Boulder Art Scene: Not All Art Galleries Are Equal…

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Regardless of the amount of time I spend in a place, I try to seek out the local art scene. Boulder Colorado has a thriving art scene and I remember loving what I saw coming out of its studios on my last trip and on my most recent exploration, I discovered more great things and people. There’s also organizations in place that are supporting local artists work.

The Boulder Art Association has been in place for more than 80 years, starting with ambitions as small as getting students to see an incredible original painting and to showcase their work publicly. While it started as early as the 1920s, it closed in the late thirties and for 20 years, no formal Boulder Art Association existed. Boulder artists continued to meet together and to create, and an informal group called the Creative Interest Group met in local homes and enjoyed the support and facilities of the CU Fine Arts Faculty. This group grew in size and in 1958 it was large enough to reorganize itself as the Boulder Art Association, almost immediately growing to 200 members.  They also established “The Flatirons Center for the Arts”, now known as The Dairy.

I was thrilled to see that Boulder also has an Open Studios, something I support every year in the San Francisco Bay Area. (I love the artists who dedicate their time to doing this year after year and also San Francisco’s Art Explosion). Many of these artists have since become friends.

In Boulder, I discovered a few artists whose work jumped out for me, including oil paintings of Theresa Beckemeyer, who paints everything from Colorado mountains and aspen groves to city street scenes, boulder landmarks, still lifes, animals and children.













There’s also the work of photographer Dan Baumbach. Shooting in both digital and large format 4×5, Dan’s exquisitely sharp images of wild places tend to have an ethereal quality — from the foggy coastal woods of Marin County, to the delicate dawn light over Dana Meadow in Yosemite, to a scattering of thistles against the snow in Boulder County. I love his style.












There’s also a number of galleries in the Boulder area worth exploring. I didn’t have time to get to them all so sadly was only able to meander into a few. Earthwood Gallery on Pearl Street had a number of artists who caught my eye.  They are currently showcasing the original fine art of Sarah Rogers, Maggie Renner Hellmann, Margaret Jensen, Eldon Warren, Mike Brouse, Cindy Carrillo, Terri Sanchez, Tim Howe and Coni Grant.

I also came across Smithklein Gallery, also on Pearl Street in Boulder. The engaging sculpture at the entrance and the richness of the paintings throughout drew me in. Artists who are showing their work in the gallery include Ann Dettmer, Bruce Cascia, Bryce Widom, C.C. Barton, Cheryl St. John, Craig Kosak, Dean Bradshaw, Diane Naylor, Elizabeth Rickert, Erin Dertner, Gerard Mortier, Greg Coffin, Mark Lague, Melinda Thies, Sally King, Michael Shankman, Robert Spooner, Linda Israel, Malcom Baroway, Lillian Kennedy, Tammi Otis and others. What DROVE me OUT of the gallery was the manager/hopefully not the owner. I’m not sure when I last met a shop owner who was that rude to me if ever.

I was taking photos from the entryway of the sculpture, which btw, was what drew me in. Excited by the energy of the place and the art is what provoked me to shoot. Why wouldn’t I?












One of the things I get so much pleasure doing is discovering fabulous new artists I didn’t know about before and letting the world know about them who may otherwise never have heard of them. AND, help to get their work exposed to other people around the world. Be assured — talk to people who blog — it’s not the money that keeps us in it. It’s the love of writing, the love of the art of it and the art of discovery. She came towards me yelling at me for taking photos, further yelling at me that didn’t I see the sign, and rant, rant, rant. I felt as if I was in the third world and about to be arrested. At least, this is how it felt.

Here’s what I don’t get. I’m a photographer on the side and I’d be THRILLED if someone was taking photos of my work in a gallery and posted them up on a blog. Why? FREE PR. EXPOSURE. CONNECTIONS and a zillion other reasons, the most important of which for me as an artist, is that if someone sees something I shot, comments on it online because they were either moved by the photograph, it resonated in some way or someone who shoots in a similar style reaches out to say, “hey I get you, great work.”

OR, imagine that they actually liked what they saw, googled me, went to my website and wanted to buy something. My point is that art is all about sharing, inspiring and moving people along the way with your art on your life journey. I’ve never met an artist who doesn’t cherish the thought of one of their pieces lighting up someone’s world or living in a space that the owner thinks is perfect. And, here was someone who was supposed to represent these artists but her ranting behavior drove me out of her shop so I didn’t even have a chance to learn more about the artists in the gallery. Lastly, does it really ever serve anything by yelling at someone and being rude before saying hello?

Counter this approach with the owner of the Earthwood Gallery, my first stop, who couldn’t have been friendlier. We talked about social media, I asked her if she was on Twitter because I wanted to give their gallery a call-out (translation: free marketing for the gallery to our more than a quarter a million followers), and she asked what would it take to get on my blog. Sometimes visits like this make it on the blog and sometimes they don’t. It depends on whether I have time, am inspired, get some photos that support it in a compelling visual way or it fits into an overall blog post I’m working on. In this case, the contrasts between the two galleries was so profound, how could I not write about my experience?

Bottom line, she knows how to treat customers and she “gets it.” She understood the value and how my photos, tweets and call outs might actually benefit her gallery and the artists in it. I’m still in disbelief at how the woman from Smithklein Gallery treated me.

I’m all about supporting artists in any way I can (it’s not like I am getting paid to write this blog post), so if I like an artist’s work, I’d love to give them exposure so the world can learn about their work. Isn’t it cool that someone in Southeast Asia or Africa can read this post and learn about a local Colorado artist from Boulder and perhaps even learn from their style and experience?

I loved the work of Sarah Rogers in the Earthwood Gallery.











Also, the vivacious colorful paintings and glass work in the in the Earthwood Gallery were stunning.






































For more blog posts on the Boulder/Denver area, go here.

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