PARK CITY — Tents were going up, metal stands zip-tied together and artwork unloaded from vans.
Some of the 225 artists unpacked their pots, hung up their paintings and taped their booth numbers to their stalls Friday, gearing up for the 44th annual Kimball Arts Festival.
Robin Marrouche, executive director for the Kimball Arts Center, said more than 1,000 artists applied to take part in Park City's oldest nonprofit center and one of the longest running festivals in the West.
"They want to come back to the Kimball Arts Festival because they say comparatively it's one of the best-selling fairs that they do in the year, and the best organized," Marrouche said.
She said a jury selects the vendors in 12 categories: ceramics, fiber, drawing, photography, wood, glass, metalwork, painting, sculpture, mixed media, jewelry, and print making.
Eric Mort, an artist from Austin, Texas, brought his daughters to help set up his booth for his Kimball Arts Festival debut.
"I've heard a lot of good things about it from the other artists over the years," Mort said.
Mort is displaying torch-blown glass artwork, including eye pendents inspired by "The Hobbit" and galaxy globes. Many pieces include opals, gold and silver.
He said the galaxies take 10 to 12 hours to make and range from $395 to $495, but he also sells pieces that start at $40.
"Like I tell my wife, the galaxies are what I hope other people can afford and the other items are what we can afford," Mort said. "Art shouldn't be just for the elite."
Kathy Ross said she's returning to the festival after a 20-year break.
"Ten years ago it was a good fair," Ross said. "It has a good reputation still."
Ross is a sculptor and has "faux-functional" clothing hanging in her stall covered in old maps and "what you might call everything," like sequins, buttons and knickknacks. She also has sculptures made from cookie tins.
"I'm really grateful for it," she said. "As a way of making a living, boy, it's great."
Marrouche said the festival attracts 60,000 people over three days, bringing in about a quarter of the Kimball Art Center's yearly $1 million budget.
The budget sustains the center's free admission and the Young Artists' Academy — a free program for 15 budding artists to study and practice visual arts.
Ali Mitchell was a student in the Young Artists' Academy, and said it was her big break.
"It's priceless. It would be worth so much if there was a price tag on it," Mitchell said. "I'm so grateful for it. It's where I did every piece of work that I've sold in my life. Every single professional affiliation I've ever had has been made here."
Marrouche said the founder of the center, William Kimball, wanted to have an arts center that would enrich people's lives beyond making a living.Comment on this story
"Since the '70s, we've served over a million people at the Kimball Arts Center, and we've never charged admission," she said. "We're able to do that because of the arts festival."
Marrouche said Kimball understood the power of the arts.
"He wanted it to be free," she said. "He wanted it to know no economic boundaries."
The Kimball Arts Festival, which opened Friday, continues from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Besides artists' booths, the festival has three musical stages, arts activities for kids and food sampling.