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20 Jan 2014

Art Outside: Indio's Southwest Arts Festival Goes for a More Contemporary Flavor

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An image from a previous Southwest Arts Festival. An image from a previous Southwest Arts Festival.

Indio’s annual Southwest Arts Festival is pulling away from the traditional art it has showcased for almost three decades: Now in its 28th year, the festival will focus attention on contemporary work, organizers say.

About 290 artists from 22 states will set up shop at the Empire Polo Club from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Jan 26, exhibiting an array of pieces that include abstract art and glass work.

Summer Parkinson, the Southwest Arts Festival’s coordinator, says that this year’s festival will be unlike any other.

“We really tried to make this year’s festival more contemporary, but still have a sense of some traditional art,” said Parkinson, who has been involved with the festival for 10 years, but recently became the event’s coordinator. “The festival is really going to encompass everything contemporary art is offering, such as oil paintings, clay and textile works.

“The biggest thing for us is putting a contemporary flavor on this festival. It’s really turned from a regional arts festival to a festival featuring art from all over the country.”

Parkinson expects about 15,000 people to attend. About 13,000 attended last year’s festival, she says.

Artists look forward to the festival all year, according to spokeswoman Ellen Paris.

“Artists love coming to the festival because they are treated so nicely and with such hospitality,” Paris said. “They’re not just artists, but also fans of art, which I really think makes it a show for the audience and the artists.”

Paris, who has been involved with the festival for four years, says about 70 percent of the artists are returning from previous years.

“First-time artists who come love the atmosphere that the festival provides, so they keep coming back,” Paris said.

The festival serves as the biggest fundraiser for the Indio Chamber of Commerce, who uses the earnings to fund a visitors’ center and the chamber’s mission.

Joshua Bonner, the president and CEO of the Indio Chamber of Commerce, says this year’s festival is going to be one that families won’t want to miss.

“There is going to be so much going on; so much for everybody to look at,” he said. “This is going to be a really exciting festival; there is going to be such a wide spread of art like this event has never seen before.”

Bonner, who took over as the president and CEO of the chamber earlier this month, says credit goes to the Parkinson, festival’s coordinator. “Parkinson and everybody who helped organize and put this thing together really did a wonderful job. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Artist Nancy Egan’s oil-on-canvas painting “Museumscape” was chosen for the festival’s signature poster. Over the years, the festival’s signature posters have become collectors’ items, making Egan’s painting even more special. Her work has been showcased in galleries spanning from Laguna Beach to San Juan Capistrano.

The Southwest Arts Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday, Jan. 24-26 at the Empire Polo Club, 81800 Avenue 51, in Indio. Admission is $8 for adults; and free for children 12 years old and younger. Self-parking is $5; valet parking is $8. For more information, call 760-347-0676, or follow the festival on Facebook.

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