Guest opinion: Fall Art Festival was a model of success
Given the beautiful fall weather, it is worth reflecting on the Glenwood Springs Art Guild and its Fall Art Festival. Thousands attended the Fall Art Festival each year and enjoyed the experience. Few realized the unique and highly successful business model behind it. Prepare to be amazed.
For 52 years, ending in 2014, the Glenwood Springs Art Guild produced the Fall Art Festival without any government funding or corporate underwriters. It was one of the largest, most popular and most successful art shows in the United States.
In one 12-year period, over $1 million in original art was sold with 70 percent of the proceeds being returned to the artist and 30 percent for expenses and gifting. Schools and nonprofits from Parachute to Basalt were gifted more than $75,000 in art supplies from 2000-12, and more than $330,000 in scholarships have been awarded since 1981. Sales taxes enriched state, county and local governments, and Glenwood Springs received an economic boost from the hundreds of artists and patrons who gathered here each fall.
Numbers tell only part of the story. The guild and its show provided encouragement for generations of aspiring artists and a reliable source of income for many professional artists. The amateur exhibits were often the most creative, and many artists got not only their first exhibit, but also their first sale at this show.
Professional judging was also an important factor providing peer recognition, prizes, ribbons and encouragement. A culture of fine art in Glenwood Springs and the area was encouraged and supported by the Fall Art Festival.
The Fall Art Festival was funded entirely by the sale of original art. A dedicated group of patrons committed to purchase a work of original art and because of that commitment they received first choice. The concept was both brilliant and simple; to encourage and support art, purchase an original piece of art.
Above all, the Fall Art Festival was a magnificent celebration of fine art, artists and lovers of art. It was also a great party. Sometimes, on opening night during the art stampede a fight would break out over a piece of art and who got to it first. Inconceivable. Art was bought, sold and created. Demonstrations, dinners and parties abounded. Everyone seemed to inspire everyone else. It was hard work, great fun and even a bit naughty at times. I miss the Fall Art Festival but am forever grateful that I got to participate as an artist, a patron and a volunteer.
So thank you to everyone who was part of this event that forever changed Glenwood Springs for the better. Thank you to the artists who created such incredible art. Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers, and a special thank you to the dedicated patrons who continued to purchase original art long after their walls and houses were full. You all made a great difference.
The biggest thank you is the last and goes to Arlene Law, the show’s executive producer for all of its 52 years. One of the handwritten quotes I received from Arlene follows:
“Everyone has a purpose, we were put here to build and not destroy.” — Red Skelton
Thank you to Arlene Law and the rest of the Glenwood Springs Art Guild for building something truly beautiful and wonderful. We are all much richer in so many ways because of you.
Grace Stahlschmidt is a past president of the Glenwood Springs Art Guild.