Fairest of Them All

Be wowed by the wares at La Quinta Arts Festival, the nation’s highest-ranked fine art event



The Santa Rosa Mountains serve as La Quinta Arts Festival’s stunning backdrop.

Courtesy of La Quinta Arts Festival

Among the dozens of art fairs held each year across the country, the La Quinta Arts Festival tops them all for its location, ambiance, and quality. Art Fair SourceBook, the definitive guide to the best juried arts and craft fairs in the country, ranks the annual event the No. 1 Fine Art Show and No. 1 Fine Craft Show for 2014.

This year’s festival, March 6–9, features 234 contemporary artists from 36 states, plus Israel, Nicaragua, and Canada. It’s prime shopping territory for art lovers: Last year’s festival posted sales of $2.8 million — an average of $100,00 every hour.

An exacting group of 45 judges ensures excellence and variety in pricing and style among the 10 categories featured at the fest: Painting, photography, sculpture, drawing and pastel, mixed media, ceramic, wood, glass, jewelry, and fiber/textile. This superb selection is then staged in La Quinta’s Civic Center Campus, surrounded by fountains, flowers, and shade trees, with a sweet little lake right in the middle. And it all happens at a time when weather is uniformly clear, sunny, and fresh.

Those new to the abundant variety can navigate comfortably by taking a cue from the many seasoned, serious art collectors who come here year after year. These patrons shop all over the world, and they often advise taking one of two broad approaches. Choose the one that fits your style, and you’ll walk away happy.

The first school of thought says you should study the list of scheduled artists, get there early on the first day, make a whirlwind circuit of those that made your cut, and pounce on choice pieces right away.

The second advises fledgling art buyers to take the process in stages. The first day is for a leisurely stroll around the booths, with stops to enjoy the music and sip a cool drink while jotting notes about favorite artists. The next step is another visit before the last day, just to make sure you’re still in love with your picks. Only on the last day, a few hours before everyone starts packing up, should you ease your grip on the charge card and start bargaining, because this school believes that many artists lower their prices when the end is in sight.

If you simply can’t decide, or if another buyer has snapped up your heart’s desire, a good alternative is a copy of the poster Teresa Saia created for this year’s festival. The Washington state native won 2013’s coveted Best of Show ribbon for her paintings, and the festival chose her original pastel, Spring’s Gentle Awakening, for its 2014 signature image.

Festival entertainment

New and spotlighted this year is DiosGracias VoceDans Theater, a company of dancer/singers who combine Butoh-inspired movement and contemporary dance forms with singing, reciting text, and vocalizing. The daily music lineup includes Milton Merlos playing Spanish flamenco guitar, Oscar Reynolds and his trio playing Bolivian music with pan pipes and guitar, Bill Keale playing Hawaiian slack key guitar, and local jazz favorites Steve Madaio & Friends.

Festival food

Look for standby favorites such as Italian-style ices from E & E Pel’s, sandwiches at the Island Bar, steak salad from Ruth’s Chris Steak House, fresh fish from Fisherman’s Market & Grill, and zingy burritos from Baja Louie’s Mexican Cantina. New this year are Island Bar’s Champagne and Mimosa Bar, Brandini Toffee’s Chocolate Bar with hand-dipped ice cream bars, and Shanghai Red’s Zen Oasis Lounge, serving Asian-inspired cuisine. Wine, beer, and soft drinks are available all day.

The 32nd La Quinta Arts Festival runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. March 6-9 at La Quinta Civic Center Campus, 78495 Calle Tampico, La Quinta. 760-564-1244; www.lqaf.com. From I-10 or Highway 111, take Washington Street south to Calle Tampico. Follow the signs for parking or arrive early and score a spot on the street. Multi-day passes are $15; single-day adult passes are $12.

His Majesty, by featured artist Jason Napier.

His Majesty, by featured artist Jason Napier.

Courtesy of La Quinta Arts Festival

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