Aspen Chapel Gallery Joins Forces With VOICES

Sarah Girgis
The Aspen Times
Michael Bonds and Tom Ward, Co-directors., Aspen Chapel Gallery.
Courtesy photo

When Tom Ward first came to work for what is now the Aspen Chapel Gallery 37 years ago, there was nothing in the room but two chairs, four pictures on the wall and florescent lights. At the time, co-director Connie Madsen asked him if he wanted to start an art gallery in the space beneath the worship area of the chapel, and he figured, why not?

Ward had previously owned the Gargoyle Gallery in Aspen back in the 70s, but his background was in theater and set design.

Tom Ward

“I had a gallery here starting in 1970, and at that time, all the galleries (in Aspen) showed local art. And when people came in, they’d say, ‘I only want to see local artists.’ Now, if you go downtown, there isn’t anything (local). So we just started with local artists, and we’ve just morphed into that. Where else are they going to show?” Ward said.

If anyone understands the importance of a gallery that supports local artists, it’s co-director of the Aspen Chapel gallery Michael Bonds, a long-time resident and artist. He is a graphic designer by trade but has dabbled in other mediums, including pottery. As the longest resident artist at Red Brick, going on 13 years now, he stresses how crucial it is that residents of the Roaring Fork Valley support local creators as much as possible.

“My door’s always open at the Red Brick because I’m always looking for people to come in and give me some feedback about my work, because that’s what it’s all about for me is I want your input. So it can keep me enthusiastic about keeping to be able to produce and produce and produce. I need to have some venue to be able to get it out there. And it keeps me energized to keep making more and going in different directions,” Bonds said.

He admits that due to the economics and high living costs in the valley, it’s a challenge for artists to survive but credits places like Red Brick, CMC and other programs for providing some subsidies that create opportunities for artists to make a living. Likewise, for him and Ward, the purpose of the gallery is to support and give back to the local community.

Michael Bonds in the studio.

“That’s what’s really great about having a gallery. We did a show Art from the Heart here during the pandemic, because we really wanted to support people; they needed some money, they needed to be able to sell something, because, you know, it was nine months into the pandemic, and everything was closed. And I think we sold seven to eight thousand dollars worth of work and got that money back into the community and into the artists’ pockets, because they were really struggling. So it’s a really good benefit for us to be able to have that local orientation for us to be able to feed the community a little bit,” he said.

Ward goes on to say that while they would love to have the monetary support of tourists in the valley, since they are a bit off the beaten path, the majority of their support is really coming from local benefactors and art lovers.

“We are local, so it’s not so much geared to the tourist orientation. We don’t have to compete with other galleries downtown. We’re kind of a hidden gem that when people find us, they come back,” he said.

Since 2018, one of the ways they have been able to get the word out and raise more money is partnering with local nonprofits. They said it’s a great way to reach a larger audience, put more money in the pockets of their artists and help the nonprofits raise money and awareness, as well.

“Part of our mission now is not just to show local art, but to partner with a nonprofit organization, which benefits both of us in a lot of ways. The nonprofit can promote the gallery, and we can promote the nonprofit. And it’s worked out to be really good. Twenty percent of the sponsorships go toward the nonprofit, and 10 percent of all the sales go to the nonprofit. And we have now given back to the nonprofits about $41,000,” they said.

For their current show, they partnered with VOICES, the nonprofit arts community based in Carbondale to pair up a gallery artist with a VOICES artist from a different medium, such as pairing a painter and a dancer, to create work for the show. They are excited about the breadth and diversity of the work. The exhibit itself features 32 artists, is curated by local artists and runs through Nov. 8.

“It’s really kind of beneficial for us to have an outlet here to show local art because we have so many different creative people here. And it’s a chance to meet new people, get to see artwork, and kind of, you know, just be a part of the community,” Bond said.

Artwork from Aspen Chapel and VOICES
Artwork from Aspen Chapel and VOICES
If you go…

What:Aspen Chapel Gallery Presents VOICES
When: Now through Nov.13
Where: Aspen Chapel Gallery
More info:

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