The 21st annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival returns to East 2nd Avenue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday between 6th and 9th streets in downtown Durango. The festival will showcase 90 artists and artisans from more than 200 applicants. We caught up with three diverse Durango artists who will be at the festival.
The festival newby
Allison Leigh Smith
Her background: The Autumn Arts Festival is the first time Smith will take part in any outdoor festival. Prior to working as a full-time painter, Smith worked as an art educator at the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art, a gallery director in Maui, Hawaii, and then a textile designer in Phoenix before relocating to Durango.
About her art: Through her oil paintings, Smith focuses heavily on animal portraits – domestic, wild and endangered – hoping to draw attention in particular to animals she feels need attention and protection. “I’m just sharing that passion,” she said. “I hope people relate to my work and see the love I put into it and empathize with it.” Smith said she’s been painting animals for as long as she can remember. “I literally have a memory of throwing a tantrum in kindergarten because they wouldn’t let me finish my cat and rainbow piece.”
Durango connection: Smith moved to Durango in April to be with her boyfriend and fellow artist, Bryce Pettit. “I’m so excited to be here. It’s so perfect,” she said of her new home. “I’ve fallen in love with it and wanted to be a part of the show and introduce myself to the community.”
On art festivals: “I try not to have expectations other than just the joy of sharing my work. That way, if anything sells or I make connections with galleries, then all of that is just icing on the cake. I’m coming expecting to meet Durango and let them know I’m here.”
The festival returnee
His background: Working as a full-time artist for more than 15 years, Pettit’s bronze sculptures are in numerous public and private collections, galleries and public instillations across the country. This is his second Autumn Arts Festival and the only outdoor festival he’ll do this year.
About his art: Pettit discovered his love of bronze casting in his early 20s, finding the combination of artistic and creative precision with working with his hands a good fit. Pettit casts animals and wildlife “to convey different emotions and to express what he likes about nature,” he said. For the festival he will debut a new piece – a giant pile of old mining parts and paraphernalia looming over spotted sandpipers – in response to the Gold King Mine spill and Animas River contamination.
Durango connection: Pettit moved to Durango almost two years ago, coming most recently from Utah. It was a place he always wanted to live in, and when it came time to move, Durango was it. “As far as an artist, there’s so much inspiration and wilderness and nature around it. It’s the perfect place for me,” he said.
On art festivals: “I do a lot of work in galleries and most of the time the work sells from the gallery. I’m never aware of who it is who’s even purchasing – who my collectors are and all that – I never get to meet them in person. Most of the time I’m working very solitary in my studio. And so getting out and seeing peoples’ direct reaction to new work I’ve created or to new things I’m doing is really satisfying. I love it when people just kind of discover you.”
The festival veteran
Her background: Martin has been doing festivals for about 15 years, including the Durango Autumn Arts Festival a handful of times. Doing about 10 to 12 festivals a year – all juried – she’s travelled this year to places like Washington D.C., Fort Worth, Denver and Seattle to showcase her art.
About her art: Martin specializes in a glass-casting technique called pâte de verre, which produces subtle color gradations, resulting in vibrant colors and intricate patterns and shapes. She also works with sterling silver and 18-carat gold.
Durango connection: Martin has called Durango home since 1979. Her daughter, Laurel Hatch, a 2001 graduate of Durango High School and current Bozeman, Mont., resident, will return for the arts festival to show her pop Western paintings, the first time she will show her work in Durango.
On art festivals: “I like the direct interaction (with the customer) so I can hear their response to the work and that’s real rewarding for any artist. I like the positive energy of these shows. One thing I enjoy almost every show I do anymore is seeing someone walk up to the booth wearing my jewelry and saying (for instance), ‘Look, I got this when I was in Aspen,’ and seeing the delight in how great they look in it or see the delight in them wearing it and owning it.”