Ushered in with the equinox, the silver anniversary of the Paradise City Arts Festivals will be marked by familiar works of wearable, hangable, sit-on-able and decorative pieces from around the country.
But this weekend's annual festival is unique in its underlying matrimonial theme.
Not strictly confined to marital products, the 25th annual show at Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlboro will showcase American artistry and craftsmanship from 175 exhibiting artists, including about a dozen local makers, wrights, smiths, artisans and craftspeople.
Now on its 22nd year at the 50,000 square foot venue, the event is much more than an array of kiosks and tables.
"Every exhibitor builds their own booth so it is like a walk through a row of boutiques," said Linda Post, Paradise City's founding director.
Aside from the loose theme, "Fully Engaged: The Modern Art of Tying the Knot," the exhibition features works 10 subcategories: jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture, wearable fiber, wood and works on paper.
One of those craftswomen is Lowell's Barbara Poole, who specializes in fashionable use of felt in her clothing line.
"As a sole proprietor, independent business, building my client base through sales and education is why I participate in the shows," she said.
She, like most of the exhibitors, is as much a businessperson as she is a designer and artist.
"I know online sales are growing, but because my work is mostly one-of-a-kind, it is very hard for me to gain traction," Poole said. "I also wholesale my work to stores, galleries and museums. These small retailers frequently find me at the shows, and a relationship is born. I also feel the importance of educating the consumer about craft."
Paradise accepts only a small number of artists who apply for a booth. In what is known as a "juried selection," the people vote on who they like for the following year's show. This filtering process lures the experts and collectors. The invitation to appear is itself an honor and potential revenue driver.
"Paradise is a show that attracts serious buyers and art collectors, so it's a great opportunity for networking and introducing potential clients to your art," said Tracy Levesque, a Lowell-based painter. "A lot of attendees come to the show looking to decorate their home or purchase a gift. I find that a lot of art lovers search for years sometimes before they find the perfect painting or artist to represent their interests, and so it's all about making these connections."
Running from Friday, March 22, through Sunday, March 24, the festival is expected to draw more than 5,000 visitors from around the region. And, at less than an hour's drive from Fitchburg and Lowell, area residents will surely spring into the vast parking acreage that adjoins the Best Western Hotel.
Kristin Kelley-Munoz is a Harvard artist specializing in handwoven textiles, both an homage to the region's history and a nod to the growing call for environmentally friendly production methods.
"I strive to use ecofriendly materials in all of my textiles," her webpage, Shaker Hills Studio, explains. "I particularly enjoy working with cotton grown in the United States using sustainable or organic farming practices."
Her techniques are as timeless and unchanged as spring romance, which hopefully lead down the bridal path and the aisles of Paradise City Arts Festival.