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Salida's Artwalk does big things with a small package

The last weekend of June (27-29) is a time when passion flows through Salida's historic downtown as art voyeurs stroll from gallery to gallery, viewing a variety of artistic offerings you'd be hard-pressed to find in most towns 10 times its size. It's time for Salida's annual cultural extravaganza: ArtWalk.

"This is the only place in the state that exposes people to great art and artists they can't and won't see in Denver or Colorado Springs," said Jerry Scavezee, owner of Gallery 150 in Salida.

Now in its 11th year, ArtWalk has grown significantly to include nearly 40 displaying galleries, most of which reside in or within walking distance of downtown. Over the years, organizers have added performance art, jewelry, sculpture, poetry, food and lots of entertainment.

"It's a real thriving arts community. There are probably 100 good artists here, and the town is only five- or six-thousand people. It's vibrant," said Merry Cox of Broadminded Gallery, an artist and one of the organizers of ArtWalk.

"[ArtWalk] started 11 years ago when a jeweler named Michael Boyd and a potter named Michael Perry decided to have an opening on the same night. From there, more artists began to move to town," said Cox, who estimates that there are now between 20 to 25 art galleries and a handful of performing-arts spaces in Salida.

After years of being a mostly local event, ArtWalk drew national attention about three years ago when Sunset Magazine featured the annual event, which is now drawing crowds from the Front Range, New Mexico, Nebraska and Utah.

This year, for the first time, poetry will be introduced into the mix.

"We really tried to incorporate the spoken word," said Cox. "We'll have poets roving the streets. Everybody does all new work every year, so it's never the same old same old."

"We're a real dinky little town, but it's concentrated -- it's all within three or four blocks together. I hardly ever start my car."

This year should have even more for art lovers given that last year's drought, fires and lack of tourism (everything but famine) allowed a considerable build up in inventory. Luckily for collectors and art lovers alike, the galleries are now like "a pregnant woman ready to give birth," said a local artist who goes by first name only "Steph."

At Gallery 150, for example, Scavezee is including some 30 new artists in his exhibits. He's got so much art, he said, that he may be forced to "display some of it on his ceiling."

Among the many events -- planned and unplanned -- that will be taking place in Salida will be Colorado's Performance Poetry Festival, presenting "Wild Poets in Performance" at Bongo Billy's Salida Caf, kids' creativity classes at The Working Studio, demonstrations of fine gem-cutting, mini performances at the Steam Plant Theater, mud people, and lots more.

The Gallery Preview is on Friday, June 27, from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday is the big show with artist's receptions from 5 to 9 p.m., though the galleries will welcome visitors all day) On Sunday, things wind down with casual showings from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information call the Salida Chamber of Commerce at 877/772-5432 or go to www.salidaartwalk.org.

--Jim Williams

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