Tucked away in midvalley, a free exhibit of pop art at Powers Art Center
The Aspen Times
Located midvalley, a mile south along Highway 82 from the stoplight to Carbondale, is an unassuming 460-acre ranch with a small, gated entrance.
I took the turn, seeing this as one of the best opportunities in the Roaring Fork Valley to see famous and much-coveted artwork — for free.
Powers Art Center is dedicated to the memory of John G. Powers, who along with his wife, Kimiko, was an avid collector of contemporary art.
Construction of the 15,000-square-foot space was completed in 2011 and opened to the public in July 2014.
“We wanted to test our environment and different seasons before we opened to the public. We were able to accommodate tours by appointment in those first few years,” said Executive Director Melissa English. She has been at the helm since the museum’s inception. Today, there are four or five employees, depending on the season.
The large contemporary and minimalist building houses two main collections. The top floor for now is dedicated to the Powers’ exhibition of Jasper Johns’ pieces. Each year, the museum closes in May to rotate the exhibition and change the top galleries.
“We don’t borrow anything,” said Sonya Taylor Moore, director of programming and outreach. “The entire space always has pieces from the Powers’ private collection. The Warhols, the Lichtensteins — those are ours, everything.”
There is an extensive permanent collection of Japanese ceramics by Takashi Nakasto on site, as well.
Showing now until November is pop art featuring Robert Rauschenberg, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg.
“American pop art is a must see,” said Moore. “It shows the true pop artists that emerged in the American pop-art movement. We also have additional activities for adults and children to round out the experience.”
Futuristic sculpture and bright, colorful 1960s pop art awaits visitors across the entire first floor exhibition space.
On the second floor is the last month to see this showcase of Jasper Johns. In June, “Seasons of Change,” will premiere with other artists.
“That’s the best part of the museum,” Moore said. “Even if you have 15 minutes between errands or are up and down the valley, you can come in and see free world-class art. Admission is free, but the experience is priceless.”
Walking through the interior two floors took me about an hour, but to see the breath of the collection can easily be accomplished in a quick loop. There are roughly 200 pieces on exhibit.
There are two unique dedicated spaces to community.
There is a study and library now, which is a time capsule of John Powers. This includes his personal collection of art books that visitors can read, many out of print now.
The Learning Lab, a space for hands-on activity for adults and children, hosts dozens of school groups throughout the year. Challenged adults also come for this room just to participate in the activities.
“In the quieter months of winter and early spring, we host school events every Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Moore. “We have kid kits available for children to walk with, enhancing the experience of the collection.”
Fall through early spring, roughly 40 visitors explore the Powers Art Center weekly. In summer, the number is closer to 50 visitors. The yearly average is about 4,000 guests and growing, including summer art experiences and field trips.
The working cattle ranch now has 314 acres in surrounding conservation.
In summer, there is a reflecting pool and a tent set up from children’s programming Thursday art days.
The center is open Saturday, from 11 a.m to 3 p.m., and Tuesday through Friday at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be closed the entire month of May. No reservations necessary. The address is 13110 Highway 82.
Groups may request private viewings on Mondays. Call (970) 963-4445.
For more information: powersartcenter.org
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