Western design can mean different things depending on who you ask, but no matter what the answer, you’re likely to find it at this year’s Western Design Conference Exhibit and Sale.

Kicking off the Fall Arts Festival again this year, the Western Design Conference will take over the Snow King Sports and Events Center for four days to showcase over 100 artists and designers. The event has run for 27 years and been in Jackson for 13.

“I still get people who go and then come up to me and say they can’t believe they’ve never been before,” said Allison Merritt, the Western Design Conference’s executive director.

The event brings designers and artists from across the nation and across the spectrum of Western design. It features Western-style home furnishings, woodworking, mixed-media pieces and a lot of “art to wear,” Merritt said, referring to the jewelry and fashion for which the event is known.

“It is as unique as our surroundings are here in Jackson,” Merritt said. “It is really something special.”

On Thursday, Sept. 5, the conference will host its annual preview party and fashion show.

Attendees have the chance to walk through the Designers’ Show House, a full-scale home filled with Western-style decor by six designers, and to peruse the booths of the accompanying 100-plus artists who make up the conference.

On opening night there is a live auction and a couture runway fashion show highlighting six pieces from each participating designer.

There will be five open bars, music, food from Genevieve Catering and VIP accommodations for those who want a seat during the fashion show.

The exhibit and sale continue for the next three days, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, to Sunday, Sept. 8, with a daily happy hour featuring local spirits at 2 p.m.

Day passes to the event cost $15.

Anyone, at any age, taste or price point, is sure to find something special at the event, Merritt said. The conference hosts some returning artists and some new faces each year, but the quality stays the same. All the home furnishings, jewelry, clothing and other wares are homemade and one of a kind.

All the artists come, so attendees can “meet the maker,” Merritt said, and ask for clothing alterations if a piece doesn’t fit quite right or commission a custom creation.

Proceeds from all art sales and the live auction on opening night go directly to the artists; the conference does not take a commission. The event also gives out $20,000 in cash prizes to various artists.

Like a new hobby or television show, Merritt hopes to share this event with as many people as possible this year.

“When it’s something that you’re really into, you want the whole town to be a part of it,” she said. 

Contact Frederica Kolwey at fallarts@jhnewsandguide.com.

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