Eager to safeguard its image as an upscale tourist resort, Palm Springs is prescribing art therapy as a partial cure for downtown shops caught up in the economic doldrums.
The city is expected to adopt a plan requiring vacant stores to hang paintings or photographs of old Hollywood movie stars, or come up with their own picturesque remedies to head off creeping blight in the city center.
"We have more vacant storefronts than we did in the past," said City Manager David Ready. "Many are transitioning or looking for new tenants. This program wouldn't cost the owner anything and would greatly improve the appearance of the buildings."
Local artists will be invited to showcase their work and the city will finance the installation.
Nedra Young, chief executive of Social Mosaics, which teaches schoolchildren about mosaic art, contacted the city a few months ago about the idea after reading that Philadelphia was doing the same thing.
"Right now a vacant storefront is nothing but a piece of glass. It has no character, no interest, no nothing, so people walking down the street say, 'Why do I want to be here? There is nothing to look at,' " she said.
Young has already put some of her work in a vacant storefront and will do so again Monday. "I think it will bring a new energy to the area," she said. "Right now the energy is gone."
Councilman Rick Hutchenson said it has been difficult for commercial property owners to attract new tenants, leaving many shops empty. "This is a concept many cities are pursuing, trying to turn a negative into a positive," he said.
"We can promote something interesting in these places like art galleries. We can use historic photos that tell the Hollywood history of Palm Springs."