The arts was just a fledgling industry in Wallowa County when the first Wallowa Valley Festival of Arts was held in 1983 in the public space of Enterprise's Wallowa Valley Mall.

Its exhibitors were mostly a handful of local amateur artists.

Through the past two decades the show has grown right along with the county's arts, and this weekend the arts festival will feature the work of almost 100 artists, both professional and non-professional, in the Joseph Community Center.

The juried show opens with a reception for the public and the artists from 7-10 p.m. Friday, June 21, and continues with public viewing by the public through Sunday afternoon, June 23. Admission to the Friday reception is $15 per person, while the rest of the event - including Saturday evening Western music entertainment - is free.

The art show is open to the public from 10 a.m-9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

Those who attend the opening reception will enjoy gourmet hors d'oeuvres, free wine tasting, a complimentary hand-painted wine glass, classical piano music and the first chance to view the art.

Door prizes, including a romantic night for two at the Bronze Antler bed and breakfast will also be given away at the reception. Two wines from Waterbrook Winery in the Walla Walla Valley will be available for tasting. There will be a chance all three days to bid on silent auction pieces donated by 26 different artists to benefit the festival.

"We're really excited about the festival this year," said Catherine Mathias, co-director of the show for the second year with her husband, Stewart Jones. Mathias said that about two-thirds of the exhibitors are local artists, while the other third are from all over the region. Mathias and Jones are being joined this year by "junior" co-directors Malcolm and Tami Phinney, who will move into the show's senior chair spot in 2003. Mathias and Jones are proprietors of the Indigo Gallery and Malcolm Phinney is director of Valley Bronze Showroom in Joseph.

Throughout the event artists will be giving demonstrations in the community center. The demonstration schedule is as follows: Friday, 7-9 p.m. Doug Eck, clay sculpting for bronze; Saturday, 10-noon John Taye, figure drawing; noon-2, Jennie Kay Snyder, water color; 2-4 p.m. Rodd Ambroson, clay sculpting for bronze; Sunday, 10-noon, Kat Galloway, print making; and noon-2 p.m., Marcia L. Cook, oil painting.

Festival and featured artist this year is John Taye, professor of art at Boise State University in Idaho. He also plans to teach a figure drawing class in the community center 1-5 p.m. Thursday, June 20.

Art by both professional and non-professional artists will be entered in 13 different categories: bronze sculpture, other sculpture, oil or acrylic painting, watercolor painting, drawing, print making, photography, miniatures, fiber, mixed media/collage, ceramics, jewelry and glass.

Everyone is asked to vote on their favorite piece of art during the three-day show, as the People's Choice Award is always one of the most coveted by artists, along with Best of Show and Judge's Choice. Cash awards and ribbons will be given in both professional and amateur divisions at the discretion of the judge.

In addition to the visual art show, a number of other events are on the festival agenda.

Scheduled especially for children are hands-on activities 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and children's story time and writing 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. The children's activities are organized by Carolyn Gilbert.

A program titled "Cowboy Poetry and Cowgirl Songs," featuring western singer Janet Bailey, Jerry Warren and local cowboy poet/musician Craig Nichols, is scheduled 7-9 p.m. June 22 at the community center. There is no admission

To reserve a reception ticket, to register for the life drawing class or for more information about the Festival of Arts, call 541-432-5202.

A self-directed Art Walk in Enterprise, which started last weekend for Summerfest, will continue through July 25. Stop by the Back Fence, 105 E. Main St, to pick up a list of participating merchants.

In Joseph, a Thursday evening Gallery Art Walk will be held 5-8 p.m., with participating galleries staying open late.

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