Annual event features 56 artists and live music

An art teacher for a number of years, Colorado Event Design co-founder Danna Tullis laments the loss of funding for art programs in public education; it was out of this concern that Colorado Events and Festivals was born and, more specifically, the Salida Riverside Fine Arts Festival.

Tullis founded CDE alongside her husband, Clyde, in 2008 with the goal of bringing art and music to communities in relaxed, family friendly venues. The following year they organized their first event in Salida. At that time they’d owned Mudlark Gallery in Salida, which featured Clyde’s ceramics along with the work of numerous other artists, for 15 years. At the same time, Tullis was offering commercial and residential murals and interior design through her business, Highlights Interiors.

“We saw that Art Walk was already a huge success; we are both professional artists (since the 1970s) and felt that the community would benefit from bringing in national artists. Salida was our first festival, and four years later we started organizing other festivals in the state.” The couple moved to the Front Range in 2012.

Tullis emphasized that Colorado Event Design festivities allow parents to experience art right alongside their children. “I love that our festivals are an opportunity for families to gather with their children of all ages to appreciate and observe fine arts without the constraints of an art gallery; it’s been my mission all along.”

An example of this is the festival’s annual “Creation Station” where children and their parents can create their own masterpieces, incorporating projects such as rock painting, t-shirt stenciling, and guided painting and drawing. “We offer a number of art activities; I want them to come away with a quality piece of art they can be proud of.”

This year’s Salida Fine Arts and Music Festival, July 15 and 16 at Riverside Park, incorporates artists in 12 different mediums–including leathers, sculpture, wood, ceramics, painting, and photography. They’ll travel from 14 different states, as far away as Florida and California.

The event is free and Tullis requests a $10 donation only for the t-shirt stenciling project; proceeds go to MusiCorps’ Wounded Warrior Music Program–partnering this year with the Colorado School of Rock. The program aims to re-establish family relationships for veterans after tours of duty; all of the musicians in the Wounded Warrior Band (performing on the Riverside stage at 2:30 Saturday) are veterans. Fat Tees in Salida donated the t-shirts for stenciling.

Tullis described an artist’s summer season of planning out travel and selecting invited festival tour dates as complex. “Artists establish a following; they love coming to Salida and we are very loyal to our artists.”

It is not uncommon for artists to return the Salida festival year after year, Tullis pointed out. They often focus on the Colorado art festival circuit and in addition other events across the state, will participate in as many as three of the festivals hosted by Colorado Event Design. A jury selects each artists; nationally collected artist Amado Peña Jr. of Santa Fe has been one such widely known, annually repeated artist in the past.

Other highlights at this year’s event include a beer garden with locally crafted beers from Soulcraft; volunteer supported KHEN radio will host and benefit financially from the beer garden. “Not to miss” art vendors on tap at the festival include New Mexican fiber artist Elizabeth Jenkins and her wearable art; Jamison Olson’s sterling silver and 14 karat gold jewelry hailing from Boise, ID and crafted via a German metal smithing technique; and local Salida artist Janine Frazee offering her mixed media works on clay.

In addition to art, local and invited musicians are on slate to perform at the Salida Rotary Amphitheatre on both days of the festival. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; art vendors will be on site with art to view and purchase and food will also be available on site.