Murals – Within a year of moving to Twentynine Palms (Spring 1997), I joined the board of Action Council for 29 Palms, the organization responsible for the City of Twentynine Palms’ wonderful “Oasis of Murals” program (and the organization that had commissioned me to paint a “Desert Storm Homecoming” mural for them in 1995). When the opportunity arose for our community to host the Global Mural Conference 2000, I volunteered to chair the event, and for the next 2 years my planning team and I worked diligently to present an event worthy of the task. Being a relatively small community with few choices for venues and services, we nevertheless pulled it off, and the event was considered to be a huge success. That was in October of 2000.
Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council – On a beautiful winter day in January 2001, I was working at my desk, making “thinking” notes, as I often do, when the studio phone rang. I answered and the voice at the other end said, “Hello, Chuck, you don’t know me, my name is Michael Callan, but I’m told you’re the go-to guy for promoting cultural art.”
“Well, I don’t know about that, Michael, but what do you have in mind?” I said.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “We need an organization of some sort to represent the whole artistic community of our Hi-Desert. Is this something you’d be willing to talk about?”
“Damn, I don’t believe this,” I said.
“What?” He sounded taken aback. “What do you mean you don’t believe it?”
“Michael, this is amazing,” I continued. “Not 5 minutes ago I made a note to myself that read: ‘Develop guidelines for an arts organization to represent the whole Morongo Basin.’ I’m definitely interested in talking to you. When would you like to meet?”
Life is funny that way. We went on to organize the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, Inc. (MBCAC), and with the help of community icons like Owen Gillick, acquired our non-profit 501(c)3 status within the first year.
In July 2002, as President of the organization, I presented to the board a concept for the first Morongo Basin Desert Arts Festival. Three months later, the event, which was designed to garner additional membership and give representation to all of the artistic disciplines of the basin, came to fruition. It took place over a 10-day period, with Open Studio Art Tours and an opening night gala party hosted at the impressive, mid-century modern, Twentynine Palms residence of TV celebrity Huell Howser.
The east and west ends of the Morongo Basin were represented over the next two weekends by theatre productions, music, dance, gallery showings, and approximately 40 artists’ studios open to the public. The organization at the time helped to bring together the communities of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Twentynine Palms in a unified way to promote the economic and social value of the cultural arts movement, benefiting the basin as a whole. Although I am no longer at the helm of MBCAC, the annual event, now known as the Hwy 62 Art Tours, features approximately 200 artists during the last two weekends of October each year.
Public Art – In 2004, I was a co-founder of the Public Arts Advisory Committee (PAAC) for the City of Twentynine Palms, and the city’s subsequent pubic arts program, Art in Public Places. Over the years, the PAAC installed art exhibitions at City Hall, created a gallery space and ongoing exhibitions at the city’s downtown Visitor Center, hosted two
community cultural-arts round-tables, and has overseen numerous public art installations in the city. I served as Chair of the PAAC in 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011, and became Chair Emeritus in 2012.
(right) Chuck Caplinger receives his Chair Emeritus recognition award from members of the Public Arts Advisory Committee,
November 4, 2011.
During this time, I also donated my design for the now iconic 29! steel sculpture that was unveiled in May 2009 and graces the base of Donnell Hill, entering Twentynine Palms from the west. The trademarked art piece is regularly photographed and has been reproduced on caps, T-shirts, mugs, and other local souvenirs. Also, the following year, I designed and donated a “29” branding logo to the City of Twentynine Palms for use in marketing the city--29, A Desert Oasis.
Since 1998 I have promoted the concepts and values (as in a mantra) of Arts and Tourism. I recently read this definition for cultural tourism that was developed at LORD’s:
“Visits by persons from outside the host community motivated wholly or in part by interest in the historical, artistic, scientific, or lifestyle/heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution.”
- Chuck Caplinger, 2013