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Arts: Fall Arts Festival

Expanded Venues at Jackson’s Fall Arts Festival Define the West’s Top Art Market

+ Story by Tammy Christel

On a raw, wet mountain morning, ducking into West Lives On gallery’s warm and congenial log showroom melts the cold. The West’s pioneer past jumps to life, and if you’ve been searching for an authentic Western gallery “home,” this is the one. Gentle acoustic guitar melodies fill the air, and walls lined with images of the historic West complete the scene.

Showcase of Homes

Showcase of Homes
Homestead’s own 2013 event expanded Fall Arts Festival participants’ experience with visits to some of Jackson’s most exciting residences.

Owner Terry Ray’s devotion to Western art imbues his gallery, situated just across the street from downtown Jackson’s storied Wort Hotel. Ray has participated in Jackson’s annual Fall Arts Festival from its earliest years and now finds himself part of an event melding beauty with history, an event considered a legend in its own time.

Festival chairman for six years as well as a 19-year enthusiast, Ray’s efforts to expand the Festival’s scope are constant. So much so that this art “traditionalist” decided to open a second gallery, one devoted to Contemporary Western.

“Jackson has so many galleries, and that can’t help but draw people looking for fine Western art; folks know there’s more than one place to go. When additional gallery space became available, we grabbed it,” says Ray.

Prominently positioned in his new gallery is the art of 2014 Fall Arts Festival poster artist Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey.

“Forever Jackson”

Forever Jackson
The 2014 Fall Arts Festival poster winner by artist Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey. Dye on silk, 52” x 68”.

“Being chosen as the Festival’s 30th anniversary artist, I’ll have to say it was a real surprise!” exclaims Cawdrey. “My medium is not exactly traditional—not that Jackson is always traditional, but because I paint on silk, my work is quite different than most Western art. I’m known for using real bright colors, but in submitting my poster composition, I made sure not to go all ‘Andy Warhol’ on everybody. I reined it in a little bit! I’ve done very funky work, and I’ve been quieter, which I feel sometimes.”

All Andy Warhol?

Evoking the Pop Art icon suggests Cawdrey not only acknowledges, but feels a part of, Jackson’s diversifying arts scene. Traditionally schooled in the arts, Cawdrey’s silk- painting technique is self-taught and her greatest artistic success. Cawdrey’s hot, jazzy paintings are at the confluence of treasured Western themes and sweeping panache.

“Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey is the perfect balance of a Western painter and an artist fully identifiable with contemporary art,” says the Jackson Chamber of Commerce’s Maureen Murphy. “Choosing artists is quite a process; we’re always planning a good year-and-a-half ahead. With Nancy as our 30th anniversary poster artist, the Festival’s vision expands.”

“Expansion, inclusion, interactivity, economy,” says Chamber Executive Director Jeff Golightly. “I can’t over- emphasize what Fall Arts has done for this community: Its force as a motivator is unparalleled, and it changed our fall entirely. Without Fall Arts, we’d likely be struggling to keep restaurants and retail stores open through September, as we were back in the ’80s and ’90s. It affects our tourism industry far beyond the arts. Today, so many events take place around Fall Arts: LOTOJA, the One Fly and Old Bill’s Fun Run for Charity. These groups pick a day adjacent to or in the middle of Fall Arts to hold their events. Everybody wins: Fall Arts is a windfall.”

Chaise Lounger

Chaise Lounger
The Western Design Conference showcases all forms of the finest in Western craftsmanship.

“Stone Mountain”

Stone Mountain
Joshua Tobey was honored as the first Fall Arts Featured Sculptor. The fine patinas he achieves on his bronze sculptures are key to his style.

Building power with enticing new events, Jackson’s Fall Arts Festival has become a Western arts cultural rocket. Last year, Homestead’s Showcase of Homes was inspired by the idea of sharing myriad forms of construction-industry craftsmanship with the public, and offering access to magnificent Western homes provided a way to give back: Homeowners donated all ticket proceeds to local charities. Galleries showcased their artists, adding to the feeling that on a magnificent fall day, participants were touring a moving museum.

The Western Design Conference Exhibit and Sale, a showcase of Western home furnishings, fashion and jewelry design, is a dynamic Fall Arts Festival opener. Conference owner Allison Merritt agrees that Fall Arts now shines a light on modern design as well as new blends of traditional and New West.

“It is amazing to see a show come to life over the course of a year,” says Merritt. “The process begins with hundreds of jury applications from artisans throughout the country and is narrowed down to roughly 100 participants. We also see creative partnerships by multiple artists and great tributes to historical moments in time. Above all, meeting and collaborating with the artisans firsthand is as alluring as our region’s surroundings.”

Showcase of Homes

Showcase of Homes
Visitors met top- tier architects, home and landscape designers.

In that spirit, Fall Arts is ever on the move, ever more action-oriented, enhancing Jackson’s arts profile worldwide. New action includes naming Colorado’s Joshua Tobey as the first Fall Arts Featured Sculptor. Tobey’s work appeals to contemporary and traditional buyers, notes the artist’s Jackson gallery representative, Greg Fulton of Astoria Fine Art. Bronze sculpture, an arts staple and crucial to Jackson’s art market, has historically lured collectors of the medium. Tobey’s contemporary work is distinguished by an infinite patina spectrum, a distinct “joie de vivre,” and should draw a diverse, international collecting audience. His winning work, of a family of life-size coyotes titled “Jackson Symphony,” can be seen at The Wort Hotel in early March 2014.

“This honor is not lost on me,” says Tobey, “and part of the challenge for Greg and myself is sending an invigorating message: Sculptors are and should be a vital, important Festival presence. Three-dimensional art can be touched, handled. We observe sculpture from various angles, and it becomes inseparable from the landscape it inhabits. Anthropomorphism as depicted in sculpture has been part of wildlife art history for centuries. This opportunity is thrilling, and as an artist, I strive to create the most perfect sculpture imaginable.”

As time goes on, look for Fall Arts to incorporate every arts medium imaginable.

“We will continue to pursue nontraditional venues such as architecture and design, and some of the world’s finest nature photographers are here in Jackson,” says Golightly. “We should build upon their presence. There’s a perpetual shift toward conducting classes and adding creative, all-encompassing Fall Arts events.”

“I had heard of Jackson, but hadn’t been there,” recalls Cawdrey. “We put some things in a car and drove down from Montana. I love folks in Jackson as much as I do people in Montana, and that’s saying a lot! It’s very welcoming. The Quick Draw, my favorite event, sees parents, grandparents, children and friends returning to watch each year. As an artist, it’s such fun to be in Jackson, visit galleries, meet artists and feel totally inspired. There is no question Jackson is the most important Western art market. I’m quite serious. I advise all Western artists to check it out. Jackson is on the cutting edge of what Western art is and where it’s going. Absolutely.”

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