Art of the State

When the second annual Celebrate Colorado Artists Festival returns to the Denver Performing Arts Complex this weekend, expect a few new artists, a few improvements -- and a lot more of the same. If the success of last year's event, which drew about 45,000 people, is any indication, that means a lot more of a good thing."We try to do more than just have an outdoor festival," says spokesman Brian Nelson, who cheerfully calls himself the festival's "organizer-slash-artist." Nelson's an old hand at this, both as an administrator (having previously held a similar position with the Cherry Creek Arts Festival) and as an artist (having participated in Denver's alternative gallery scene). "It helps, knowing how it is from the artist's standpoint," he adds. "I know how disconnected you can feel -- essentially, you have to take your whole studio with you. You're forced to have a storefront, and it can be overwhelming. We really try to pamper our artists, and better work is represented as a result."

Although last year's fest included an indoor show, the invitational exhibit held upstairs in the Seawell Ballroom was hard to find and not well attended as a result. So this year, the enclosed portion of the festival -- a co-op effort by six prominent local galleries -- will set up in the Buell Theatre lobby. The participating galleries -- Merrill-Johnson Gallery, Pismo Contemporary Art Glass, Robischon Gallery, Rule Modern and Contemporary, Savageau Gallery and William Havu Gallery -- will each offer high-quality works by Colorado-based stable-members. "It's neat, because we can show artists who can't do outdoor shows," Nelson notes.

He hopes the festival will help build cohesiveness in the state's splintered art communities by bringing the divergent aspects together in one place, where they'll still display a vast variety of work. This year's pieces include everything from Susan Linquist's tiny, intricate fiber pieces overlaid with metal to Tate Hamilton's paintings on flagstone. Concludes Nelson: "This is just a grand experiment all across the board."

With an emphasis on "grand."

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd