Art festival showcases more than 40 artists

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More than 40 artists displayed 121 works of art downtown during the first-ever Sagebrush Art Festival held on Yampa Avenue Saturday and Sunday.

With help from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Colorado Council on the Arts, the Craig Downtown Business Association, Colorado Northwestern Community College and the Community Foundation of Northwest Colorado solicited local and national artists to display works that were viewed by more than 200 people.

With artists from as far as Roosevelt, Utah, and New York, local talent swept the awards. Most of the $1,500 in prize money was awarded to artists from Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco Counties.

Colorado artists and juror James Biggers of Bellevue judged entries of the Plein Aire Paint-Out held Saturday, during which various artists painted pictures of their favorite downtown business, which were later sold.

Biggers, a professional artist for more than 15 years, markets his work in galleries across the country, but feels at home in small communities.

"I grew up in a small town, so I totally understand the lack of arts. But this community was really wonderful," he said. "I was surprised at the turnout for the opening night at the reception; I didn't expect to see so many people, so it was plenty successful."

The positive impacts of art and the exposure to culture that people wouldn't normally receive are important to a small community, Biggers said.

"More than anything else, these art festivals acquaint younger people with what options are out there, and it gives the community a chance to get together," he said.

The Downtown Business Association purchased the winning painting. Biggers also conducted a two-day artist workshop sponsored by CNCC.

Artists and aspiring artists were encouraged to participate at no cost for Moffat County residents. Twelve residents took advantage of the workshop. The festival was possible because of grant money secured through the Community Foundation.

"The grant was awarded to promote and enhance art in rural America," Community Foundation board member Pam Foster said. "The $5,000 grant was used to help with promotion and enhancement of the Sagebrush Art Festival," she said.

The money from the grant made more than $1,500 in prize money available, which made recruiting artists and professional jurors possible, Foster said. The grant also helped to host a food reception Friday night.

The Community Foundation was also awarded a $500 matching grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts to assist with the production of the art festival. The council has invested in the cultural life of comsmunities across the state for more

than 35 years.

"This is what a community can do with a foundation," Foster said. "In many cases, interested groups have grant writers, but need a fiscal agency to run the grant through that's what we are. This is the one way to receive funding to bring nice things to our community."

Those interested in learning more about the Foundation should call

826-0189.

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