Once again all eyes will be on the National Museum of Wildlife Art during the annual Western Visions Show and Sale.
The event is a major component of the long-running Fall Arts Festival and has attracted art lovers and collectors to the museum for three decades.
“It’s all-inclusive,” said Amy Goicoechea, the museum’s director of programs and events. “All the museum’s engagement and involvement with Fall Arts Festival comes through the gates of Western Visions.”
The show begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, with the 21st annual Jewelry and Artisan Luncheon, which features jewelers, designers and artisans. Participating this year are Barbara Arnett, Boho Cowgirl, Jill Duzan, Susan Fleming Jewelry, Galicia Fine Jewelers, Amy Kahn, Devon Leigh, Wimberly Tribble, Mirta Tummino and Candy Woolley.
Individual tickets and table sponsorships were available at press time, but they often sell out (mark your calendars for 2020). Call 732-5412 to check availability.
“It’s 10 amazing jewelers and artisans that are exclusive and always sold out,” Goicoechea said. “It’s a really lovely morning and early afternoon spent at the museum.”
From there it’s the annual show and sale, which this year features 105 artists and over 200 pieces of art.
The main attraction is composed of two evening events. The Artist Party, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, gives potential buyers the opportunity to view the art, talk to the artists and place bids on pieces. The 32nd annual show and sale formally begins at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
The show serves as the museum’s major fundraiser, as it receives a percentage of each sale. The event contributes a significant percentage of the museum’s operating budget, Goicoechea said.
Last year the sale netted $700,000 in funding.
Artists are allowed to submit works for consideration, and from there it becomes an invitational, with the now 105 selected.
“It’s a long list hoping to be invited,” Goicoechea said.
All those who make the cut are asked to submit one or two pieces of work. The Artist Party doubles as the sketch portion of the show, and artists are asked to submit one piece that’s a sketch, though the term is a little loose.
“It’s whatever their definition of a sketch is,” Goicoechea said. “Often a sculptor will give us a flat piece, or a painter will give us the preliminary work they used to make a larger piece.”
Tickets for each night costs $150, but the museum will be open during the day, with the work available for more casual viewers to take a look at.
In addition, on Thursday, Sept. 12, three of the entered artists will give a free talk that’s open to the public. “Creativity in the Moment: George Bumann, Rob Glen, and T. Allen Lawson” goes from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the museum.
“It’s continued to add a nice diverse option to our program,” Goicoechea said. “It certainly gives insight into the artistic process you don’t get when you go to an exhibition.”
One of the artists who not only was invited but won the Bob Kuhn Sketch Award in 2018 is George Boorujy, of Brooklyn, New York.
While the museum, of course, pays tribute to the past, it’s always looking toward the future, which includes artists like Boorujy.
His piece “California” was acquired a few years ago, and that also marked the first time he participated in Western Visions. Boorujy’s work is a modern take on what wildlife art can be, often depicting animals in nonidealized forms.
“I’m always trying to do them in a different way, how they aren’t portrayed normally, to stop people a little in their preconceived notion of how they think wildlife and wildlife art is,” he said.
Neither the condor nor the whale in “California” looks particularly majestic.
“I have it perched on the back of a beached gray whale, and there’s [feces] streaming down and live barnacles on the skin of the whale,” he said.
One of the reasons Boorujy continues to participate is that the museum honors the past while turning an eye to what’s to come.
“I feel like the museum is in a position of potential change and could do some interesting things, and I think they have,” he said.
Goicoechea agreed with Boorujy’s sentiment.
“Because Western Visions includes only work by living artists, the exhibition reveals the future of wildlife art,” she said. ￼