Wallowa County's premier art event will celebrate a quarter of a century of showcasing fine art this weekend at the Joseph Community Center with more artists and artwork than ever.

The 25th annual Wallowa Valley Festival of Art opens from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday evening with a gala reception for artists and a first chance for the public to view this year's artwork. The art show continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tickets for the Friday reception only are $25 and this year should be purchased in advance. Admission to the event the rest of the weekend is free.

"We had to cut off artists from entering their art in April this year," said show director Walter Smith last week. "Usually we let local artists trickle in at the last minute, but not this year. As far as the records show, we have the highest number of artists and the most artwork of any festival.

Smith said that 47 Wallowa County artists and 48 outside artists will be featured in the art show this weekend.

While there are many returning artists, there are also many showing at Joseph for the first time.

The total of 95 exhibitors is up from last year, when 86 artists from throughout the Northwest displayed 300 pieces of art

Learning the ropes on how to put on an art show this year are co-directors Mike and Linda Koloski of Enterprise, who will step up as directors of the festival of arts in 2008.

Mike Koloski is an artist himself and last year one of his pieces won Best of Show in Joseph.

"It's hard work, but it's a way of giving back," Koloski said.

In addition to the corps of volunteers who step forward every year to help during the festival, Smith said that, in addition to the Koloskis, he had a lot of volunteer labor in getting ready for the show. He singled out past show directors Bill Phinney and Heather Tyreman, Ben and Alice Cable and Ann Shelly.

Smith said that tickets to the reception will probably be in short supply this year because of the number of artists and sponsors, who get complimentary tickets. Purchase tickets at Second Harvest book store in Joseph, The Bookloft in Enterprise or call Smith at 426-4620.

Tickets for the Friday reception include a hand-painted wine glass to take home, as well as hors d'oeuvres and complimentary wine. There will also be a demonstration by local artist Rodd Ambroson and music by pianist Denis Cericone.

There will also be live music from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, coordinated by the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance, featuring Ambroson, Janis Carper and Hannah Lund.

Artist demonstrations are scheduled on Saturday and Sunday; participating artists are Teresa Henke, watercolor; Shirley Frye, pastel; Shelley Curtiss, sculpture; Sam Collett, oils; and Ted Juve, Ceramics.

All art displayed at the festival will be for sale. A silent auction table of artwork is also available for bidding throughout the show.

Artistic mediums featured in the show include paintings, bronzes, fine jewelry, photographs, sculptures and drawings in graphite, charcoal and pastel.

The judge for this year's show is Christy Wyckoff. Her works are in collections and galleries in New York, Seattle, Portland, Portugal, Japan, and Brazil.

The Festival of Arts is sponsored by the Wallowa Valley Arts Council and supported many local donors.

Debuting the weekend of the art show is the Wallowa Valley Studio Tours, a self-guided tour that includes 14 local artists throughout Wallowa Valley. Visits to most of the studios are made by appointment; visit the Studio Tours web site at (www.josephoregonartist.com)

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