"It's four days on the streets of Downtown Albuquerque," says Amy Turner, one of the organizers of this year's Go! Downtown Arts Festival. "Rapid Ride has been rerouted. Basement Films will be projecting on the side of one of the buildings. There'll be lots of belly dancers and other performers. It's bigger than it's ever been."
The planners for the popular event are especially excited about the migration of the festival from Central Avenue to Gold Avenue's aisle of thriving retail. "As the festival has grown and evolved," says Brian Morris of the Downtown Action Team, "the Downtown retailers have really embraced it. The Gold Avenue merchants are excited to have it right in front of their doors. Go! is partly designed to expose people to Downtown who don't normally come down here—to show them that it's a safe, fun place to be, with lots of shops and restaurants, and venues like the KiMo or the Cell Theatre where you can see ballet or a play."
With this goal in mind, the merchants of Gold Avenue have gone Willy Wonka. Five local shops—Ooh Aah Jewelry, Seventh Goddess, Glowing, Willow and Ruby Shoesday—will be giving away 6,000 miniature chocolate bars. Inside each one is a 20 percent off coupon for a single item from each of the five retailers: A small number of these bars, however, will also contain golden tickets. No, they won't grant a tour of a creepy candy factory, but they will have certificates for free items such as earrings and lingerie, or mega discounts on other products.
Of course, the main purpose of the festival is to promote New Mexico artists. "We've got over 80 artists selling their work this year," says Morris, "up from 69 last year, and there's better representation from artists all over the state. We've got people from Grants, Gallup, Jemez, Taos. It's exciting to see them coming to Albuquerque for this event."
Go! will showcase some of the finest jewelry, painting, mixed media, ceramics, photography, fiber art, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and pastels being created in New Mexico by both emerging and established artists. A wide variety of coffee and food from local eateries, along with live music and dance from local performers, will enhance this family-friendly event.
"There'll be a main stage," says Turner, "but a lot of performers will be roaming throughout the festival."
Go! kicks off with a preview gala on Gold Avenue on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 6 to 9 p.m. Catered by Tucanos, the gala will feature film projections by Basement Films, fire dancing and art cars. Julianna Licious (yep, that's her real name) from the local dance studio Caravan of Dreams also plans to unleash dozens of her belly dancers on the street. Of course, the best thing about attending this preview is that it will give you a chance to have first dibs on the art being sold throughout the festival.
Another cool feature is that the festival will run all day Friday, Sept. 23, so that Downtown office workers, who might not normally be exposed to Downtown events, will have a chance to meander through the festival during their breaks.