When Sonja Horoshko started the Animal Art Works show three years ago, she wanted to create a new model for the Cortez art scene.
She wanted a show that would provide affordable art for the community and benefit artists and nonprofits alike.
And the popularity of the annual Beauties and Beasties show has blown her away.
“It’s all about animals and artists. Everyone has something in common with that,” said Horoshko, who also serves as the chairwoman for the Cortez Public Arts Committee.
This weekend, the show took over the Farm Bistro along Main Street, with over 100 passing through to take in critter-themed paintings from about 80 local and regional artists. All the pieces featured animals, and proceeds will go toward local humane societies.
Over the past two years, the show has brought in more than $4,000, and Horoshko believes its success is indicative of a larger emphasis on the value of arts in the city.
“I think what’s happened is there is now a heightened awareness in Cortez the city and its place in time, that visual arts matter,” she said. “And that not only does it engender quality of life, but it also deepens access to all of the arts.”
At Saturday evening’s two-hour event, people milled about the downtown restaurant, observing painting-lined walls and chatting over appetizers, serenaded by a fiddle-guitar duo. The show attracted artists and buyers from around the region, including a handful of high school participants.
Crucial to the success of the show, Horoshko said, are the guidelines: Artists must confine work to two-dimensional paintings no larger than 18 inches wide or high, and prices must range from $90 to $250.
This keeps the artwork manageable and contained, removing excessive transportation costs and hassle both for prospective buyers and artists delivering their pieces through the postal system.
“Everyone has just marveled at the efficiency and convenience,” she said.
And another key benefit of the size and price limits is allowing artists to better gauge the effort and resources they should expend on their works. Artists aren’t going to invest excessive time or money – materials are not cheap – on a large oil painting if the maximum profit is $250, she said.
So a smaller scale keeps the exhibit more affordable for artists and buyers, Horoshko said, at least compared with other art shows. Artists receive 50 percent of the sales on their submissions, and after costs such as flyers or hanging materials, revenues all go to two local animal-centered nonprofits: the For Pets’ Sake and Blackhat humane societies.
“Everyone wins,” Sally Jo Leitner, of For Pets’ Sake, said at the Saturday night event.
When Horoshko started the show three years ago, there was no dedicated art gallery space in the city of Cortez, so she set up shop at the Farm Bistro on Main Street.
Laurie Hall, The Farm’s owner, provides the space, refreshments and cash bar.
Horoshko hopes her show helps inspire a younger generation of art lovers, whether it is pushing students to submit their paintings or having parents start collections for their children.
“You’re talking about creating an audience for the future,” Horoshko said. By passing on an understanding of the value of painters and sculptors and writers and musicians, a community ensures that the arts can survive.
“It’s better for the quality of life here in Cortez,” Horoshko said. “And I think the city deserves it.”