by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
The grassy banks of the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District come alive the last weekend of August every year for one of the premier fine art shows in the country: Art in the High Desert (AHD). Recently ranked among the top 15 shows in the nation, AHD’s vision is simple: to bring truly original fine art and craft to Central Oregon.
“These artists bring with them a wealth of stories and accolades as well as amazing art,” commented Show Director Carla Fox. Of the over 100 hand-picked visual artists coming to Bend from 19 states and British Columbia for the weekend, over half will be attending for the first time.
The variety and quality of art are an important part of what makes this show so special, along with the leadership of AHD founders and local artists Dave and Carla Fox. Art in the High Desert and the Foxes were recently featured on Oregon Art Beat, the Public Broadcasting’s regional art program. An artist-run show is a fairly unique situation, and as show artists themselves, the couple are able to bring an appreciated level of expertise to the event.
“The show is run by artists that are familiar with doing good art festivals,” commented Marla Baggetta, a four-year Art in the High Desert artist and Cascade A&E cover artist. “It makes all the difference. The artists are really honored guests and treated very well.”
The artists invited to the August 22-24 show are chosen from one of 14 media categories: 2-D mixed media, metal work, painting, 3-D mixed media, photography, sculpture, ceramics, print making, digital art, drawing, wearables, fiber non-wearables, glass, wood and jewelry.
In a two-day intensive jury session, AHD’s four invited professional artist/jurors have the daunting task of selecting just over 100 visual artists from the talented pool of more than 450.
Each spring the AHD jurors review applications, looking specifically for artwork that goes beyond the expected, the usual, showing excellence in craftsmanship. The process is completely anonymous as each artist is assigned an ID number which is shown along with six images the artists submit, and a brief artist statement.
“AHD is widely known amongst artists as a high-caliber show and difficult to get into. Naturally, I aim for the top!” exclaimed show artist, Rachel Harvey. “There is a small group of top-tier art shows that are known to focus on and enforce the ‘original, hand-made, one-of-a-kind‘ concept and AHD is one of them.”
New this year, Art in the High Desert invited the public and artists to attend a jury-preview session where the process was explained and demonstrated through the sophisticated online ZAPP jury system. This allowed artists and the public to get a glimpse of the challenging task of deciding who will be invited to the August show.
The highest scoring applications are invited to the festival, and the jury provides detailed feedback on artist submissions if requested. “We curate the show and create what we feel is a well-balanced collection of media,” said Organizer Dave Fox.
2014’s jury consisted of Raquel Edwards, a 2-D mixed media artist from Portland; Arunas Oslapas, a metal worker from Bellingham, Washington; Jim Dailing, jeweler and COCC art educator from Bend; and Linda Heisserman, potter also from Bend.
“AHD is one of the very few show willing to provide feedback to individual artists,” Harvey said. “I have personally found this feedback to be invaluable.”
At the core of Art in the High Desert’s success, the welcoming community, helpful volunteers and hardworking festival organizers have helped to make Central Oregon one of the highlights among art festivals. The popularity of the event brings artists, patrons and art lovers from all over the region to experience the picturesque setting, accessible prices and unique stories about the artists and their work.
Art Makes a Difference
Along with traditional fine art genres like painting and photography found in a show of this caliber, are functional pieces like clothing, furniture and even fantastically detailed children’s puzzles.
In addition to offering art lovers a chance to peruse and purchase the skilled work of master artists, Art in the High Desert places a strong emphasis on recognizing the work of artists in more unexpected ways.
In their Art Makes a Difference campaign, the organizers aim to bring awareness to how art impacts our everyday activities and the products we use.
Included are the fantastically intricate and beautiful pieces of clothing, furniture and toys found at the show, but the campaign also crosses into our every day experiences at work, home or play.
Art in the High Desert
Many individuals, groups and businesses contribute in their own distinctive way to help make Art in the High Desert a premier art show including founding partner the Old Mill District, and new partners Bend Furniture & Design and Advanced Energy.