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Over 50 artists exhibit their work at the Vail Arts Festival in Lionshead

The 36th Vail Arts Festival is taking place in Lionshead Village from Friday through Sunday

The Vail Arts Festival is happening this weekend.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

The 36th annual Vail Arts Festival is taking place in Lionshead Village from Friday through Sunday. Over 50 artists from around the country have set up booths around the village to exhibit and sell their original work.

Strolling through the festival, it is easy to see the connection between the artwork and the environment that it is being displayed in. The utilization and celebration of nature is a common theme that can be found in many of the sculptures, paintings, photographs and jewelry in the village this weekend. Aspen trees appear throughout the festival; mountains rise from canvases, woodwork and metalwork; and local animals can be found rendered in brass and stone.

This creative ode to nature is not surprising given that many of the artists live in Western states that are steeped in natural beauty. While there are artists from 22 different states, many are from Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon and reflect their connection with the outdoors in their work.



The Vail Arts Festival features over 50 artists.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Jessica Wright is an artist based right out of Avon, and with her unique painting technique using chopsticks and her own fingers, she creates stylized paintings of Aspen trees intended to evoke the feeling of the Vail Valley in different seasons.

“These don’t represent a singular location, it’s a celebration of our whole environment,” Wright said. “My art is a translation of the feeling of this place, because it’s magic here.”



Noah Gowen, a third-generation metalwork artist, manages to incorporate the glow of a sunrise over the mountains through his re-creations of local landscapes in metal and heat.

“It’s definitely from experience to art,” Gowen said. He points to one of his mountainscapes and explains, “This is what it looks like when you’re coming up (U.S. Highway) 285 toward the Rocky Mountains at sunrise. There’s a picture I took at that time, and that became the inspiration for this piece.”

John Koster and Tina Hospers, a married couple from Oregon that together form the company Cutting Edge Wood Creations, are diligent about accurately reflecting the natural environment in their wood-carved and color-stained shadow boxes.

“I have literally gone in (to the stain supplier) with a leaf and said ‘I need this exact leaf color’,” Tina said, laughing. “And I have to get it there before the leaf turns yellow, so once I find it I immediately race over.”

“It usually takes them quite a few times to get it right,” John adds with a smile.

What is most exciting about the festival is the ability for artists to directly connect with visitors and potential buyers. Each of these artists has a depth of information about their craft that is best accessed through personal conversation.

Walk up to Gary. G Designs, and Gary can walk you through the origin story of every stone in his extensive jewelry selection. Stop by JB Custom Knives, and J. Brent Nilson will give you the thousand-year history of his exquisite Damascus steel knives.

All are eager to connect with viewers, and thanks to the new less-crowded layout of the festival, it is easier than ever for visitors to get up close and personal with both the art and the artists.

Laurie Asmussen, the head of Eagle Vail Events and organizer of the Vail Arts Festival for the past 23 years, said that lowering the capacity after COVID-19 has actually enhanced the experience in many ways.

“We used to focus on volume, it was all about crowds, crowds, crowds, but now we want people to be able to float through,” Asmussen said. “Our goal for this year was to have each booth be free-standing, where artists will have three or four sides to exhibit from, and our guests can feel comfortable looking at the art and not feeling cramped in.”

The festival will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit VailArtsFestival.com.


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