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Yuma symposium is 'comfort food' for artists
The Yuma Sun will feature this year's presenting artists in upcoming editions of the newspaper. Watch for each artist's biography and a photograph of their artwork.
• Go to YumaSymposium.org
• Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Call 782-1934
Every year hundreds of artists head to Yuma in search of "comfort food."
That's what organizers call the Yuma Art Symposium. It's an annual gathering of artists and art educators that celebrates high-end art in a cozy, casual setting that combines lectures and exhibits with events at Lutes Casino and a ring-making competition involving costumes and cheerleaders.
“The Yuma Art Symposium is comfort food for hungry artists,” said Neely Tomkins, one of the event's co-founders. “The presenters come from around the country to share their work, and like a potluck with great friends, you know it's going to be good. We bask in the warmth of Arizona's winter sun while forming bonds that may last 30 years or more.”
This year's events run Feb. 21-23, offering up numerous events open to Yuma folks who are also hungry for an intriguing visual feast. Tomkins said attendees love the chance to not only view incredible art but also have the chance to meet the artists and hear what inspires them, how they arrived at that particular expression.
“In larger cities, museums and big galleries have special artist's exhibition openings for their members. The artist talks about the concepts and inspirations for their work and then you get to view the actual work. That's what happens here, only this year we have 12 presenting artists.”
About 300 people register for the symposium each year.
The Yuma Art Symposium began 34 years ago when Tomkins, her husband, George, and friend Pete Jagoda began organizing workshops at Arizona Western College. Those events discovered their fun and informal personality early on, treating attendees to pit barbecues and potlucks. In later years, symposium-goers “fired” chickens and turkeys wrapped in clay.
“Our goal is to keep enrollment even, to find interesting presenters and continue to bring fresh ideas to the event for the artists and patrons of Yuma,” Tomkins explained. “Another goal is that it not become too bureaucratic and lose its funkiness. It's always been for artists by artists. Everyone pitches in and everyone pays — even me — very egalitarian.”
The Yuma Art Symposium draws attends from as far as Washington, Maine and South Carolina.
“Yuma has become an art mecca for many graduate students, artist professionals and educators,” Tomkins said. “People come for the great presenters, friendly sharing atmosphere free of judging or egos, good food and music, great art and hopefully nice weather.”
She pointed to several symposium events that are open to the general public and don't require official enrollment in the symposium.
Four artists will kick off “pre-symposium” events Thursday, Feb. 21, when they give free lectures at Arizona Western College. (See inset schedule for details.)
“Opening Introductions” will take place that evening at the Historic Yuma Theatre, 254 S. Main St. That event runs from 7 to 9 p.m.
“This is a great time to get an overview of what goes on during the symposium. You will get to hear from each presenter about their presentation and see a bit of their work in lieu of an introduction.”
The evening of Friday, Feb. 22, will herald the opening of symposium's Presenter Exhibition at the Yuma Art Center. A reception is slated for 5 to 8 p.m. The event will also feature two more popular symposium events. There will be a showing of national student art. That night will also boast the Annual Pin Auction, where artists from around the country will auction off pins they have created. Proceeds will benefit Friends of the Yuma Symposium.
Lastly, Tomkins suggests that folks check out the National Saw, File and Solder Sprints on Saturday, Feb. 23.
“It's a ring-making sports event,” Tomkins said. “It's a relay race with teams of three.”
Competitors run among tables set up with the materials and tools needed to forge a ring. Many teams dress up in costumes. Some bring cheerleaders.
That event will take place at 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Gowan Company in downtown Yuma. Visitors are asked to enter from Madison Avenue.
“The ring must fit the finger of someone on the team,” Tomkins said. “It's always fun to watch, and the rings are usually the awfulest things you've ever seen!”
Arizona Western College will host Pre-Symposium Day at AWC on Thursday, Feb. 21, in the 3C Building Board Room. Four symposium presenters will give previews of their presentations. Lectures are free to the public.
The schedule is:
9:25 to 10:40 a.m. - Nancy Spencer & Eric Renner
10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. - Inez Storer
12:15 to 1:30 p.m. - Lunch break
1:40 to 2:55 p.m. - Dean Adams
3:05 to 4:20 p.m. - Rose Sellery
Darin Fenger can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6860.