You might not pay close attention when an arts festival promoter is talking about how their festival is one of the most popular in the state, since after all it’s their job to say such glowing things. But when you hear it confirmed by high-profile artists taking part in the event, you listen up.
“It’s a really nicely run show,” said Arizona-based painter Richard Hall, who is attending this weekend’s Art on the Rockies show in Edwards for the second year in a row. “The people who put it on and the volunteers are really friendly. I think as time goes by, it’ll be one of the premier shows in Colorado.”
High praise coming from Hall, a soft-spoken Englishman who creates realistic, thoughtful paintings that are getting plenty of press. Hall’s luminescent work was featured in Southwest Art Magazine in 2012, and he is the focus of a feature in June’s edition of American Art Collector magazine.
“I did the festival the first time because some of my friends had done it the year before and recommended it,” Hall said. “That goes a long way, the word of a friend is better than the word of a promoter. Plus, I love this area and I have collectors of my art in this area.”
Hall is one of 120 artists taking part in the festival, which kicks off tonight with the new Friday Art Walk, where DJ Fred Fernandez will provide the soundtrack for the evening.
“We have some nice, new features, like the Friday Art Walk,” said event organizer and founder Colleen Sullivan Everett. “Most of the artists are bringing lights and the tents will all be lit up. There’s a bar in the big top tent, which Korbel is sponsoring. It’s a grand new tradition. Like a gallery opening, you will have first view of the artwork and meet all the artists.”
Not just a street art festival
Art on the Rockies started in 2011 with 90 artists, Everett said. In three years, the festival has grown steadily and this year, booth space is sold out.
“It’s amazing when you consider the concept. People might think ‘Oh, it’s a street art festival.’ But these are high-caliber artists. It’s a juried show, number one, and number two, we have artists from 35 states represented, as well as Canadian and international artists. It’s amazing.
“In the artist circles this festival is becoming known as one of the top shows in Colorado,” Everett continued. “Artists are saying Crested Butte, Cherry Creek and then us.”
The Cherry Creeks Arts Festival took place last weekend and around a third of the artists participating in the Art on the Rockies festival also took part in that prestigious festival, Everett said.
“That’s why we follow the Cherry Creek (festival),” Everett said. “We bring up some of that talent.”
“The artists come because they love to come to the mountains,” Everett continued. “They love the connection between the audience and themselves, with no gallery in between. And they love it here because with the socioeconomic level and the education level of the attendees, they get really nice input back.”
A wide range of mediums will be represented at the show, from portraits by acclaimed painter Judith Dickinson to contemporary saddles by Dick Sherer, whose ancestors have been making saddles since their time in the New England colonies.
Mostly self-taught jeweler Don McCoy will showcase his gold and gemstone creations, which incorporate gems including diamonds, Australian opal, tourmaline, topaz, fire opal, citrine and more.
Inside the “big top” tent, as Sullivan describes it, attendees will find work by artists including Mari Bolen, a bronze sculptor from Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley whose work dramatizes the old west.
Also in the big tent is Chicago-based Michael McKee, whose contemporary, brightly-colored abstract pastel paintings are inspired by trips to New Mexico, “and the range and density of color found in the texture of the high desert landscape,” he said.
It was on one of these trips that McKee was inspired to try using pastels.
“On one of these trips, my wife and I were standing on an overlook outside of Chimayo, N.M., and we saw the most incredible sunset we’d ever seen,” he says on his website. “Reaching down and picking up a handful of red earth, I began rubbing it between my fingers, and felt as if I could feel the sunset in my hands. For me, it was like seeing the world through new eyes.”
Contemporary metal artist David Marshall, who splits his time between his studio in Benhavis, Spain, and Steamboat Springs, will attend the festival.
“He’s an incredible artist,” Everett said. “He’s very understated. This is his new world, here in Colorado, and he loves it here, and loves our festival.”
Merry Cox is a whimsical sculptor from an artist colony in Salida. Birds roost playfully on recycled objects that are composed with a regard for juxtaposition and color composition. You will find Cox, along with Oakland, Calif., artist Sally Bass in the big tent as well. Bass shares a love of recycling vintage and witty “objets d’art” into fashion forward accessories and jewelry.
Everett is very excited to host textile artist Joanna Staniszkis, who hails from Vancouver, Canada.
“She’s a wearable fiber artist who does museum shows,” Everett said. “She makes very sculptural pieces with pleated silks. She’s bringing her wearables to the festival and she’ll be in the big top tent. When I saw her work, it blew me away. She was just at Cherry Creek.”
For the kids, big and small
The event has a kid component as well. Families are invited to the Children’s Art Discovery tent, located in the center of the action, to take part in a free bug’s life craft project from Walking Mountains Science Center, a teepee sculpture weaving collaboration and painting on canvas sponsored by Scully’s Art Supplies in Eagle-Vail.
“It’s dead center because it is the true heart of the festival,” Everett said.
Local artist Britten will work with children to create an outdoor mural. She is excited to be involved this year in the free children’s art discovery area.
“It’s all about the experience ... experimenting with how colors go together,” she said. “It’s that mystery I want to share. It gives me such joy.”
Chalk realist artist Dwayne Glapion will create his masterpiece on the pavement for all to see. Glapion was part of the annual Denver Chalk Art Festival, Everett said. Crowds can watch his 12-foot-by-12-foot image develop during the course of the festival. Children will be invited to create chalk art next to his piece and share in the experience.
From noon to 4 p.m., local band N.O.T.U.S. will perform outside. Beer has been provided by Crazy Mountain Brewery and will be sold, along with food, to raise money for the Vail Valley Arts League, which funds the free Children’s Art Discovery program.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The people who put it on and the volunteers are really friendly. I think as time goes by, it’ll be one of the premier shows in Colorado.”