Beaver Creek Art Festival arrives this weekend | VailDaily.com

Beaver Creek Art Festival arrives this weekend

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com

It all started with 7-foot-long paper mache alligator in Coral Springs, Florida.

That's how the Beaver Creek Art Festival now comes to be in its very successful 28th year on Saturday and Sunday, with some of the country's most innovative photographers, painters, jewelry makers and sculptors clamoring to set up shop on Beaver Creek's cobbled streets.

The gator mailbox

As event director Howard Alan — art lover and founder/president of Howard Alan Events — tells it, it was the late 1990s and he was running a popular Florida art festival called the Las Olas Art Show. One artist, Don Epstein, wanted to show some of his animal sculptures in the festival. As an example, he showed Alan his mailbox — the humongous gator.

It's a long story, but in the end, Alan created what he admits was a huge publicity stunt and called in the mailbox alligator to the Coral Springs, Florida code enforcement. Soon, the alligator mailbox made national news, especially after the city of Coral Springs ruled that the gator was just too outrageous (for a mailbox, anyway) and made Epstein take it down.

"We pulled a big PR stunt, and it embarrassed the city of Coral Springs," said Alan, with glee.

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Fast forward a year, and Alan was vacationing with his family in Beaver Creek, having a conversation with a fellow father at the ice skating rink. He retold the tale of how he'd embarrassed the town council of Coral Springs with an alligator statue. Ends up, the father was a town councilman, and who else walked up but former Coral Springs city manager — and the executive director of Beaver Creek Resort at the time — Tony O'Rourke.

After a good laugh, O'Rourke offered Alan the job of taking over the resort's struggling art festival, and Alan accepted.

Inspired by nature

These days, the Beaver Creek Art Festival is no longer struggling and instead has become somewhat of an August staple at the resort. The artists in the show hail from all over the country, and the art spans a wide range of prices for every kind of shopper.

"You can buy a pair of earrings or a bronze sculpture," said Alan. "We're very proud of our festival this year. We have artists from everywhere — Santa Fe, (New Mexico); Scottsdale, (Arizona); St. Simons Island, California; New Orleans …"

He said that one of the elements that draw visitors to the show is the fact that all the participating artists will be on hand. It's not uncommon for Beaver Creek visitors to strike up a conversation with artists, buy a piece and maybe even invite the artist over for dinner and develop a friendship. For the artists, they love the fact that they get to come display their work in a mountain setting.

Many artists, such as Stephen Schubert, were inspired by nature to begin with. Schubert works with birch panels, layering paint and colors with everything from a spackle knife to rags and foam. Although he didn't start his art career until he was an adult, he was inspired at the age of 8 by a Japanese garden exhibit.

"Inhaling the scent of a water lily at the age of 8 at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens was, I believe, the first time I experienced intoxication. I was in the Japanese exhibit, and I remember getting down on my knees, bending over a water pond and leaning toward the bright blue, purple tinged flower and breathing in. The combined beauty and exotic fragrances imprinted in my mind forever," said Schubert, who will be displaying his works throughout the weekend.

Meet the artists

Painter Michael Vistia is another crowd favorite, with his portraits of dogs and other animals. His career started out in the Realism movement, but three years ago, he decided to paint a fun portrait of a collie.

"I've always been in love with animals, and I saw how people reacted to their animals. From there the idea was spawned, and I thought, how can I capture the dog's personality and their unconditional love?" said Vistia. "I bring that out with a lot of bright, fluid colors, and the paintings are loaded with a lot of love."

Vistia is in Colorado for the festival for the first time, along with his wife, fellow festival artist Annmarie Siegel. She specializes in eclectic, watch-inspired jewelry.

"We went on a hike earlier in the week, and I love the whole area," Vistia said of Beaver Creek. "It just wakes me up as an artist. I feel wide awake and tingly — there's something beautiful around every corner."

One jewelry designer, Chipita Park, Colorado native Adam Neeley, will be returning to his home state after a long hiatus at the art festival.

As a teenager, Neeley graduated from rock-collector to silversmith's apprentice, and then to producing and selling his own creations at art shows around Colorado. He's known for pioneering a special technique called "spectra" that involves seven different tones of gold and 40 to 50 hours of meticulous metalsmithing to complete. Neeley said he's especially excited to be part of the Beaver Creek festival because it was a place he found success early on in his career, when he was 21.

"Beaver Creek Art Festival is a wonderful experience. The artist talent is outstanding, the crowd is energetic and the mountain scenery is breathtaking," he said. "As a Colorado native, it also has a sentimental significance. Returning to Beaver Creek feels like coming home. I look forward to reconnecting with long-time collectors who have believed in my work since the beginning of my career."

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

If you go…

What: 28th annual Beaver Creek Art Festival

Where: Beaver Creek Village

When: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

How much: Free to attend

More info: http://www.artfestival.com. A free art giveaway at the festival will feature the work of an exhibiting artist; no purchase necessary to participate.