Ron Floyd believes in Arizona artists. The Chandler man opened a gallery devoted to their work in the middle of the recession, and now he's bringing a festival that showcases homegrown art to Mesa.
"We're trying to create another Tempe Festival of the Arts for this part of the East Valley," says Floyd, owner of Mesa's SunDust Gallery, opened in 2009.
Tempe's twice-yearly event comprises more than 400 artist booths and draws 250,000 people each year. Floyd acknowledges the first SunDust Arts & Crafts Festival, slated for Saturday and Sunday, isn't on that level - yet. About 100 artists will present their work, and food vendors will be at a minimum, since, according to Floyd, there are already plenty of good places to eat within the festival boundaries - on Main Street between Center Street and Macdonald.
But the event will be organized similarly to Tempe's festival, with art booths arranged back-to-back down the middle of the street, their fronts facing merchants on either side of Main Street. That's a change from the sidewalk set-up common to downtown Mesa events like MACFest and Second Friday Night Out.
Milano's Music store will host a stage with live entertainment both days, and artists will give demonstrations.
Craig Roberts of Chandler will shape miniature pottery.
"He makes pots the size of thimbles. He's got a teeny-weeny little potter's wheel and these giant hands, so that's always fun to watch. Herman Neuberger (of Maricopa) will be demonstrating phenomenal pencil work. People love to watch him draw," says Floyd, who recently retired from teaching art at Tempe's University of Advancing Technology.
He says every artist in the festival is an Arizona resident.
"I've been watching galleries fall all over town for the last year or two because of the economy. It's hard for local artists to get exposure and sell work. There are smaller events all over town all the time, of course, but for local artists to be part of a big event that really embraces them and draws a lot of people - that's what we're trying to do," he says.
SunDust Arts & Craft Festival will take place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking, located on streets and lots throughout the district, are free. For information, call (480) 464-6077 or www.sundustgallery.com.