Agnes Pelton, German by birth, moved to the United States as a child and eventually traveled the world painting “imaginative paintings.” A visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, changed her direction, as the desert became her source of inspiration. In 1932, Pelton moved to Cathedral City, where the confluence of the spiritual and the natural landscapes captured her soul and influenced her most groundbreaking work. She wrote, “The vibration of this light, the spaciousness of these skies enthralled me. I knew there was a spirit in nature as in everything else, but here in the desert it was an especially bright spirit.” Pelton lived here for almost 30 years, painting desert landscapes as well as her better-known transcendentalist canvases.
James Swinnerton, a newspaper cartoonist whose “Little Jimmy” and “Canyon Kiddies” strips thrust him into the cultural zeitgeist near the turn of the 20th century, came to Palm Springs around 1903 when his tuberculosis became life-threatening. At the time, the village was nothing more than “14 white people and 24 Indians,” he said in an interview many years later. He, like others of the time, dwelled in a tent house. Nevertheless, the valley’s clean air and abundant sunshine improved his health, and he fell in love with the area’s land and light. He began painting exquisite oils of desert vistas. Landscapes became his new calling card, and his heart found its home. There were plenty of dissenters, Swinnerton said, “but they soon followed with their canvases and easels.” The real purpose of the paintings, he noted, was to call attention to the beauty in nature, where “there is no end to the beauty of sand, rocks, and sagebrush.”
Hollywood had a firm grip on TV and film writer Rick Copp (The Golden Girls, The Brady Bunch Movie), but Palm Springs captured his heart. “After five years of going back and forth, I moved,” he says. “There is such a great social network here, and I love the scenery, the places I see, where I dine.” He even incorporates them into his work. His Palm Springs–set Desert Flowers cozy mystery series (penned as Lee Hollis) routinely features real-life places. In an upcoming installment, his retired actress-turned-detective protagonist, Poppy Harmon, discusses a case over Sunday brunch at Spencer’s Restaurant. Copp has enticed friends and co-workers to come and stay. “Like me, they find that there’s a great opportunity to be creative here; the social life is inspiring; and above all, an audience will show up, come out, and support you when you do something.”
Sidney Sheldon’s creative genius continues to resonate. He not only created memorable TV (I Dream of Jeannie) but also wrote sizzling bestsellers (The Other Side of Midnight) and co-wrote classic films (Easter Parade). Novelist daughter Mary recalls the family’s life in Palm Springs and residence on Rose Avenue as being filled with “a glorious sense of optimism. We loved the stillness — we’d go out and sit on a blanket to watch the stars — and the traditions [Mexican food and bookstores on Saturday night], the certainty it provided in an uncertain world.” The Sheldon family was drawn also to the desert’s relaxed pace, history, and uncrowded streets — all of which provided fertile creative ground. “Papa worked on Windmills of the Gods there, and I remember plotting out Resolutions sitting by the pool. It’s
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