Doug Morrow, Fred Kirts, Jake Potje and Kenny Davis have been a part of the Celebration of Fine Art for a combined 52 years, and manage everything from setting up the big white tent in early January to keeping watch for javelinas (true story!) and making sure everything is smooth sailing throughout the 10 weeks of the show.
When you see them walking around, be sure to say hello. They’re full of knowledge about the history of the Celebration of Fine Art and the artists in the show.
How many years have you been a part of the Celebration of Fine Art?
What’s it like to “man” the tent? What are your responsibilities?
Doug: I get here at 5:15 a.m. every morning to relieve the night guy, open the office and turn on all the lights. In addition to that, I do general, day-to-day tasks––whatever needs to be done. All the “men” work together as a team.
Fred: I start in the morning, wipe down all the tables––both on the inside tables and the ones on the patio––and help out the cafe ladies with anything they may need. Then I just help keep everything clean and continue to straighten things up as I go!
Jake: I do everything that a daily business requires you to do to stay in business––lighting, electricity, plumbing, heating, setting up the tent, etc. You have to be a jack-of-all-trades and know a little bit about everything. And you learn as you go since every day is different.
My biggest responsibility is to just to make sure that visitors are happy every day. That means keeping them warm, dry, giving them a place to eat. I help out everywhere and make sure everything is functioning so that people can just come and enjoy the art.
As far as the tent goes, tearing it down is much easier than putting it all up, but it’s not nearly as fun because everyone is gone and the energy is very different.
Kenny: My responsibilities are pretty much the same as Jake’s! I help put the tent up and during the show, I work evenings as security. And I agree, there’s a lot more energy when we’re putting the tents up than there is when we’re taking it down.
True or False: Javelinas have snuck into the tent after hours?
Doug: True––it hasn’t happened in a couple of years, but they used to sneak in and find the trash the artists left behind.
Fred: Very true!
Jake: Oh yeah, for years! If you had a flap of the tent open, they’d get in every time.
Kenny: True! I came around the corner once to find one eating one of the artist’s Fig Newtons.
Do you have a favorite piece of art you’ve purchased from the show? What was it, which artist created it and why do you love it?
Doug: I do, actually. My wife purchased it for me. It was a Santiago Michalek painting of an extremely rare motorcycle made by the Ace Motor Corporation. I love it because Santiago is such a great artist and it’s a classic motorcycle.
Fred: I have a cougar claw made by Bryce Pettit that I really love. Both Bryce and I have one, which makes it special to me. I’ve also bought jewelry for my wife in the past.
Jake: It’s a bronze sculpture called “Well Worn” by Ken Newman. It was the first one I ever bought. The sculpture is of an average, blue-collar worker sitting at the end of a workday, completely wiped out. His chair is on top of a slab of white marble, which represents being buried underground in a coffin. It was one of 10 pieces and it is still one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever purchased.
Kenny: My favorite piece I’ve ever bought was from Jennifer Vranes. It is a painting of aspen trees with some Colorado mountains in the background.
What are you enjoying most about this year’s show?
Doug: I look forward to meeting the visitors that come here and seeing the artists who I’ve become close friends with. I also look forward to seeing the staff––we’re like one big family.
Fred: Meeting the people. I socialize with everyone out here and I like to find out where they’re from, how long they’re here for, if they’re snowbirds. Also, the show’s participants and staff have become like a family.
Jake: Seeing all of the artists come in. They’re usually anxious to start and then worn out while preparing for the show. So it’s nice to see them relax into it after the first week.
Kenny: Seeing the artists that I know, mainly. And seeing the artwork.