Steven Biller © 2016
With the help of a La Quinta Arts Foundation (LQAF) scholarship, Coachella resident Chris Sanchez, a 2007 La Quinta High School graduate, is going back to school.
Sanchez, a 25-year-old self-taught artist who has painted murals under the name Kas Infinite, now creates dramatic, site-specific multimedia installations in remote corners the Coachella Valley. Still, he knows that a college education will not only challenge and expand his intellectual boundaries, but also propel him toward the pedigree he needs in the increasingly sophisticated global art market.
Headed to College of the Desert in Palm Desert with the goal of matriculating to prestigious CalArts, Sanchez is among 17 Coachella Valley art students sharing in $40,000 of LQAF scholarships this year. Since 1984, LQAF has awarded more than $1.2 million in scholarships.
LQAF scholarships have launched the careers of more than 400 local students. With the recently formed California Desert Arts Council, it will be a resource for these students as they develop their career and contribute to the creative economy.
“For so many years, we saw students leave the valley to attend college and never return,” says Christi Salamone, president and CEO of LQAF and CDAC. “Now we will work to retain this talent by identifying opportunities to keep them here.”
Sanchez says he wants to lift his career onto a strong foundation, following along the path paved by his mentor, multimedia artist Cristopher Cichocki, who graduated from CalArts with the help of a LQAF scholarship.
Like Cichocki, Sanchez experiments with artful interventions on the land rather than working solely in a studio. He parlays existing structures and reclaimed materials into ephemeral installations with paint and light — often ultraviolet, or black, light. His works reflect several interests, particularly geometric abstraction, which he grounds in his Mexican heritage, taking cues from traditional sarapes.
“My work is culturally entrenched,” he says, talking about the forms. “I’m creating a connection with the past and placing it in a contemporary context. It makes sense that the site-specific work has to do with the environment of the desert and its history. My grandfather had a ranch in the desert, and I grew up out there. [My art] connects. It brings me closer and gives more meaning to my practice.”
While many of his sculptures find their way to collectors, his installations often live on as series of colorful and dynamic photographs. “Some installations are only for these fleeting photographs,” he says.
Now that he has found a groove as an artist, he’ll ground his practice on a formal education. “Well-rounded artists come out of CalArts,” he says, adding that he has much to learn about the ins and outs of art in public places.
“There was much discussion about Chris’ application,” Salamone says. “He was not a typical applicant. He’s already working in the field and had not yet applied to a school. But had recommendations from Cristopher Cichocki, Lisa Soccio [of College of the Desert], and a professor from a school in New York. He expressed a financial limitation that had precluded him from attempting to return to school. The [selection] committee ultimately decided to invest in the possibility that he would and could expand his career.”
This year’s selection committee consisted of art educators, public arts officials, and other arts professionals. The scores are tallied and ordered. The committee convenes to determine awards based on overall allocation from LQAF, determined by LQAF’s board of directors.
Students begin applying for LQAF scholarships every February. They must be Coachella Valley residents for at least five years, graduate from local high school, and attend college or university full time and major in art, architecture, film, photography, graphic design, digital design, animation, fashion design, art education, or museum studies. Students can re-apply and qualify each year for up to five years. LQAF pays its scholarships directly to each recipient’s school.
2016-17 LA QUINTA ARTS FOUNDATION SCHOLARS
Paul Acevedo (Cathedral City), CSU Stanislaus, art education
Meagan Cervello (Indio), Northern Arizona University, art therapy
Taelynn Dalle (Palm Desert), Cal Poly, architecture
Sophia Garcia (Indio), undecided, digital arts
Katrina Hahn (La Quinta), CSU San Marcos, photography
Jake Hill (Rancho Mirage), San Francisco State University, film production
Laura Juarez-Sanchez (La Quinta), Cal Poly, graphic design, animation
Evelyn Olvera (Desert Hot Springs), CSU Long Beach, art education, art therapy
Yrene Ramirez (Palm Springs), Otis College of Art and Design, graphic design
Micah Ramos (Palm Desert), Fullerton Junior College, visual art
Wilma Rueda (Palm Desert), CSU Long Beach, studio art
Christopher Sanchez (Coachella), College of the Desert, visual art
Colby Tarsitano (Indio), New York University, photography/photojournalism
Amanda Velasquez (Indio), Laguna College, studio art
Harley Weir (La Quinta), Laguna College, game art
Jake Williams (Palm Springs), UC Riverside, studio art
Benjamin Williams (Palm Springs), Cedarville University, communications design
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