“The people, the artists have to make it, they have to contribute… It takes a community to really make it happen.” — SARAH SCHEIDEMAN
Sarah Scheideman, (30) executive director and founder of The Coachella Valley Art Scene, launched her first blog in 2008, shortly after graduating UC Riverside. Upon her return to the desert, she was eager to discover artists, musicians, and venues but couldn’t find an outlet that connected with the youth. So, she decided to create her own and thus, TheCoachellaValleyArtScene.com, was born. Finally, local youth had access to updates about art, music and happenings all around the Coachella Valley. Although, it didn’t occur overnight, Sarah’s promoting skills and do-it-yourself spunk “Yeah, totally!” proved to be a successful combination. Gradually, Sarah was connecting the community, both online and off, promoting her own events, including the now popular, World Famous Party, alongside DJ Alf Alfa, Coachella Arts Studio, an interactive arts and craft installation at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival grounds and most recently the 111 Music Festival which marked its debut on November 1st, 2014.
One of Sarah’s most ambitious achievements to date is the opening of a front door art gallery in Cathedral City across City Hall, with partners Ian Cush and Rafael Lopez. The space may not be expansive in size, but you’ll be surprised at what Sarah and the CVAS gallery can do. By day, it’s a creative space for all-ages events, art shows, yoga, workshops and community open mic. By night, the gallery comes fully alive with shows that support local emerging artists who have the opportunity to display their work on its walls, including murals. Live music by local up-and-coming bands and DJs perform on weekends, taking youthful verve and adrenaline to another level. Browse around the merchandise shelf and you’ll discover a smorgasbord of fine art, zines, photos, stickers, patches, custom pillows, and more—all created by local artists. With more shows added regularly, it’s anyone’s guess where Sarah’s soaring ambitions will go next.
ON STARTING HER BLOG
What was your inspiration for the blog?
I graduated college and moved back to the desert.
I didn’t have a job, so I came back.
What was your college experience like?
I went to College of the Desert for three years and then UCR. I really liked it—it was a big campus but it felt small. It was good for me. I was able to see how other cultures operate.
What did you study?
Film and Visual Culture.
I wanted to work in a creative field.
Was the Coachella Valley Art Scene your first blog?
That was my first blog—at that time I was reading a lot of other blogs. I worked a lot of jobs to support myself. I took a receptionist job just so I could be in front of the computer all day.
What did your parents think about the blog at first?
They thought I was wasting my time. “What are you doing?” My great grandmother would call me up and say, “You have a lot of spelling errors.” She would read it the most. [She would say] “Oh yeah, this is going to be good, keep doing it.” She is the only one who is into art.
How many partners do you work with?
There’s three of us: Ian (Cush), he came to me about 4 years ago and said, “You need to fix your whole website.” Rafael (Lopez), I met at College of the Desert in screen-printing. [Then at University California Riverside] We both joined a club called “Hip-Hop Congress” organizing parties. We haven’t changed what we are doing. He’s still throwing parties and events. When you have a blog, you still have to connect with people live, so parties and events is how we connect with people. We were just doing it for fun—I just knew, I wanted to work with art. The point I started taking it seriously, is when I saw this “For Rent” sign [on the Coachella Valley Art Scene building]. I thought, “I’ve been running this blog for five years now,” it just seemed like the right time. We became partners at that point, with Alf Alpha [Rafael] throwing “World Famous” parties. I organize and promote it.
ON PROMOTING EVENTS
How did the “World Famous” parties begin?
[At first] It was called “Something from Nothing.” We had art, music and a skate ramp at the Riverside County Fairgrounds (Indio, CA). It took about 2 months to promote—300 to 500 attended. The owner of Ace Hotel came by randomly—it hadn’t opened yet, [in Palm Springs, CA] but they were in town. We pitched to them “Doo-Wop in the Desert” It was called a bunch of other things before it was called “World Famous Party.” We were at the Ace Hotel for three years, but it became unsafe—so many people would come in. It was hot and steamy in the dance floor. Then the party started getting really big and out of control—it became a fire hazard and they told us to move—it’s getting too big.
Alf Alpha would DJ for four hours straight. He has been DJing since high school, he always wanted to be a DJ. Goldenvoice helped take it to the Hard Rock (for a year in Palm Springs, CA). We reached maximum capacity. Then it moved to the Hacienda Cantina.
ON THE COACHELLA FESTIVAL
Tell us about the Coachella Art Studio?
It’s an interactive craft installation.
Within 6-8 months [from starting the blog in 2008] the people from Coachella fest wrote me—I was like, “Woah!” They [the festival organizers] said, “This is pretty cool, would you like to get involved somehow?” [At first] We had three 10X10 tents—it was really small, but it’s gotten huge now. It’s an underground culture—it’s packed full of people and it’s one of the last free things at Coachella. We have ten different craft artists. This part: you have to make it happen—you have to participate. Every year Coachella fest outdoes themselves. I have to bring my A-Game.
When do you start preparing for the festival?
In December we start.
ON HER BREAKTHROUGH
Do you feel 2014 has been a breakthrough year?
I thought “that,” [referring back to Coachella in 2008] was my breakthrough. I almost didn’t believe it. I was shocked by it. It made me feel like people are reading it and taking me seriously. If I stopped the blog — I felt, I would let down the community.
ON OPENING A FRONT DOOR GALLERY
Tell us about the CVAS gallery?
The people, the artists have to make it, they have to contribute, it’s like a community space. It takes a community to really make it happen. People come here all the time and say, ‘I’m really glad this is here in the desert, there’s nothing else like it here.’ The DJ booth was Rafael’s idea, everything sold is by a local artist. We really try to keep it local as possible—I feel that every show should be completely opposite from the one before.
Is there any advice you can impart to aspiring artists?
One thing I tell everyone is: They should be consistent, do your best consistently. One reason The Coachella Valley Art Scene has been successful is because it’s consistent. If you’re consistent, people can rely on you.
ON LAUNCHING HER OWN MUSIC FESTIVAL
What was your inspiration for 111 Music Festival?
My younger brother—he inspired me to do the music festival. He’s a city urban planner. He loved public transportation. In Portland, he would meet up with friends and have a party right on the bus—it goes right through the city. The 111 Music Festival was 29 bands—it gives us something to build upon. Ian really helped make that happen—organize everything, make the website, graphic design—it takes a lot of work.
How long did it take to prepare?
About three months. At first it was just going to go around in a circle from Cathedral City to Palm Springs and keep it small. When we pitched it to Sunline Bus they said, “Why don’t you stretch it, so then you can get funding from other cities.”
Were there any challenges?
Rafael took the bus on a trial run and the needle on the record kept on skipping, so he had to get a digital one. I wanted to get a choir, but they wanted to get 25 people in the bus—I couldn’t do that.
What kind of feedback did you get afterwards?
Positive all the way around. All the cites really liked it.
MUSINGS ON COACHELLA VALLEY
What else do you want to see in the Coachella Valley?
More opportunities—jobs for creative people. More businesses that want to have art for 18-35. Remind people that we are out here. A music venue like Fox Theater—purely a music venue—it could be a band or a DJ. Twenty years from now people are going to be like, ‘Golf courses—what’s that?’
ORGANIZATION: THE COACHELLA VALLEY ART SCENE
FOUNDER: SARAH SCHEIDEMAN