Main Avenue Arts Fest takes on new name, faces
Annual festival takes place Aug. 12-13

Changes are afoot with this year’s annual outdoor arts festival. Most obvious will be the event’s name change. For 12 years running, the Main Avenue Arts Festival has taken over four blocks of the downtown avenue for which it was named. This year, Durango’s premier arts festival has been renamed the “Durango Arts Festival.”

According to Durango Arts Center’s Brian Wagner, executive director of the organization that presents the annual event, the name change is intended to emphasize that the festival represents more than just downtown. “The name change reflects this desire on the part of the DAC to acknowledge and embrace a broader community involvement.” Also, this year the organization and several local galleries purchased a joint advertisement in Southwest Art, a well-respected national publication, in the hopes of attracting visitors to the arts festival and to Durango as an art destination year round.

“We need an identifier that goes beyond our downtown, that presents this bigger message that Durango is bigger than downtown,” Wagner said. This broader association was one aspect of the change, however, an Wagner referred to another equally important reason. “Frankly, the change gives us an opportunity to move the event closer to the Arts Center, if that is something that makes sense in the long run.”

Another departure from past protocol will be the inclusion of seven downtown galleries with booths set up alongside the 100-plus visiting artists and craftspeople. One of the Durango galleries invited is Lime Berry, owned by Melissa and Joe Carroll, who are looking forward to being included in the festival this year.

Melissa Carroll offered, “This is a great collaboration for the arts and Durango … the festival brings in new people and new things, along with the art that is always here.” Lime Berry’s booth, which will be on the street in front of their gallery on Main Avenue, will display work by the local artists that the gallery represents. “The arts fest gives us an opportunity to have our local artists working at the booth, sharing their work and meeting the public. We are excited that the Arts Center has included us.”

For a dozen years, the DAC’s Main Avenue Arts Festival has selected artists and craftspeople who make their work themselves and are present at the booth to sell it. No imported, manufactured or kit work is allowed. In keeping with the festival criteria of only artist-produced work, Wagner sent a letter to all participating galleries, requesting that they adhere to the same standards as the invited artists.

With the inclusion of the local galleries into the festival, local artists will be well represented. There will be the added benefit of being able to meet the makers of the locally produced art that hangs in Durango galleries the other days of the year. Other galleries that will have a booth presence on Main Avenue are: Angels and Lights, Earthen Vessel, Ellis Crane, Image Counts, Open Shutter and Rain Dance. In addition, 13 local artists were juried into the festival and will be present on the street.

Though the purpose of the DAC-sponsored arts festival is to benefit the DAC as a fund-raising event, a major intention is to positively impact the creative community and the arts scene in Durango. Over the years, Wagner has had casual conversations with gallery owners and has received feedback that the festival has not always been good for the sales in downtown art galleries during the festival weekend. Though the festival attracts thousands of pedestrians to the avenue, some galleries have not seen economic benefits from the increased foot traffic. “It is our intention that the festival be positive for the whole arts community, so we made the decision to invite the galleries into the festival.”

Durango artist Miki Harder will have her work seen by, perhaps, more people than any other local artist. A hand-colored, pen-and-ink illustration of hers was chosen from 15 submitted designs to represent the festival in print advertising, posters and festival T-shirts.

Harder, a Fort Lewis College graduate who majored in art, chose a primary color palette of reds, yellows and blues to create a descriptive image to represent the first Durango Arts Festival. Most expressive about the piece is the viewer’s perspective, which places us behind the artist as she is caught in surprise, at the fun that streams from her paint holster and onto the canvas, as if the painting is making itself. There’s a bit of everything that the festival offers in her illustration and it embodies the kind of creativity and fun that people experience from the festival – whatever it may be called.

T- shirts with Harder’s illustration can be bought at the Durango Arts Centers’ Gallery Shop beginning in August. The Durango Arts Festival will take place Aug. 12 - 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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