Festival of Arts show comes of age in Wallowa County

Malcolm and Tami Phinney, co-chairs of the 2004 Wallowa Valley Festival of Art in Joseph, unpack some show entries from artist Marjett Schille of Puyallap, Wash. Photo by Elane Dickenson

The Wallowa Valley Festival of Arts will come of age this weekend, as it observes its 21st year as a showcase for local and regional artists and a draw for art lovers from all over.

From 80-90 professional and amateur artists are expected to take part in the juried art show in Joseph Community Center, where all festival activities take place.

The event opens with a festive opening reception 7-10 p.m. Friday, June 13, with the center open for public viewing 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

The only admission charge for the festival is $15 per person for the Friday night reception. Other events throughout the weekend are free."We're continuing to build on all the previous years of the festival," said Malcolm Phinney, who is co-chair of the event with his wife Tami. He said they are following the pattern set over the past couple of years under former chairpersons Catherine Mathias and Stewart Jones.

That pattern includes such amenities as wine glasses hand-painted by local artists for those who attend the reception, plus activities such as artists' demonstrations throughout the show, storytelling and hands-on children's activities.

Last year the Phinneys were assistant directors under Mathias and Vencill, roles filled this year by the husband-wife team of Bill Finney and Heather Tyreman, who will step into the co-chairmanship in 2004. This chain of command process insures organizers who have experience each year.

Featured artist and show judge this year will be Dan Chen of Eugene, who studied under master artists in China and teaches drawing techniques and Chinese brush painting at the University of Oregon.

Fluent in many different media, Chenplans to teach a workshop in pastels1-5 p.m. Thursday at the community center. A second festival-related workshop in plein air oil painting is also planned from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, and will be taught by Ken Roth, who has been featured as an "Artist to Watch" in Southwest Art magazine.

Tera Phinney, daugher of the festival co-chairs and recent Enterprise High School salutatorian, has been recruited to conduct children's hands-on activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Her art credentials include a third place national finish in the VFW Patriotic Art Contest earlier this year.

Joseph musician Janet Bailey will be featured from 7-9 p.m. Saturday in a presentation titled "Cowboy Songs." Last year Bailey was nominated as Female Vocalist of the Year by the Western Music Association and Female Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. This summer she will direct the outdoor Western Music Theater for the second year.

"One special thing we are doing this year is honoring Shirly Bothum," said Phinney. Bothum, a working cowboy turned nationally known artist, lived in Joseph and was a faithful exhibitor at the local arts festival. He died last winter after suffering a heart attack while working on a Lewis and Clark sculpture commission in Lewiston, Idaho.

Phinney is director of the Valley Bronze Showroom in Joseph, and an artist in his own right, while Tami Phinney works with her husband as assistant director of the gallery.

"The volunteers make this show. The community effort is phenomenal. Everyone just comes together," she said.

The festival has become a destination for many visitors, who come back annually to enjoy the artwork and festival activities. But it is also popular with Wallowa County residents.

All art at the show is for sale, and, in addition, a silent auction of donated artwork will be going on throughout the festival.

For more information, or to reserve tickets for the opening night reception, call the Phinneys at 432-7445.

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