The stereotypical art gallery is a vision of spartan design coupled with fabulous, expensive paintings or clichd Kokopelli lamps.
The details may vary, but the package often amounts to viewer discomfort and/or boredom. There's pressure to buy and to understand the wares. Everything's tense, heavy with formality, and oh-so-quiet.
There are, however, a handful of local businesses attempting to alleviate those issues by pairing galleries with other in-house ventures. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it's forced. But at least the effort's there.
Here's a brief rundown on a handful of those daring local proprietors:
220 N. Tejon St., 630-3710 or 888/NON-FAKE
Variety is a good business move for any gallery, and although the Velez Gallery specializes solely in authentic indigenous folk art from the Americas, the range of represented nations is vast.
The extensive and beautiful permanent collection consists of works from nearly 80 nations, and special folk art shows and demonstrations are given on the first Friday of each month.
Some of the items are reminiscent of souvenirs, and a wealth of the enjoyment comes from knowing a little background, but it's hard not to get excited about the passion the establishment has for its art.
The Velez brothers themselves display their own works, too; one showcased piece is Andrew Velez's neo-Aztec painting "Life and Death."
Cucuru Gallery Caf
2332 W. Colorado Ave., 520-9900
2332 W. Colorado Ave., 520-9900
Cucuru Gallery is the most "traditional" gallery in this set. The clean, spare atmosphere keeps the primary focus on the work, but the coffee shop/caf in the rear projects Cucuru into the kind of place you could really just go to hang out. Each room is furnished with chairs and tables, in the attempt to familiarize the customer with the gallery setting.
Specifically, the work is authentic Cuban with a few local pieces mixed in. Especially striking are the luminous "Stained Glass Box" by local artist Will O'Brien and the plantation paintings by Inti Abascel.
Most of the collection is permanent, but there appears to be a promise of future local-artist shows being offered every few months as part of Old Colorado City's Artwalks. A more typical gallery setting is intimidating for some, but here, the fresh collection of beachy art is like a short vacation.
Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.
2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800
... after a brief, yet necessary, lacuna is the name of the OpticalReverb show currently hanging in Phantom Canyon through June 7. Save a few scattered pieces here and there, the bulk of the art hangs in the sunroom on the south-side bottom level of the building. In this particular exhibit, only Ballard's "Spider Sock Monkey" holds any presence.
But a restaurant atmosphere like Phantom's doesn't slow down enough for any real artistic contemplation, and the works just melt into the walls. On paper, the gallery/restaurant seems pretty hip and symbiotic, but in reality, these works tend to become just decorations. In a smaller, quieter environment, there could be more focus on the art experience.
102 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1008
Commonwheel has a huge following among both tourists and the artists it represents. It delivers a collection of rustic pottery, paintings and jewelry, all of which can be, and often is, bought in-store. There's also a wall devoted to shows that turn over every month.
Starting April 27, Commonwheel will display a children's art show in conjunction with Imagination Celebration that will run through May 7. This should chang the pace fromr Commonwheel's typical displays, which are often more craft- than art-oriented.
The transition from the front ceramics racks to the gallery wall in the back slows the consumer machine and leads toward the basic enjoyment of art.
318 E. Colorado Ave., 635-0620
Extract the bad-ass attitude from this gallery/tattoo parlor hybrid, and everything's really quite tame. The space is split in two: The parlor lies in the back and a clean, professional gallery resides up front. Shows mixing local and regional artists are updated every two months.
Currently on display are the works of local artist Elizabeth Copan, which will remain through May 26. Copan's ceramic tiles, furniture and ready-mades are elegant and work well with the tattoo parlor element her themes deal with beauty and pain. A gallery such as this would benefit from a more visible location in town; heading to this strange spot is a bit of a commitment for anyone who isn't planning on buying a piece of art to hang or wear.