Accessible art in Glenwood |

Accessible art in Glenwood

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Keeper of Angels by Victor Issa

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” As Arlene Law stood amongst the hundreds of pieces of art, her eyes started to tear.

“I don’t know why,” she said, her voice breaking only a bit. “I wish I knew why.”

She looked overwhelmed but was smiling. A founding member of the Glenwood Springs Art Guild, she never thought their Fall Art Festival would get this big. Back in the 1960s, it was on a much more manageable scale. After the guild decided on a whim to host its first fest, about 65 people showed up to sport their wares. Now, 45 years on, this weekend’s exhibit boasts work from more than 375 artists.

“Oh heavens, if we knew what we were starting…,” joked Law, and her voiced trailed off.

Near her was one of her own pieces, a folksy painting of a colorful, textured clothesline. Around it were dozens of tall partitions, all heavy with more paintings, drawings and etchings. On a few surfaces sat pottery and sculptures. There seemed to be every shape, shade and taste of art, from images of proud white tigers to a collaged landscape made from paint, bike parts and tire marks. While it’s hard to imagine anybody liking all these different genres, it’s almost impossible to imagine someone not being moved by seeing so much creativity in one place.

Cynthia Thomas, the guild’s current president, sure feels the magic.

“That’s the neat part about art to me,” she said. “I don’t have to like it to appreciate it.”

Along with Law and several other guild members, she was putting the finishing touches on the massive exhibit before it opened to the public. She was happy to talk about the details of this, the biggest non-juried art show in the state.

As she walked through the artsy maze, she explained that the public is invited to enter work in “Fall Art.” Each year, her group painstakingly assembles all of their pieces and submitted ones by medium, subject matter and class (amateur, advanced, professional). Every festival has two special exhibits ” one chosen by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and one by the guild. This year, for example, artists rendered their interpretations of the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park for the chamber and created something completely different for the guild’s open-ended theme of “Me and My Shadow.” Prices for the pieces swing wildly, starting from $20 and veering up into the thousands. The exhibit’s “bargain bin” ” more of a large room, actually ” features work under $120. On top of all this, there are always special events, free demonstrations and the like. She explained that the bulk of the money raised by the event goes right back to the artists, while another large percentage gets funneled into scholarships, school funding and more. As sales reach about $100,000 each year, those donations are nothing to sneeze at.

She thinks the most appealing part of the show, though, is its friendly, open quality. Everyone’s welcome.

“We’re an art show for artists,” she explained. “We don’t like to put artists in a box ” because we are artists.”

Later, by phone, a few of the participating painters sang the show’s praises.

“I’m always amazed,” said Marylou Felton. “It seems to outdo itself every year.”

A lifelong artist and lover of pastels, Felton created the inquisitive little girl on this year’s festival poster. After joining the guild about 10 years ago, she’s still impressed by its sense of inclusion.

“I would say it’s a very caring group of people,” she said.

To her, the festival seems like a natural extension of that.

And Elle Gould definitely appreciates it. This is her first time in a big, bonafide show. After spending her adult life working as a high-end therapist, she’s taken up watercolors in the last three years. For her, showing her loose depictions of dogs and cowboys and such feels like “looking at your soul.” That’s not something she could do around everyone.

“I do feel welcome,” she said. “I think they welcome all, which is very important thing for beginning artists, I feel, to feel like they’re OK there and safe.”

If Law had been there to hear those words, she probably would have eaten them up. As she sees it, part of the point of this thing is treating people as she herself would like to be treated. She explained that she paints constantly, and in reality, she doesn’t have time to help put on this event every year. Still, she can’t stay away.

She talked about all the parties and barbecues and spaghetti dinners she and the other artists have had together over the years. She talked about the friends she’s made, and she glanced around at this year’s crop of art. As she kept on about the show, she did seem a bit tired ” but undeniably proud.

“You know what?” she said. “It really is worth it.”

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