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Art with an Altitude: Once a year event puts the focus squarely on artists 

If you make your way down to the Old Mill this weekend, you’ll be greeted by the work of more than 100 artists, ranging from painters to sculptors to jewelers to fashion designers.

click to enlarge baggetta_culture.jpg
If you make your way down to the Old Mill this weekend, you’ll be greeted by the work of more than 100 artists, ranging from painters to sculptors to jewelers to fashion designers.

What you won’t find are dozens of bric a brac items, knick knacks and knock-offs that are ubiquitous to so many of Bend’s “festivals.” You also won’t find other attractions/distractions like rows of food booths, bouncy castles and live music.

And that’s exactly how Carla and Dave Fox, the founders and chief organizers of Art in the High Desert want it.

The festival, now in its fifth year, is a showcase for artists around the Northwest and across the country. Unlike some other festivals that include an art component, or at the least booth space for artists, Art in the High Desert is a non-profit conceived by artists for artists and is centered around a “juried” show that allows fellow artists and critics to give creators specific feedback on their work. It also limits just what kind of product an artist can display in his or her booths. A painter, for example, is not allowed to peddle necklaces for a quick buck.

For artists, many of whom would welcome the chance to earn a little extra cash, it’s a double-edged sword. And one that the Foxes yield willingly to safeguard the artistic integrity of the event, according to Marla Baggetta, a Portland-based painter who, along with her husband Mike, an abstract painter, has participated in the event since its inception half a decade ago.

“Some shows there is no policing of what you brought. Once you get in there you can bring any crap that you want,” Baggetta said.

That’s not the case with Art in the High Desert where artists are only allowed to display work within their chosen medium—the one for which they submitted work to the local jury.

Traditionally Baggetta does just a few shows a year that speak to her audience. Like other serious artists she’s not interested in fighting for attention at an event where the art and the artists are the secondary attraction.

“I’m not saying that my work is more highfalutin or anything. It’s just there is a certain audience that I’m trying to capture,” said Baggeta, who this year abandoned her familiar medium of landscape painting to embrace a new mixed medium project that focuses on female nudes.

It’s that kind of brave artistic choices that Art in the High Desert seeks to support, according to Fox. Stumptown refuges who now make their home in Bend, Fox and her husband had longtime ties to Art in the Pearl, a juried show that served as the inspiration for Art in the High Desert.

“We’re both artists and we like things done well and we love Bend. This is sort of the way we give back to a world that’s been good to us,” said Fox.

As a non-profit, any money that comes out of the festival goes back into the festival and anything left over gets donated to local arts programs, said Fox.

“It sounds goofy, but we’re kids of the 60s who think you should do things that make the world better,” Fox said.

Photo taken by Mike & Marla Baggetta.

The 411 on AHD

What: Art in the High Desert

Where: East bank Deschutes River between Riverbend Park and the Old Mill

When Fri. Aug. 24 – Sun. Aug. 26

More: Admission free.


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