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Visual arts in Colorado Springs 

Insider 2017

click to enlarge Cottonwood Center for the Arts - JOHN MARK LOHNER
  • John Mark Lohner
  • Cottonwood Center for the Arts

Mainstays

If you love the visual arts, it's worth knowing which galleries locals are drawn to for their consistent, quality work.

Chances are, you're going to see the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., csfineartscenter.org) pop up quite a bit in the pages of this publication. The FAC's museum has a well-established collection of artwork that frankly astounds — and it's well worth the $15 museum admission. Since its establishment in 1936, the FAC has hosted works by Dalí, Rembrandt and more, plus exhibitions featuring the best in local art and a permanent collection of Native American and Hispanic artwork. Recently, the FAC entered into a partnership with Colorado College, a long-term transition that begins with merging the museum and CC's I.D.E.A. Space gallery and other resources. So it looks like the FAC will have even more opportunity to educate and engage with the community through its historical and thoughtful exhibits.

Far from just a gallery, Cottonwood Center for the Arts (427 E. Colorado Ave., cottonwoodcenterforthearts.com) calls itself a "community impact organization." In addition to hosting artists' workspaces, Cottonwood exhibits a variety of artwork from paintings to photography to sculpture, drawing on local talent to fill its walls. With about 80 studio artists, including some of the biggest names in the local art community, it really does feel like a center for arts in this town. Plus, just last year Cottonwood opened up Textiles West, a studio specifically for fiber and textile art. Remember to keep an eye on Cottonwood's First Friday art receptions. With a new exhibit every month and plenty of studio art to browse, First Fridays at Cottonwood are always exciting.

GOCA, or the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art (1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 121 S. Tejon St., uccs.edu/goca), includes two locations — one on the main university campus and one downtown — and each houses some fascinating artwork. Past exhibits have included massive installation-based pieces like Michael Theodore's micro/macro, which used light and sound to transform the space. GOCA's emphasis on diversity has also brought unique voices to our arts community, often with an eye to social commentary. Its recent Black Power Tarot show highlighted the accomplishments and struggles of black individuals and included various talks and screenings to enrich the exhibit. Plus, this year, we're looking forward to an exhibit that will comment on the internet age, Cybercy. No matter what you see at GOCA, you're guaranteed to come out thinking.

Manitou Springs houses its own vibrant art community, and much of that is thanks to the Manitou Art Center (513-515 Manitou Ave., manitouartcenter.org), easily the largest arts institution in Manitou. Its members gallery showcases art in all media from folks who utilize its studio space, and its monthly exhibitions bring in fascinating local art — like The Older We Get, local sculptor Jo Hart's commentary on aging; or February's Camera Shy, surreal works in photography and mixed-media by Brian Tryon. In addition to exhibits, the MAC hosts a makerspace, with a full wood shop, 3D printer, electronics lab and more. Bonus: Mabel's Café within the MAC makes some of the best soup around, with flavors rotating almost daily. Stop by for a bowl after you browse.

Offroad

It's tough to pick the standouts, but no matter what area of town you find yourself in, you're bound to find a place nearby to satisfy your itch for art.

Downtown:

Just on the edge of downtown under the Colorado Avenue bridge, you'll find a little hub of local arts that makes a great First Friday destination. Kreuser Gallery (218 W. Colorado Ave., abigailkreusergallery.com), run by local photographer Abigail Kreuser, is one of the more active and prolific galleries in town. Kreuser makes a point of showcasing quality local artists in her personal space, including Cymon Padilla (who has a show coming up in November), and Briget Heidmous, whose recent Topological Defects exhibit was astounding — 500 pieces of 6-by-6-inch artwork.

In addition to running her own space, Kreuser also curates for the Commons Gallery next door, as well as multiple downtown coffee shops and bars such as The Perk Downtown and Bar-K. In the same building as Kreuser, and under the same bridge, the aptly named Bridge Gallery is another bastion of local art. Recently it featured the work of Don Green, a sculptor whose large-scale pieces grace public places throughout the city. And last year's exhibit of Larry Kledzik's hyper-realistic two- and three-dimensional works, They are Either at Your Feet or at Your Throat, was a standout.

But Downtown's art doesn't end at the bridge. In fact, this area has more galleries than we can list. But you'll want to make sure to hit up certain spots like The Gallery Below (718B N. Weber St., thegallerybelow.weebly.com). Brand new last year, The Gallery Below sits below Pens & Needles Tattoo Studio and so far it's exhibited some really interesting work — from psychedelic paintings by the Morningstar Artists, to an exhibit called Americana Badassery, which included cultural commentary pieces by Jay Black and Mike Hedrick. Plus, they've started hosting cool events such as classes in art, yoga and writing that you should keep your eye on.

Another downtown favorite is the Modbo (17C E. Bijou St., themodbo.wordpress.com), which recently went through a season of changes. Now owned solely by former co-owner Lauren Ciborowski, the Modbo has been remodeled and will now begin functioning as a commercial gallery, event space and whatever else it needs to be. Between hosting staged readings, multimedia performance art and more in just the first few months of its new life, the Modbo is already surprising us. Its March exhibit Drowned in Moonlight showcased portraits of celebrities who had died in 2016, and we're looking forward to what other "off the beaten path" plans Ciborowski has in store.

Old Colorado City:

Many commercial galleries you'll find in Old Colorado City will carry the beautiful watercolor or acrylic landscapes and traditional pottery for which the Pikes Peak region is most popular. Hunter-Wolff Gallery (2510 W. Colorado Ave., hunterwolffgallery.com), 45 Degree Gallery (2528 W. Colorado Ave., 45degreegallery.com) and Arati Artists Gallery (2425 W. Colorado Ave., aratiartists.com) come to mind as purveyors of traditional artwork, showcasing some of the most talented artists in the area, including members of the exclusive and prolific Pikes Peak Watercolor Society.

But along this little stretch of Colorado Avenue, you can also find eclectic gallery spaces that offer a different experience. By far, the standout is Chavez Gallery (2616 W. Colorado Ave., chavezartgallery.com), which has won gold for Best Gallery in our yearly Best Of multiple times. Plus, one of its contributing/owning artists, Liese Chavez has won for Best Artist. When you walk into Chavez Gallery, you aren't restricted to looking at whatever happens to be hanging on the wall. They've set up interactive art stations including a mini-art vending machine, shadowboxes and more. It's like an artistic playground, and they encourage the play. The paintings Liese and her husband Kris create are as whimsical as the gallery itself, and wholly unique.

Plus, Chavez's First Friday receptions are always exciting. They theme the reception to the exhibit, so that can mean anything from Alice in Wonderland to superheroes to fairy tales — costumes encouraged. Don't be surprised to find fortune tellers or other performance artists there, and be sure to ask Liese Chavez to show you a magic trick or two.

Then there's Squash Blossom (2531 W. Colorado Ave., squashblossom.com), which provides a fusion of the classic and contemporary that the area craves. With a focus on jewelry and home items, Squash Blossom is as practical as it is playful, and more eclectic than your usual gallery/boutique. Here you'll find local artists as well as works brought in from around the country, so there is plenty to draw the eye. And the pocketbook.

Manitou Springs:

Manitou Springs provides multiple opportunities for an artistic day out, showcasing all kinds of work from a variety of artists. Visitors to the area go bananas for Tracy Miller's vibrantly colorful animal portraits, plus the other local artwork exhibited at Tracy Miller Gallery (16 Ruxton Ave., tracymillergallery.com). And right next door, fans of painting and watercolor will enjoy what Fare Bella Studio & Gallery (14 Ruxton Ave., farebellagallery.com) has to offer, a host of beautiful, subtle and traditional works.

When Third Friday rolls around and you want some new and exciting artwork, there are two places you must stop after you've indulged in the Manitou Art Center.

Green Horse Gallery (729 Manitou Ave., greenhorsegallery.com) showcases work by about 50 artists, according to its website, and each has their own unique style. Ken and Tina Riesterer's pottery celebrates the beauty of the human form with stylized paintings and engravings hugging the curves of each piece. Mark Wong, whose work also graces the shelves at Green Horse, specializes in Raku pottery, a special technique for pieces that are traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, but also look lovely on the shelf. Each month sees a new featured artist, so it's difficult to get bored with what Green Horse has to offer.

Just off Manitou Avenue, you'll find Commonwheel Artists Co-op (102 Cañon Ave., commonwheel.com), which is an active conglomeration of artists who do everything from surreal, dream-like paintings of adorable monsters, to intricate mosaics, to more traditional works in pottery, sculpture and photography.

In addition to the co-op members, whose work rotates regularly, Commonwheel also hosts monthly themed shows. Last year's Chroma Choreo: A Collison of Color and Dance fused the medium of visual art with the medium of dance, with artists expressing movement through still artwork. Plus, its Mandala exhibit this April promises to showcase a unique take on the traditional art form of the mandala, with paintings, drawings, photographic works and more.

Be sure to keep Commonwheel in mind when January rolls around, too. Each year, they host "Pottery by the Pound," with special discounts on selected works that enable you to purchase something by weight. It's impossible not to get carried away — and to carry away a great deal of art.

Everywhere else:

While it's easy to find good art downtown, in Manitou Springs and in Old Colorado City, the concentration of commercial galleries gets a little thin the farther away you get.

But that doesn't mean there aren't hidden gems to be found elsewhere. G44 Gallery (1785 S. Eighth St., galleryg44.com) on the Southside sits in the Cheyenne Mountain neighborhood in the same shopping center as a Dollar General, not the kind of place you'd expect to find excellent art. But they continually exhibit cool, contemporary shows like last year's Reclaiming Peace, works by Michelle McMahan, who creates striking visuals with reclaimed wood. They've also shown the experimental paint-based work of Karen Khoury, who now helps run the retail section of the gallery where other local artists sell their pieces.

Then, on the Northeast side, Humming Line Gallery (4851 Barnes Road, hummingline.com) is a relatively new, sweet little eclectic spot that you wouldn't expect to exist where it does. Along with neat glass-and-stone-based sculptures, mobiles, jewelry and wall-hangings by founding artist Maxine Grossman, they exhibit the work of all sorts of local artists. Lisa Eshom Rawlings' alcohol ink oil paintings of aspen trees lean more traditional, but then Garrett Weaver's abstract paint-splatter works fit the tastes of more experimental folks. It's a great gift gallery on a side of town that needs it, with a whimsical touch that makes it a fun place to browse. Plus, it's hard to find better prices for quality artwork than you'll find here.

Farther North, Academy Art & Frame Company (7560 N. Academy Blvd., academyframesco.com) provides surprisingly exciting work that goes to show they are not an average frame store. They host monthly art exhibits that showcase photography, paintings and more, such as a selection of photographic quilts by Rhonda Van Pelt or January's 3D Color Explosion exhibit — mixed-media and blacklight works by Joe Beavers. Plus, Academy's classes tend to be more eclectic than those you may find elsewhere, including classes in creativity and inspiration taught by local artist/author Linda Case, plus jewelry workshops and other interesting art forms.

Also on the wall

First Fridays

The galleries not listed here are still well worth the visit, so don't miss monthly First Friday celebrations throughout Downtown and Old Colorado City.

Stop into local galleries and businesses for brand-new artwork, art demonstrations, refreshments and occasional entertainment.

The Downtown art walk tour starts from a different gallery each month, so check the Downtown Partnership website before setting out to find a place to start.

Third Fridays

Manitou Springs' response to First Fridays lets art-lovers enjoy two weeks a month of artistic nights on the town.

Includes the main galleries along Manitou Avenue, plus some off-the-beaten-path places on Ruxton and Cañon avenues.

There's always some kind of entertainment to enjoy, plus new work by Manitou's talented artists.

We recommend starting your trek at the Manitou Art Center, which contains multiple galleries and rotating exhibits.

Commonwheel Labor Day Arts & Crafts Festival

Hosted by Commonwheel Artists Co-op, this local favorite festival is not just for Manitoids.

Browse booths selling artworks by local and regional artists.

Plus, live music, food and beer, and activities for the kids such as bubble-blowing and face-painting make this more than just an opportunity to buy art.

ROLL Bike Art Festival

Held each year at the end of summer, this festival (sponsored by Smokebrush Foundation for the Arts, which supports creative arts endeavors around town) celebrates all things bike — especially the artwork.

You'll see bike-themed paintings and photographs alongside sculptures made of bike gears and other interesting, eclectic pieces.

The relatively new Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort will host the festival, and keep the artwork hanging for a few months so folks can drop in at their leisure.

Pollinate: Biennial Arts Festival

Every two years, a group of arts leaders chooses a theme, and arts organizations across the city participate in that theme.

2016's was "Energy."

Events included an exhibit at I.D.E.A. Space that addressed atomic fallout, multiple lectures ranging from the energy of music to the artistic process, an exhibit of storm photography at the FAC and more.

While 2017 won't include a Pollinate festival, we look forward to what 2018 has in store.

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