Often "called a good time for a great cause," the annual ARTfeast -- featuring fine art, food, wine, fashion and homes -- rolls out once again the last weekend of February.
"This is the premier winter celebration when the entire Santa Fe community gets together to support art in the public schools," said Connie Axton, owner of Ventana Fine Art and president of ARTsmart, which sponsors ARTfeast. "We couldn't do it without the wonderful public school art teachers and their talented students, as well as all the restaurants, hotels, media, business underwriters and sponsors who participate not to mention the art galleries of Santa Fe that support the effort.
"We (gallery owners) see it as giving back to the community in a way that reaches into the future for both art and the City Different," Axton added.
Begun 13 years ago as the Edible Art Tour only, the venerable event offered free goodies from the city's leading restaurants paired with participating art galleries both downtown and along Canyon Road. Since then, the one-night event has evolved into a three-day celebration.
It kicks off with a Fashion Show and Luncheon Friday, Feb. 26, at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. Martine Bertin-Peterson, owner of The Peterson-Cody Gallery, vice president of ARTsmart and luncheon chair, said the fashion show will feature clothing new to the show, ranging from ski wear to opera wear.
"The show will cover the four seasons of Santa Fe," Bertin-Peterson said. "It's a new spin, and it's grown as the event has grown."
A special set of 12 "I Made It" plates created by fifth-graders will be on the auction block at the show.
The Edible Art Tour begins at 5 p.m. Friday as more than 30 galleries host special exhibition openings catered by the top restaurants and chefs in Santa Fe. Shuttle buses will transport ticket holders from the Plaza area to Canyon Road and back.
The party continues Friday night at a new event, Feast or Famine, at the Coyote Café at 9 p.m. This mixer offers beer, munchies, music and dancing for the 21-plus crowd. DJs Che Martinez, Dynamite Sol Bentley, King George Adelo and Joe Ray Sandoval will spin Hiphop, House and Old Skool music until the wee hours.
Revelers need to save their strength for the Art of the Home tour Saturday and Sunday. Grand estates and in-town abodes will be on the free, self-guided tour.
Renowned painter Sam Scott and high school students whom he has mentored will be honored at the Gourmet Dinner and Auction Saturday night at La Posada de Santa Fe. A five-course meal prepared by master chefs and complimented by selected wines will be featured. Silent and live auctions round out the dinner, which "usually sells out well in advance," Axton said.
Finally, the Sunday Champagne Brunch with Artists closes out the weekend at the Hotel Santa Fe. Artwork by the students, as well as other artwork, jewelry, travel packages and special adventures, will be available for live and silent bidding.
"It's a jam-packed weekend that offers something for everyone," Axton said. "Tickets may be bought separately for each event or as a package. And, the best part is that Santa Fe's youngsters will benefit from it all."
Axton noted that artist Scott "has been a respected and beloved resident of Santa Fe for four decades. During that time, his art has been recognized for excellence numerous times." He will mentor art students at Santa Fe High and Capital. Proceeds from the sale of the students' art work will be split between the students and ARTsmart, which in turn will help support student scholarships.
ARTsmart, Axton noted, is a volunteer, tax-deductible organization in conjunction with the Santa Fe Gallery Association. Its primary purpose is to raise funds for art programs and supplies in the city's public schools, with two endowment programs administered by the Santa Fe Community Foundation.
The organization received the Mayor's Recognition Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2008, and Axton was designated as one of The New Mexican's 2008 Ten Who Made a Difference on behalf of ARTsmart.
Amy Summa, arts education coordinator for the Santa Fe Public Schools, said, "ARTsmart enriches the (art) program in Santa Fe by funding teachers' efforts to provide quality art instruction with materials and artists/mentors."
Since 2003, New Mexico's public schools have been mandated to offer art classes and instruction. Funding is provided by the state for this effort, Summa said, but the additional financial help given by ARTsmart every year has been vital to the art program.
"This district (Santa Fe) really values the arts. The schools' leadership deserves a lot of credit," Summa said.
Among the teachers Summa cited as avid participants in the ARTsmart-sponsored program were Al Trujillo, a welding teacher at Santa Fe High School, and Mary Olson of Wood Gormley Elementary School.
"She really gets creative," Summa said of Olson. "Mary develops themes each year at all different grade levels, thereby engaging the students immediately."
Like Olson, Katy Hees provides her art students at Carlos Gilbert and Acequia Madre elementary schools with themes through the year. "I always start the year with a theme and a life-drawing class. Then, I turn them loose to create their own combinations" of patterns, images and a variety of perspectives."
Summa said Trujillo worked closely with 2007 Artist of the Year Tom Joyce and developed new art instruction that enhanced the high school's art program. Trujillo continues to provide his students with mentors, courtesy of ARTsmart.
The ARTsmart program in the city's public elementary schools concentrates on the fifth grade, where students produce original placemats and plates. Selected designs are fired on ceramic plates by Michele Plourde of The Painted Dish at Jackalope. Other designs are placed on note cards. All student efforts are available for sale.
"It's (ARTfeast) is an investment in the future of art," Axton said, "one that our many volunteers and participants are happy to make."