The Fairest of the Art Fairs

Three annual events in Albuquerque, New Mexico you shouldn't miss!

The New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair is referred to as "the original" arts and crafts fair or "the Summer Show"; the Southwest Arts Festival was the "elegant one"; Weems Artfest is an "Albuquerque tradition".

Each of these juried arts and crafts fairs/festivals offers art buyers a unique opportunity to meet artists, to learn about the work directly from the maker of the artwork and to enjoy a one-on-one relationship with artists. During the last full weekend of June each year, the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair remote site presents its annual event. The Fair takes place outdoors, along the tree-lined boulevard of the New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque. More than 200 artists and craftsmen who live and work in New Mexico are chosen to take part in the three-day Fair.

Pat Durgin Painting

Pat Durgin
painting on 'Main Street' during the June
New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair

One of the long-standing traditions of the Fair is the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair (NMACF) pin. Each year, an artist is commissioned to create original art which will be reproduced as a special commemorative pin as well as a New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair poster. During Preview night and throughout the Fair weekend, regular attendees and many artists can be seen happily weighed down under collections of NMACF pins.

Children Choosing Art
Image: © Children choosing important art
purchases at ArtSmart during
Weems Artfest remote

The Fair begins on Thursday evening with a music- and food-filled Preview during which awards are given to selected artists in recognition of the excellence of their artwork and the presentation of their booths. Even in beautiful New Mexico, the weather is unpredictable and Preview night can be surprising . . . offering gusty winds or a bit of rain or a perfect summer eve. Almost four decades ago, the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair began as a volunteer-run event created to promote arts and crafts currently produced in New Mexico by New Mexico artists. It continues to be the state's favorite summer art festival. For information, call 505-884-9043

Note: The Southwest Arts Festival is no longer active

The Southwest Arts Festival took place annually in Albuquerque. This juried national arts festival attracts artists from 35 states and from as far away as Japan, Canada and England. For many of the more than 200 artists juried into the Southwest Arts Festival, this was the only arts fair in which they participate, showing their work in galleries during the rest of the year. Because gallery owners from across the US were invited to the Southwest Arts Festival (SWAF) each year, many artists relied on the show to connect with galleries in other parts of the country. The SWAF featured a variety of art: two-dimensional pieces including oil, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media paintings, photography, and prints; three-dimensional art in all media including sculpture, musical instruments and furniture, fiber arts and one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Simon: Sculpture

Image: © Celeste Simon
Southwest Arts Festival 1998 Artist
"Shaped and Laminated Wood
with Game Objects"
38" x 52"

One reason for the Festival's enduring reputation as a high-quality show was its excellent jury process and the jurors themselves who were artist/craftsmen with national reputations. The SWAF supported art programs in the public schools including the APS Art in the Open campaign in which students' artwork is showcased on billboards throughout Albuquerque.


The Weems Artfest remote has become synonymous with children, art and the spirit of giving. Since the early 1980s, Mary Ann Weems has orchestrated a festival that unites artists, education, charities and good cheer with an emphasis on the welfare of children.

The event begins with a gala Preview party in early November to benefit the Children's Hospital of New Mexico. On that evening, attendees can view, but not buy, artwork set aside for some 2,000 children who will descend on Artfest during the next three days from all over Albuquerque. This is ArtSMart, a large enclosed area with tables displaying the wares of altruistic artists who are also participating in Artfest. ArtSMart was developed to introduce children to art, to help them understand that art could and should be a part of their everyday lives, to teach them that purchasing art can be as much fun as purchasing toys. For the children, nothing costs more than US$10, many pieces cost only a few cents, and everything is handmade by Artfest artists. No adults are allowed. Each child is accompanied throughout the special exhibit space by a volunteer who aids the childrens' selections and purchases.

Beyond the walls of ArtSMart is the Weems Artfest, winner of two awards in 1996: Artfest was rated #1 Fine Arts and Crafts Show in New Mexico by the Harris List, and was given the Pinnacle Award for Best Education Program by the International Festival and Events Association

For more information about Weems Artfest call 505-293-6133.

Thanks to Mary Carroll Nelson and Betty Ostrower.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Albuquerque Metro Area - Volume 12

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LAST MODIFIED: September 24, 2007

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