What started out in 1996 simply as an opportunity for children and adults to create arts and crafts together, the annual Community Arts Party had grown into a much-anticipated annual event. The event is being postponed until after the pandemic. Photo John Larson

It’s time once again to dive into all sorts of arts-and-crafts projects, from tie-dye and play dough to face painting, jewelry making, masks, magnets, and murals at the 24th Community Arts Party this Saturday.

The Community Arts Party has become an annual tradition in Socorro, and although it’s not a legal holiday, it’s just as established on our calendar as the 4th of July or Labor Day.

“What makes it special is that we keep doing it,” said Ronna Kalish, Director of New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series. “It’s amazing that it has gained so much popularity and keeps happening year after year. A community event that people can count on.”

It’s simply an opportunity for children and adults to don old duds and get down and dirty as they move from project to project, immersing themselves in paint, glue, glitter, play dough and clay – and that’s just the beginning.

“The Community Arts Party really does have something for all ages and all interests,” Kalish said, following last year’s event. “I’ve seen children who came in as toddlers grow up in the program – some of them even became workshop leaders later on.”

The 2020 arts party gets underway at 10 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at the City of Socorro’s Finley Gym and is free to all.

Among new and returning projects this year include cardboard tube sculptures, “green” birdhouses, mobiles, and chimes.

“We might come up with a few more; otherwise, there will be all the projects kids – and adults – know and love,” said Ronna Kalish, Director of Tech’s Performing Arts Series. “It’s an extravaganza of art and crafts.”

Kalish came up with the idea of a vast, hands-on workshop in 1996 as a way for children of all ages to explore the wonderful world of arts and crafts. She was enthusiastically supported by Becky Titus Taylor, who lived in Socorro at the time.

“Ronna and I started the Arts Party because we thought that there should be an arts event in town that everybody could take part in, a place where artists could participate and bring in fun things to do,” Titus Taylor said. “I’m terribly looking forward to it. I love the arts party. It’s my favorite thing.”

There was no such event in Socorro at that time other than occasional afterschool arts and craft classes, and “our goal was to try out a variety of arts projects in a ‘party’ setting geared to all ages, providing artistic activities that could be replicated at home in a family setting,” Kalish said. She said the event was a hit from the very start.

“It was well attended right off the bat, and pretty quickly it mushroomed,”

Titus-Taylor said. The first Arts Party drew about 600 people, and last year the event was attended by well over that.” “About a fourth were adults,” she said.

Titus Taylor, who shows her art at Jemez Artisans Gallery in Jemez Springs, is also the artist responsible for the Festival of the Crayons installation on School of Mines Road.

Arts party-goers always look forward to seeing what she comes up with for the group project.

“This year Becky will be showing kids how to make Spiral CD Lollipops, this year’s centerpiece project,” Kalish said. “Her creativity and enthusiasm are contagious, and the kids just love her.”

Younger children will enjoy play dough, swirling color golf balls, stress balls, flower fairies and animal masks.

At the same time, their older siblings can join clay projects, leather works, or try their hand at the New Mexico tradition of cornhusk dolls.

Major sponsors are New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series, New Mexico Tech’s Facilities and Community Education, the City of Socorro, Positive Outcomes, Inc., and Walmart.

“Come on out, wear old clothes and get ready to have an amazing day making art,” Kalish said. She reminds children under 10 to “please bring an adult.”

Food will be available for an affordable

price, and the Socorro Co-op Nursery School will have a bake sale.

“It’s going to be a great year. We have lots of help, but could still use more help and lots of supplies. All we need is for you to attend,” she said. “And this is not just for kids. I have hundreds of pictures of adults completely engrossed in projects.”

Anyone can volunteer at 575-835-5688 or pas@nmt.edu.