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Art Queen: Low-brow art for an understated town

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One of Art Queen's "Outer Shacks."

Joshua Tree is a place that has attracted artists for decades. Now there is a new art complex that can hold work from the many more who are now flocking to the desert for inspiration.  All hail:  Art Queen!  Founded in 2006 by art & music impresarios Randy Polumbo and Shari Elf, this art-for-art's-sake compound is situated on the main drag of Highway 62 in the heart of Joshua Tree Village. Art Queen consists of six separate buildings (it used to be an old motel) as well as one recycled Photo-Mat drive-thru booth one vintage trailer – and oh yes, an outdoor stage. Two of the structures serve as gallery space, while the others remain available for whatever it's founders choose to call “art”...which is a lot. 

The old Photo-Mat booth, for example, has been transformed into The Crochet Museum, which houses Elf's extensive collection of knit and crocheted found objects. The “formal galleries” maintain a permanent collection of "local celebrity" art (including Ann Magnuson, Victoria Williams, and hipster princess Jessika Von Rabbit), as well as a rotation of shows of other local artists. Last season’s highlight was a sprawling display of thousands of artfully arranged multi-colored “marital aids,” displayed as flower petals and powered – yes, powered - by adjacent solar panels. Just like that one dream you had once, right? More than just an all-inclusive art gallery, Art Queen also makes a great outdoor party space. Expect to see live performances on a regular basis, at openings, at closings, on weekend evenings, and, quite frankly, whenever the mood takes the proprietors’ fancy.

Elf and Polumbo make of point of keeping their art compound “low impact.” They don’t even maintain a website, although Ms. Elf has one of her own, and usually (but not always) posts upcoming Art Queen events there. In other words: you really need to go there first, hang around, and THEN find out what’s happening. It’s that kind of place: not quite off the grid, but trying to not try too hard.

To quote one particularly enthusiastic Art Queen attendee last season: “All hail the Art Queen! Long may she reign.”

For more info: Art Queen events tend to be impromptu and unannounced, which make them all the more enticing.  Still, you can find clues to Art Queen ongoings by visiting the websites of either proprietor, Shari Elf and/or Randy Polumbo.  See you there!

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