our board of directors helped man the morning hours while Kohls came through at the last minute for us to help during the afternoon. Without their help we would have had two volunteers surrounded by hundreds of coiled clay eager children... and their parents. Everyone likes to join in this family activity.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

J. Walter Fisch collection

J. Walter Fisch donated his collection to the museum 27 years ago. This weekend he visited the museum  to see the collection displayed as part of the What We Are Curating Today! exhibit. He told the museum staff that his wife suggested he donate the items to the museum when he was wondering what to do with his vast collections. "I'm just thrilled that it's being used," he said.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Coiled Clay at Holtville High School

Today, we began a two-week program of doing traditional crafts at Holtville High School. We will be working in the three Art I classes. For the next three days, youth will be learning techniques of working coils into shapes. Next week they will try and produce ceramic art using the coiled-clay method.

This will  be the last phase of our year-long grant "Exploring our Desert Culture: Hands-on Ceramic Art Program." This will complete the pilot phase of our programming and now the Museum will begin to explore ways to make this one of our full-time signature programs.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Art and Film at the Museum: Night and Dae

by Jessica Brody

The exhibit walls are finished and we are proud to host our first art event at the museum. A night exploring the power of art to create dialogue.

On May 2nd the visual arts exhibit Every Day is Earth Day will open with an artist reception at 4pm. If Earth Day is just one day, our days are numbered. At the Desert Museum, we celebrate the Earth everyday. Join us and the participating members of the Imperial Valley College Arts Faculty from 4-6pm. A big thank you to Bernardo Olmedo for his assistance on the exhibit. 

Following the reception, in partnership with the Film Forward Program, a program of the Sundance Institute and their National Partners, there will be a film screening of Bran Nue Dae (Brand New Day) with a director Q&A afterward. We appreciate the Film Commissioner suggesting the museum to be considered for this program. 

Working in various archives across Southern Australia last year, I learned about Bran Nue Dae from my colleagues. While the plot is lighthearted, it is a movie that matters. It is the epitome of the Ghandi quote "be the change you wish to see in the world." Written, directed and starring a (mostly) Aboriginal cast, the film celebrates diversity and cultural acceptance. As soon as I returned to the US I encouraged people to view my personal copy, including Imperial Valley community members. I believe in the power of this film to create dialogue. Bran Nue Dae is not widely available in the United States so don't miss this rare opportunity to view the film. 

Below is the Director's comments on the film:

For Aboriginal Australians our narrative has been dominated by themes of invasion, racism and dispossession. BRAN NUE DAE rebels against this tradition, using a comedic approach and the musical form to redefine the Aboriginal experience. This spirit of rebellion and celebration is personified in our hero, the young boy Willy, who overrides all others expectations to be himself. —RACHEL PERKINS

Rachel Perkins is highly regarded in Australia. You can read more about her work on the Film Forward website and meet her on May 2nd at the Museum. 

Cindy Meehl has been re-scheduled to another event. Contact museum staff for more information.

Two April Festivals

The Museum is participating in two festivals this month:

1. Visit with members of the Museum staff and Board of Directors at our information booth at the El Centro Music Festival and Fireworks.

2. The Museum will host a session of the Ceramic Youth Art Program at the El Centro Children's Fair.

The information for these events is below, on the museum Calendar of Events, and on the El Centro Chamber of Commerce.

City of El Centro Music Festival & Firework Show

Stark Field Park
Corner of 4th St. & Lenrey Ave.
El Centro, CA
6:00 p.m. 10:00 p.m.
Festivities to include: Food, refreshments & other vendor booths, musical entertainment including: Safety Orange, Latin Fuze, and Lock N'Load.
For more information contact the City of El Centro Parks & Recreation at (760) 337-4555.

Children's Fair

Bucklin Park
Corner of 8th St. & Ross Ave.
El Centro, CA
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Annual Children's Fair features both entertainment & informational activities.
For more information contact (760) 353-8300.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Young Volunteers Welcome

John continues the landscaping project today. Today he brought his granddaughter who is on spring break and had participated in the Ceramic Art Program over last summer. She wanted to try to make another clay pot.

After a few hours of working the clay, she decided that she wouldn't mind helping us with tagging and labeling artifacts. We have prepared some kid-friendly projects so people of all ages can interact with the artifacts, so we were ready for this type of request.

The curation of the collections is our top priority this year so many hands make for light work. Even if those hands are very small.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Landscaping Continues

John Estevane is an Ocotillo resident who started volunteering with the museum today. He is a hobby landscaper who specializes in cactus gardens. He's been working since 10am on planting prickly pear cactus and has plans in the next few weeks to transplant a 10-foot cactus from his yard that needs more growing room. "This is just perfect for that," said John. 

Ocotillo Rocks! Event

by Susan Massey
Chuck Bucher helps Christian Campos 
identify rocks found outside the Desert Museum 
during the program Ocotillo Rocks, Saturday March 31

One hundred and thirty people poured into the Desert Museum on Saturday morning to attend the Ocotillo Rocks event.  Everyone stopped to look at the items in the gift store and especially the beautiful jewelry that  Lydia Walker had brought, including some exquisite silver pieces made by Pima Indians.  Volunteers scurried around putting more chairs in the classroom.  Still not everyone could get a seat.  Joe Rodrigues of the Gem and Mineral Society talked to the crowd of over a hundred about the geology history of the Imperial Valley and about the evidence we can find that the entire region was once a sea.  He showed a collection of rocks from the region. 

Since the room was overflowing and the small children were getting restless, Jessica Brody, our curator, ran a session of the Ceramic Art Program in the lab where she showed them an example of coiled clay pots and gave them clay to work with.  The kids were very entertained.
Joe Rodrigues of the Gem and Mineral Society gave a talk 
about local geology at the  Desert Museum on March 31.
130 people attended the event and many went out 
onto the museum grounds to identify rocks after the talk.

When the talk was finished everyone went outside to walk around the museum grounds and try to identify the rocks.  Joe and John Pyle, president of the Gem and Mineral Society helped them identify and examine the rocks. Rather than take their findings out of the desert, children were encouraged to take videos and email them home. When we came back inside, Joe answered questions and gave each child a geode.  A lot of people stuck around to ask questions and wander around the museum after the event was over.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cal Humanities Programs

by Jessica Brody

The County Library is participating in the California Reads! program from Cal Humanities. It's a state wide reading program that includes public interviews with the authors.

The County Library has been hosting it's Access Program for Ocotillo in the Museum every 4th Saturday of the month from 9-1pm. Last month the County Librarian encouraged everyone to read the California Reads! book Lost City Radio and this month we had a book discussion as part of the Access Program.

This week Lost City Radio author Daniel Alarcon was in El Centro. Daniel was articulate, intelligent, and interesting - all at once! It was a great start to the program. 

The CalHum team hosted a meeting for their California Story Fund while they were in town. They haven't had applications from Imperial County for a several years. I looked at the other people in the meeting and challenged them to make sure that changes next year. The Librarian looked back at me and said "I have a couple of ideas for you". 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Partnering with Film Commissioner

The Imperial Valley Film Commissioner came out to visit the museum for the first time yesterday. We will be hosting a screening of Bran Neu Dae for the Sundance Film Forward Program on May 2nd and she wanted to preview the space. She was taken with the impressive desert views and the "neat" building.

She was also interested in our vision for youth programming at the museum. We discussed a possible collaboration to increase student submissions to the  Imperial Valley Film Festival next year. We are currently developing a summer program around a concept we are calling "geoblogging" in which youth film their interactions with the desert and learn video editing - encouraging appreciation of the desert and developing 21st century skills at the same time.

Both the Commissioner and the staff are excited about the prospect of this type of programming, but we have to remember that the curation of the collections is our number one priority. Developing other programs at the same time is possible, but will take a lot of support. Another item on the long list of "things to do" is an overwhelming prospect.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

El Centro Arts Festival

The Museum hosted a coiled clay art interactive at the El Centro Arts Festival today. Kohl's sponsored our activity and provided five volunteers who worked with nearly 100 kids who visited our table during the day. 

We were excited about participating, but as we continue to build programs, it quickly becomes evident what  we do not have. We bought clay last week in San Diego and we knew tables would be provided, but about on hour after we set up at 8:30am I received a text message that said, "We are roasting out here." I went and bought a shade tent. "We need paper towels." And we needed a lot. I also bought water and some juice boxes for the staff and volunteers. But then we don't have a cooler. Its tough building programs. It is even tougher keeping up with programs that become successful so quick.

We really thank Kohl's for being such a great supporter of community activities in the Valley.

It was a really fun day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Holtville Art Classes

Yesterday, the museum visited Holtville High School and gave presentations on the coiled-clay art program to two art classes. These presentations followed from the press coverage we received on the pilot program that we completed with Southwest High School. It was a little disappointing that no one in either class had heard of the Kumeyaay before, and no one knew anything about the geoglyphs that are spread throughout our deserts. But they were interested in seeing the few artifacts that we brought and it looks like we will be completing some hands-on work with the classes in the next few weeks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

End of the Fair

We would like to thank everyone who visited the Desert Museum's booth at the Plaza De Las Culturas at the Imperial Valley County Fair. 

Our message was "We are here! We are open! Come and see what we are doing!" 

Open Hours
As of March 1st we are open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10am - 3pm. We are re-curating the collections, which is the number one priority in 2012. We would love to show you what we are doing. Visit on volunteer days every Friday to assist in the actual curation of the collections. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Countertops Installed

The conservation lab countertops have been installed and are in use. We are now able to begin our Volunteer Fridays every Friday 10am - 3pm.

Monday, March 5, 2012

At the County Fair

Since last Friday we have been working a booth at the Imperial Valley County Fair. We'd like to thank Lydia Walker for organizing the booth for us and Conveyor Group and Imperial Printers for coming through at the last minute.

Our aim is to connect with people who have been interested in what we are doing at the Museum. If you stop by the fair come and find us in the Plaza De Las Culturas.