National, local artists showcased in top arts festival

The Scottsdale Arts Festival recently completed its 45th season and remains one of the best art showcases in the nation

Samantha Hernandez, Reporter

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The 45th Scottsdale Arts Festival, one of the top such events in the country, was held from March 13-15. The three-day event showcased 175 artists, more than 20 bands, and more than a dozen food trucks. The festival attracted 25 to 30 thousand people over the course of the weekend.

Planning for the event starts as soon as possible. Festival manager Jamie Prins begins planning for the next one as soon as the festival ends.

“Once this festival is over, we’ll start preparing for next year’s festival almost immediately,” Prins said. “The majority of the planning starts taking place in the summer where we start working with getting the artists juried in and all their applications and everything starts coming in. We start planning for all the food vendors in the fall. So it’s kind of a year-round process.”

The artists are chosen by an anonymous jury that changes every year. They use an online application service named Zapplication. The artwork is scored by the jurors and the participants are chosen based on their score.

The festival has a great reputation with the artists. Merilee Adams is a local artist who has participated in the Scottsdale Arts Festival for around 10 years.

“I think it’s the best festival in the nation,” Adams said. “I’ve shown all over the nation and I think it’s the best one,” mainly due to how the artists are treated. Adams believes the festival’s venue to be the most beautiful in the country.

“They treat you like you’re Picasso,” Adams said. “They make sure that you’re fed, and watered and they have booth sitters, and it’s just wonderful. The service is great.”

Adams also does what she can to give back to the community. She works with the Civitan Foundation, an organization that helps children and adults with special needs, where she runs an art program. She and the students work together to create beautiful paintings of the desert.

The work is “very rewarding and I think once they’ve accomplished something like this, they feel empowered so that makes me feel good,” she said.

Nicole Hansen is an artist from Colorado who was chosen to participate in the event for the first time this year.

“It has a good reputation for good sales,” Hansen said.

She works with her husband in creating pieces that combine sterling and steel. Or, as she describes it, the “combination of rustic and the shiny, precious and the ordinary.”

“We go to scrap yards and people’s pastures to collect candlesticks and bowls and what not,” Hansen said. “We collect scrap steel and then we heat it up and hit it with big hammers and then we add the sterling embellishments.”

In keeping up with the technology, the festival also has an online auction.

“We go out and we ask artists who participate in the event to donate a piece of their artwork,” Prins said. “It’s just one more piece that allows us to fundraise for this specific event. We get the pieces up and displayed, and we have an online website that people can bid and check from their smartphones or computers.”

The event’s importance is also highlighted by how the city’s art community approaches it. “The Scottsdale Center for the Arts and the Scottsdale Cultural Council are non-profit, so this is a fundraiser for our organization,” Prins said. “It helps brings funds to the organization, it helps fund our education program, it brings recognition to the city itself.”

For people who are interested in attending next year’s festival, Prins said, “There’s something for everyone. If you’re not interested in art, there’s food and beverage and there’s kid’s activities and live music. There’s all kinds of things to do for people of all ages. If you’re a little interested in art there’s all kinds of artists at different price points and all of kinds of things to be able to start a person’s collection.”