Thunderbird Artists is making its second trip to Gilbert, this time for the Fine Art & Wine Festival from Friday Feb. 16, to Sunday, Feb. 18.
Held at the Civic Center, the event features 100 juried fine artists, a high-end boutique, wineries pouring samples, microbrew tastings, food trucks and music. The featured artwork will be paintings in all mediums, bronze, metal, stone sculpture, pottery, jewelry and copper.
“Our festival has strictly fine art – no buy/sell, no imports,” said Denise Dale Colter, Thunderbird Artists’ vice president.
“The artists must create 100 percent of the work. I know some shows people are bringing in imports or they’re selling antiques. Here, the artists must make 100 percent of the work. We have unwavering standards when it comes to the jury process.”
The featured artist for the event is contemporary acrylic painter Lance Headlee, who started drawing cowboys as a child 35 years ago.
Thunderbird Artists is a family-run business that was founded more than three decades ago by the longtime Arizona residents.
“My mother was a painter when I was a child,” Colter said. “She used to drag me around to all the art festivals. When I was a kid, I have to tell you, I thought it was really boring. Once I had my hot chocolate and donuts, I was ready to go home, but I had to wait until 5.”
Her mom, Judi Combs, then founded Thunderbird Artists to help promote art shows and artists. She began with small, local shows in Arizona until March 1992, when she produced her first juried fine art festival in Scottsdale. It led to additional festivals in Carefree, Sedona, Denver, Lake Tahoe, Tucson, Colorado and Scottsdale. The company hosts eight festivals per year.
“It grew into a business that doesn’t enable her time to paint,” said Colter, a Marcos de Niza High School graduate. “We’re very much a family business. During the festivals, my brothers help set up the shows, empty trash, etc.”
At the Gilbert Fine Art & Wine Festival, the Gilbert Parks & Recreation Department will receive 25 percent of all wine proceeds. Participating wineries will have their own selection of red, white and blush wines from around the world. Desert Diamond Distillery will provide rum cocktails. The $10 fee includes an engraved souvenir wine glass and six tasting tickets. Additional tasting tickets are $1. The jazz duo Flavour and Vibhas Kendzia will provide the music.
“It’s a beautiful area,” Colter said. “It’s a growing area. We’re trying to bring fine art to the East Valley.”