For the 11th year running, Art in the High Desert illuminates the banks of the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District this August 24-26, bringing 115 professional artists from across the nation to Bend! 665 artists applied to this year’s event, an event voted 10th in the nation for art sales by Art Fair SourceBook in 2016 and 2017. Of the 115 selected, at least 30 of them have never shown here before, and those who have merit their return. Founders Dave and Carla Fox choose to keep the number of artists small and the attention on the art and artists themselves, which certainly accounts, in part, for the event’s prestige. Ingenuity, professionalism, consistency and congeniality are qualities sought after in the art and artists represented at Art in the High Desert, and the jury of four experts well-versed in the 15 media categories have certainly delivered for Central Oregon’s Premier Juried Art and Craft Show.
Nothing short of astounding are the variety of mediums represented at this year’s event. There will be scissors drawings, kinetic sculpture, hand-pulled prints, hand-sewn hats, realistic drawings, abstract paintings, contemporary batik and much more! This diversity in mediums lends itself to a variety of price points, something for everyone in other words, a deliberate choice on behalf of Art in the High Desert’s founders to provide opportunity to collectors of all sorts. Such variety also invokes curiosity on behalf of the public who peruse the stalls, knowing that no two artists will be quite, if remotely, alike. “This is a show unlike any other,” Dave Fox shares; “It is a show about the public engaging with the artists and the artists reaching out to the public.”
Engagement is such a core value to Art in the High Desert founders Dave and Carla that they even provide a forum where select artists interact with the public through a workshop, The ABCs of Being a Show Artist. Here, we learn more about the artists stories: Who are they? Why the path of the artist? Why the particular choice in medium(s)? Why enter such a competition in the first place, and what does one expect as a result? This incredible opportunity allows the public to delve deeper into the life of the artist and perhaps come away with a greater understanding of or appreciation for them, their craft and the work it takes to participate in art fairs.
It’s not only the public that can learn about art and artists at Art in the High Desert, but also the artists who get to learn about the business of art as they participate in the show. This learning process begins during the “Jury Preview” where the images received are projected onto big screens. Here artists are invited to view the way in which they and other artists in their category represent themselves to the jury, that is to say, how they present their work. “This is a great opportunity for the artists,” Dave reveals, “because they get to see how they measure up to other artists in terms of their visual presentation that the jury will eventually evaluate.”
Once the Jury Preview is complete, the artists exit the space and yield to the jurors who then close the doors and begin the arduous task of selecting which artists will receive the honor of a featured spot at the event. The feedback loop for artists, however, does not end here. Also available if requested by the artist in the application is written constructive criticism from the jury. As the jury evaluates those applications marked for feedback, each juror jots down notes, for example, what was said about the application package, how many artists applied in that category and any relevant comments regarding specific details. Scores based on categories such as the quality and innovation of the work are tallied and reported to artists so they can see where they were both strong and weak in the application. “Our goal is to help artists be more competitive in their work,” says Dave. “We strive to let them know what they can do to improve their applications and thus their chances of being a successful Art in the High Desert Artist.”
Unlike many art fairs across the nation, Art in the High Desert does not award ribbons for “Best in Show” or “Best in Category.” Receiving an invitation to participate is already an award, Dave asserts. In lieu of ribbons, Dave and Carla have established Benchmark Awards, which honor those artists who are “a step above the rest,” that is, those who not only display outstanding work but also engage the public and demonstrate professionalism and enthusiasm with respect to all aspects of the show.
Five artists were awarded Benchmark Awards last year, two of whom are serving as jurors this year!
To keep the show running smoothly for artists, patrons and the incredibly important volunteer staff, a No Dogs Allowed policy has been instated. Not just for human comfort, this policy is also intended to keep the dogs safe and stress-free. Dave and Carla, dog-lovers themselves, thank you for your understanding.
Enjoy yourselves at this year’s Art in the High Desert, August 24-26, Friday and Saturday from 10am-6pm and Sunday from 10am-4pm.
(Photo by Ross Chandler)