This spring has been jam packed full of events and festivals of various kinds, but few can boast of the history and longevity of the Scottsdale Arts Festival, which put on its 49th annual event this year in March.
What started as an informal gathering of artists to share and sell their work with each other and the community along the main road has evolved into a one of the more well-known and coveted art festivals in the west. In addition to the art, this year’s festival featured dozens of live music acts, food trucks and activities.
Festival organizers received more than 800 applications through a rigorous blind audition process. They narrowed the field to 170 artists from all over the country and invited them to set up booths for the weekend.
“We’re excited to have them all here,” Festival Director Jamie Prins said.
A walk around the large festival grounds, which encompassed nearly all of Civic Center Park and spanned across Drinkwater Blvd., revealed a diverse array of booths of varying artistic styles and mediums.
Steve and Bonnie Harmston are a Chandler-based husband and wife team. Together, they create serigraphs: silkscreen prints that yield vibrant colors and distinct and detailed shapes.
Serigraphs were very popular at one point in time. But today, owing to the unforgiving and painstaking nature of the process, the Harmstons are among the few remaining artists of their kind. They are regulars at the show, but this year is special, as they earned the festival’s Best in Show award.
“It was exciting and pretty shocking actually. It’s pretty hard to do,” said Bonnie.
Jesper Johansen is a former mortgage banker from Denver who used to play with model trains as a kid. When he dug out the tiny human figures included in his old sets to show his kids, he arranged them in humorous positions in the kitchen.
“They just cracked up and that’s how it started,” Johansen said.
His photographs of tiny human figures interacting with comparatively huge everyday objects drew healthy laughs from those visiting his crowded booth.
Another Denverite who found art later in life was Scott Hildebrandt. His dioramas utilize antique objects like radios and time clocks to house miniature scenes brought to life by moving parts he wires using the skills acquired in his former life as an IT worker.
He’s now left that behind to work full time as an artist. When asked which profession he prefers, he did not hesitate. “It’s apples and oranges. This is 10 times better,” said Hildebrandt.
The Scottsdale Arts Festival celebrates those working on a national scale in an effort to nurture Scottsdale’s own local art community.
Scottsdale Arts is a non-profit organization. The festival is a fundraiser for its four branches: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale Public Art and Scottsdale Arts Education & Outreach.
Artists donated more than 100 pieces to an auction held in the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts, with all the proceeds going towards the organization’s education and outreach programs. The programs serve the whole community, from young children to senior citizens, bringing them everything from dance, to visual art to theater.
Art has long been a part of the identity of Scottsdale. Scottsdale Arts carries on that tradition with the goal of enriching the community along the way.