August 3, 2010–The Carl Bray home and gallery in Indian Wells has been stuck in limbo, with the city determined to tear it down and preservationists determined to hang on to it.
There were two big developments at an Indian Wells Planning Commission meeting on July 29th. Anyone who read the thick and costly EIR (Environmental Impact Report) saw a clear argument for saving the buildings as the most worthy option. The buildings meet CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) guidelines as historic structures; furthermore they are structurally sound. The preferred option according to federal law is to preserve the buildings.
Yet a presentation by report coordinator Ernest Perea managed to skew the findings toward demolition. In a last-minute move that shocked members of the audience, the planning commission voted for an option that would raze the main house, inexplicably leaving a lonely sign and empty gallery by the roadside. Visitors will not be able to stop to see this ghostly monument because there’ll be no parking.
But a curveball was tossed into the arena: Diane and Kevin Stewart, well-known dealers and appraisers of California art, offered to buy or lease the gallery from the city and turn it into a destination that will make Indian Wells residents proud. “We are willing to take on the property as-is, and invest our own money in creating an art gallery of museum-quality,” Diane told the commissioners.
The Stewarts are well-suited to accomplish the task. With 30 years of experience appraising art and antiques, Kevin Stewart is said by some to be the foremost local authority on desert art. He owned the Stewart Galleries in San Diego and Palm Springs from 1986 to 2001, and has worked with the collections of the Palm Springs Historical Society, the San Diego Museum of Art and San Diego Historical Society, among others. “We’re willing and able to do this, to make this a destination. We can do a great job for Indian Wells,” Kevin Stewart said in a phone call.
If you’d like to see a new venue for California and desert art in Indian Wells—rather than an inaccessible drive-by shell of a building–please write the City Council and let them know. The Carl Bray home and gallery is the last remnant of the original village of Indian Wells and it stands as a solid connection to the early desert artists, many of whom visited Bray at his home. Here’s where you can write the City Council:
Ed Monarch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Mullany: email@example.com
Doug Hanson: firstname.lastname@example.org
William Powers: email@example.com
Larry Spicer: firstname.lastname@example.org