With so many summer festivals, it's hard to pick a favorite. Only in its second year, Art On The Rockies is quickly climbing the ranks as a must-attend event. Executive director Colleen Everett started Art On The Rockies because she noticed that Eagle Valley lacked a large summer arts festival that was similar to what places such as Aspen, Telluride and Crested Butte already had. Like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with paint, the organizers "saw the need, and we filled it," Everett said.
Art On The Rockies will display more than 100 artists who will be here this weekend to present their work in person. Every artist will donate a piece to the silent auction, and all the proceeds will go to the Vail Valley Arts Council, a non profit organization.
But fundraising is not the sole focus of the festival. Everett wanted Art On The Rockies to be a celebration of art and artists. When selecting artists for the event, Everett looked for "masters" who are skilled in their particular style and see the world in ways many cannot imagine.
"When you're a master you (have) superb technique; you know your media," Everett said. "Then you have a vision in your mind ... A master takes it and makes it his own."
Whimsical watercolors and colorful cowboys
Yoram Gal is one such master, an artist whose watercolors flow with vibrancy and movement. Even on a two-dimensional surface, Gal's paintings pop out from the frame due to their bright hues and fluid brush strokes that dance from the canvas. Gal is a one-man wonder. Born in Jerusalem, Gal writes and directs plays, acts in movies, and even made his own feature film titled "Wild" that was shown worldwide at international film festivals. In an interview, Gal described his own paintings as a "joy of life expressionism."
Gal's work conveys everything from "realism to abstract, landscapes to imaginary figurative, grotesque, whimsical, scary and joyful," he said.
In addition to Gal, four other artists will be showcased this summer.
Scottish-born David Marshall is a sculptor who often works with metal and creates interior installation pieces.
Known for his "contemporary cowboy" style, Michael Swearngin adds something new to the Old West.
Currently a Denver resident, Kit Karbler's colorful glass fixtures can almost look like liquid from afar.
Eric Candee is a sculptor who draws inspiration from nature and environmental elements. An avid traveler, Candee strives to take the outdoors and bring it inside.
"I collect river stones, wood branches and other natural elements from the mountains, rivers and deserts of the West," Candee said. "These elements symbolically represent the beauty and importance of wild places."
'Face-to-face with the artist'
Art On The Rockies is both local and international. Many artists who live outside the U.S., such as Gal and Marshall, have studios in Colorado where they create new pieces. The festival also helps local Eagle County artists who have never shown their work publicly before.
"One of (our) mission statements is to provide economic opportunities to local artists," Everett said. "If you're an artist and you come to (us), we'll mentor those people through (the process)."
This weekend will also have some family-friendly fare. There are art activities for kids, music from electronic artist Unconventional Science, food vendors, and a gallery tent where one can watch artists paint in real time. Both artists and art enthusiasts like that the festival gives them a chance to interact with one another.
"It's an infinite and exciting experience to actually be face-to-face with the artist," Everett said. "Every artist is here, not just a representative."
The collective consensus seems to be that the festival is sliding fast into the art scene and winning praise from both sides.
"We hit a home run," Everett said. "We got accolades beyond belief (about last year's festival)."
Art On The Rockies is committed to a creating a conversation that is about art's intention rather than its currency. Gal thinks "this show will grow to be one of Colorado's best, because the organizers are not private, profit-seeking promoters," he said.
But for spectators looking to collect, there's plenty of opportunity to do that too. If you like it, you can snatch it up before a gallery does.
"(There is) a mind set here (in the U.S.) that allows people to buy what they love, without waiting for the establishment 'mavens' to put their stamp of approval on it," Gal said. "People buy my work, collect it, and award it in a big way."