For the 24 years, Durango Arts Center has gathered artists both locally and from around the country for its Autumn Arts Festival, its biggest fundraiser of the year.
This year, 94 artists will be selling their work in booths set up along Second Avenue. The number of vendors is up slightly from years past, said Peter Hay, exhibits director at the DAC.
“I think we’ll keep growing,” he said. “I’d like to get it up to 100 in the next couple of years.”
DAC is selective about who it chooses for the festival, Hay said. Artists must apply for a spot and send in their proposals in the spring. Three jurors go through and rate the submissions, and from those, the top artists are invited.
Hay said there were just over 200 submissions this year, and the artists selected are top-notch.
“I’m excited about a lot of things this year,” he said. “There’s a lot of variety in the work; there’s everything from usable leather goods for the kitchen to purses to really high-end leather goods. And then everything from functional ceramics to ceramic art; a wide variety of jewelry, some incredible paintings. There’s a photographer coming from California who has these humongous photo prints, so I can’t wait to see those.”
The festival will also offer furniture, metal work and textiles in a wide variety of price ranges, Hay said.
“There are definitely some affordable things. If you’re looking for a new salad bowl, you’ll be able to find a really beautiful new salad bowl,” he said. “Then there’s also going to be some incredible fine art that is on par with anything you’d find in a gallery. There will be some really great sculptural work as well on display. It’s a pretty wide variety of stuff. Anybody can come and find something.”
Along with the artists, the festival also features food and drinks and two days’ worth of live music and performances.
New this year is a second stage that will be set up where Second Avenue and College Drive meet. The other stage will be set up in front of DAC. Performances set for Saturday and Sunday will include musicians, a DJ set, performances by musical theater students, Sunday morning yoga, and even the local hula group will take the stage.
“We have a really diverse schedule this year,” Hay said. “It should be a really fun two days of performances.”
Festival hours will also be different this year, with Saturday starting a little later than usual – noon – and running a little later in the evening, until 7. The idea for the change came a couple of years ago when Steamworks held its anniversary celebration at the same time, Hay said.
“The artists really liked that, and we had a really big crowd that came in for the evening. What we were thinking is to have the performances go a little later rather than closing at 5, and maybe people will come and also enjoy dinner and have a few drinks and listen to the music,” he said. “It gives the artists another round of people coming through their booths. Hopefully, it’s just an added attraction and brings a few more people in.”
It also pushes the start back a little bit so the festival is not overlapping with some of the other events in town, such as Durango Farmers Market and the Trails 2000 event that will happen that morning, Hay said.
The main source of funding for DAC comes from booth rentals from the artists. The presenting sponsor is Southwest Bank. “Without their support, it would be tough to keep this thing going,” he said.
So what’s the secret to the festival’s longevity?
“I’ve got to give it up to the artists. Without them actually applying and coming and bringing their work, this just would not be possible,” Hay said. “And I think the community coming and supporting it is a big part of it. I think this is something people look forward to. I give it up to the artists, but I also give it up to all the people who go and buy art from the artists because that’s what keeps them coming here. It’s really a fun, family-friendly event. It’s a very kind of community-centric event and I think that’s something that’s kept it going all these years.”
Hay said the community also supports the event with in-kind donations and sponsorships as well, and residents step up every year and volunteer at the festival.
“I hope people also love DAC and they just come because they want to support the Arts Center, too.”