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A personal touch: Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival prides itself on intimacy, variety

The Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival debuted 30 years ago with about 100 booths.

Now the festival has grown to 185 artists for its annual spring show, which will be held March 9-11 at EXPO New Mexico’s Lujan Exhibit Complex.

“It’s not too big, but it’s a good variety,” said Ruth Gore, festival director for Rio Grande Festivals. “We limit the categories so there’s not too many jewelers or too many potters. There’s a certain number that we take of each different medium, and of course it’s grown with the customers too.”

The artists are selected from hundreds of entries from all over the country. It is high-quality work, and everything is handmade, according to Gore.

“I think what people really enjoy when they come to the show is that they can meet the artists, see the work, know how a piece is made, and that adds to the enjoyment when you know when you can find out how someone created it or what’s the story behind it,” she said.

Gore said she is excited about this festival’s selection of a great variety of artists.

“We always try to have new people, new artists every year, and we try to have at least about 20 percent new each show so that there’s always something that you haven’t seen before,” Gore said.

“Girl + Red Glasses,” a mixed-media portrait by Dani Arrecis.

Jeweler Liz Huffman, photographer Phil Sonier, jeweler Leigh Nelson, jewelers Linda and Chip Babb, potter Caroline Koons, and potter Iris McDowell are artists who exhibited in the inaugural show and are part of this year’s Spring show. Pianist Larry Freedman, who was one of the entertainers at the first show, will be playing at this year’s spring show as well. The show has some first-time artists participating. Dani Arrecis of Oakland, Calif., will bring her mixed-media portraits. Arrecis studied design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn before moving to Oakland. Stan Oneil, from Camano Island, Wash., will showcase his blown and sculpted hot glass. Oneil uses different blowing and sculpting techniques to complete his art.

The festival will feature a culinary arts and more row, which will offer items such as local honey and salsas, as well as homemade breads that people can sample and take home.

“That kind of adds a different flavor for someone who is not into buying art,” Gore said. “And it’s not all fine art. You can buy pottery or you can buy a mug. We try to have things in all price ranges for all budgets.”