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A spotlight on the world-class sculptors behind the award statues of the Palm Springs International Film Festival

The iconic awards of the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala have been placed in the hands of some of the biggest celebrities in the world. The bronze statuette is immediately recognizable for its decades-long history as the symbol of film festival honors. Later on, exquisite glass awards become a part of the tradition. But these awards had to pass through another pair of talented hands first.

The graceful bronze award given to the winners of the PSIFF awards gala comes from the sculptor John Kennedy, whose slender-figured artworks are immediately recognizable.

"They evoke an emotion in people, and some people relate to some of the experiences that the figures are having," Samuel Heaton, the gallery director of CODA gallery, said of Kennedy's works, adding that CODA celebrates joyful and uplifting pieces from around the world.

Kennedy trained with world-class sculptors in Europe before moving to Palm Springs in 1980. He passed away in 2004, but his works live on at CODA gallery on El Paseo, which represents his estate.

The lithe figure, mid-spin, so distinctly representative of the film fest, is based on Kennedy's "The Entertainer."

"The Entertainer is inspired by the jester, and the jester is someone who entertains" said Heaton. "This is a very busy sculpture with all the juggling that he's doing."

"The Entertainer" is a heavyweight at a whopping ten pounds, arguably the heftiest of the film awards. The statue is cast in bronze with glass later joining the cast of the awards. In the late 2000s, Dale Chihuly, whose glittering glass works gained global popularity, also designed a film fest award.

"It started with two things: love of Palm Springs and love of film," Leslie Chihuly, the president & CEO of Chihuly Studio, said.

Chihuly said she and her husband cherished their time living in Palm Springs and that they attended the film fest regularly. Eventually, they were invited to design the award.

"It comes from this Italian tradition and Dale's respect and time spent in Venice, Murano, working with the Venetian masters and honing his own craft," said Chihuly.

Over the years, celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix, have snatched one up.
And if you don't think you'll get one of these anytime soon, you can always appreciate original Dale Chihulys at Imago Gallery in Palm Desert.
You'll see some stunning pieces curated by Leisa Austin.

To see the 2021 winners of the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards, click here.

Angela Chen

Angela comes to the Coachella Valley as KESQ’s morning anchor after teaching graduate school classes at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication. Learn more about Angela here.


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