San Bernardino Tourism Blog
Discover Arts in the Mojave Desert with local artist, Gretchen Grunt
March 06, 2017
Global Administrator

Welcome!  In this new San Bernardino County blog series, we’ll interview our favorite local folks who will share their top tips for visitors who want to make the most out of their trip to the famous destinations of San Bernardino County, whether it’s Big Bear, Joshua Tree, Lake Arrowhead, Morongo Basin, Ontario, Yucca Valley or 29 Palms.

First up, is the founder of the truly special 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery, Gretchen Grunt, whose family has operated the 29 Palms Inn since the 1920’s.

"The Creative Center is founded on the premise that the creative spirit is an integral part of our spiritual and social paths in life. A loving and non- judgmental art studio environment is one of our primary goals."

How long have you been in 29 Palms?

I have deep family roots that go back to the ‘20s when my great-grandfather fell in love with the area, vacationed here and then invested in real estate in 1928.  I grew up in 29 Palms, left for 16 years and then moved back home in 2003, to start my own art business called the 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery.

Give us some highlights about the art center and gallery; and things that visitors might not know - but should!

Visitors can drop in any day of the week to be creative with pottery or canvas-painting with a whole rainbow of colors; plus, we have an art gallery that represents local artists of the area.  For the extended stay, travelers can schedule a private art class with the pottery wheel, create stained glass or print on an old-fashioned etching press to make "instant-gratification-feel-good-art-prints" to remember their visit.  The desert landscape is always inspiring.

What have you found invaluable that visitors should know before they go?  Anything unexpected, surprising or interesting...?

The unexpected thing about this region is that there are tons of interesting things to discover in the Morongo Basin because of the eccentric desert dwellers and the flock of artists who call this home.  It’s just a matter of knowing when and where.  

So my friend, Janis Commentz (who is also an amazing painter) decided to do what no other has done and created a master art and culture information website and facebook page, called the Hi-Desert Art and Culture Bulletin Board.  Janis has taken it upon herself to keep a close eye on the cultural hotspots; and she could always use help in spreading the word about this invaluable resource.  I share this site with all visitors and newcomers so they feel included in the excitement of the inspiring desert scene.

Tell us about some of your favorite dining, attractions, sightseeing and historic landmarks in 29 Palms and San Bernardino County.

The best dining is the Restaurant at 29 Palms Inn, not that I’m biased since it’s my family’s resort and restaurant.  But they work really hard to keep the menu cutting edge and fresh and yummy!  It is also an amazing historic hot spot spilling with endless San Bernardino history.  

And right as you enter the Inn, you'll see the 29 Palms Historical Society Old Schoolhouse Museum which is a jam-packed resource for discovering the pioneering past of our Southern California area, and how that spirit lives on in our community with our CAN DO! attitude. As far as out of this world places to visit, The Integratron in Landers takes the cake on stranger than fiction anomalies - it’s a must-see!

Is time of year important when visiting the desert?  What kinds of different experiences can visitors have depending on when they go?

Yes - seasons are extreme here, from freezing snow winters to blistering hot summers.  But the one constant in the desert is the wind, which can vary from a peaceful breeze to a hurricane gale force that makes you want to get on your Mad Max attire on. With the rains this year, we are guaranteed a busting bloom, but the mystery question is: when and where?  The Joshua Tree National Park website does a fabulous job of keeping you posted on the blooms which can be life changing, just like experiencing the famous Joshua Tree boulders that allow you to feel the age of this rugged landscape as they endure all of the extremes of the desert.  

Personally my favorite time of year is the summer when the thunder heads give us light shows and rain crashes down.  Sitting out on a hot summer night looking up at the stars is a sobering spectacle that I will never tire of… as the dazzling stars, planets and galaxies remind me of how little of a speck I really am on this vast landscape where it feels like anything is possible.  Which is why I moved back home 13 years ago to start my “dream come true” business - working as an artist and art teacher in the desert.

Visit Gretchen on your next trip to 29 Palms and Joshua Tree!
29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery
6847 Adobe Road 29 Palms CA 92277 | 760-361-1805

Open Everyday: 10:00am-6:00pm; Sundays 3:00pm
Walk-Ins Welcome!

And keep checking back for more insider trips from San Bernardino locals!
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