JOSHUA TREE ART GALLERY Welcomes New Director, Katie Nartonis

By Lisa Lynn Morgan

Katie Nartonis has been appointed Gallery Manager of Joshua Tree Art Gallery (JTAG), a Morongo Basin Creative Arts Council (MBCAC) community-based art space.

The MBCAC Board worked closely with former gallery manager, Aimee Buyea, to craft a position that best serves the needs of the hi-desert arts community. Buyea, who ran the gallery for the last 3 years, has weathered the gallery through the worst of the COVID pandemic. During her tenure, Buyea was able to conceptualize what best suited the needs of the organization and the larger arts community of the Morongo Basin.

“I’m looking forward to how the new position has expanded to better support the overall goals of the whole organization,” shared Buyea. “Katie’s experience is a great asset to handle the various twists and turns this position will take. I will miss working directly with the artists, but I will stay on as membership director on the board to stay involved.”

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The newly shaped JTAG position focuses on creating a vibrant and inclusive exhibition series with opportunities for members and non-members to show their work. The position also includes additional responsibilities coordinating and supporting the larger work of the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council (MBCAC), including working closely with the board of directors as they plan the upcoming 2022 Highway 62 Art Tours. The MBCAC stated goal is to “inspire and enliven the community through arts, and to enhance the cultural and economic health of the region.” The MBCAC is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization and the Art Tours are a cherished desert tradition of over 20 years. JTAG shows the work of the members of the MBCAC, as well as special shows curated by the Director that serve as inspiration for the entire desert arts community.

Before moving to the high desert, Katie enjoyed an over 20-year art auction career working in the 20th Century Design departments at Heritage, Bonhams, Butterfields, and Los Angeles Modern Auctions. In 2010 she founded The Nartonis Project to “better tell the stories of the West Coast art scene through writing, curating and film-making.” She has curated multiple art and design shows and events featuring in person lectures with art luminaries Larry Bell, Sam Maloof, Frank Gehry, and the late visual futurist Syd Mead in “Bladrerunner: Designing the Future.”

No stranger to working with nonprofit arts organizations, Nartonis currently serves as Vice President of the Executive Board of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts in Alta Loma “Katie is a fantastic and inspired friend of the arts in San Bernardino County,” shared Executive Director, Jim Rawitsch. “As a member of the Maloof Foundation’s board of directors, she’s been instrumental in advancing public awareness of Southern California art and artists. She’s also a strong advocate for finding new ways to keep art and the creative spirit at the center of contemporary living across the Inland Empire region. As a resident herself of the desert communities, Katie understands the region, the art, and the great community of artists that calls this place home.”

Nartonis has also joined the newly formed Whole Arts – Architectural and Educational Board at the Institute of Mentalphysics at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.
Earlier this year, Joshua Tree Voice was fortunate to have Nartonis join our staff as a contributing arts writer. Nartonis is an accomplished curator, filmmaker, 20th century design specialist and contributing designer, as well as an art and architectural writer for SoCal and Desert Magazines for which she covered Palm Springs Modernism Week in 2022. In her works, as well as her monthly local artist interview columns for the JTV, she has featured local artists including sculptor Cybele Rowe, textile artist Svetlana Shigroff, and nail artist John Henson. She plans to continue to “feature the varied and vital voices of the growing arts community” here in the high desert through her writing and curation. Her next Joshua Tree Voice article will feature Joanna Szachowska who is known for her varied art practice including works on paper, fiber, and clay.

The MBCAC (Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council) is a membership based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the art and artists of the Morongo Basin. Membership includes the opportunity to show at JTAG and to be a part of the annual Highway 62 Art Tours every October. One of the largest art tours in California (second only to San Francisco), the HWY62 Art Tours span three weekends every October. With the influx of new artists and art lovers moving to the high desert over the past few years, the MBCAC is expecting a vibrant Fall tour experience. The HWY62 ART Tour dates will be held October 8+9, 15+16, and 22+23.

The JTAG gallery is in downtown Joshua Tree at: 61607 29 Palms Hwy, Suite B, Joshua Tree, California. Gallery hours are Fridays 11am – 3pm, Saturdays 9am – 3pm, and Sundays Noon – 3pm. The gallery is open for every Art-Walk, on the second Saturdays of the month. On Saturday, June 11th (6:00-8:00pm) JTAG will be featuring the next group show opening, “EXPO.” More information on the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, JTAG, and the HWY62 Art Tours can be found at: mbcac.org.

Photos by Stephen Linsley

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