Moore Family Folk Art Turns Trash to Treasure

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You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

“Growing up, I was always the kind of kid who would commandeer trash from my parents and make stuff,” remembers Alan Moore, today the ringleader of a family of artists making a name for Moore Family Folk Art with bottle-cap fish and other nature-inspired creations. "I made it through those other classes, but art was always where I felt most free."

In high school, an art teacher introduced Moore to a genre called primitive, or folk, art — a naive style characterized by its utilitarian and decorative qualities that doesn't employ traditional fine art rules of perspective and proportion. "That stuck," says Moore. "My talents were never in realism; I'm not good at that." But he didn't explore those talents for long, because after college he traded his artistic inclinations for a more mainstream career, as well as wife and kids. “So there was a lull before I started creating stuff again,” Moore explains.

When Moore and his family were living in Florida a decade ago, they vacationed in Estes Park. Moore was so inspired by the Colorado landscape that when he returned to Florida, he started making art again. Soon he had his family involved, and started selling work at flea markets and other spots in the South. “It’s been this really grassroots evolution to where we are now,” Moore says. “I never studied art; I don’t know much about art or art history. I just know I have a limited amount of time and an explosive amount of creativity.” 

Moore works in construction management, and a three-year contract with Littleton Public Schools brought Moore and his family back to Colorado. “That pays the bills, and then I do art for all of the other unforeseen bills,” says Moore. 

Today all five of his kids are involved in Moore Family Folk Art. The oldest daughters, fourteen-year-old Isabella and eleven-year-old Emma, “started going to shows as helpers,” Moore says. Pretty soon, he was teaching them everything he knew, helping them create their own stuff. And earlier this month, the young artists had their first exhibit without Dad in a Florida coffeehouse.

Although Moore’s boys aren’t quite “at the creating art level,” he says, "they’re in the mix.” The boys search junkyards and go dumpster-diving with their father; they collect found items like bottle caps, weathered wood and vintage steel soda cans from the days before manufacturers switched to aluminum cans. What he can't find, Moore buys from “collectors and from people who have inherited an estate and don’t know what to do with them,” he says. Over his his art career, he's purchased about 5,000 cans.

“Right now, almost all of the stuff we make is paintless; color comes in from the old soda cans and bottle caps,” says Moore. “We rarely use anything that’s new. Maybe nails or screws or hanging wire, but everything else is vintage or upcycled.”

Bright, bottle-cap fish are the Moore family’s specialty. “My kids were all born in Florida, and I’ve spent most of my life there,” Moore explains. Although he and his family liked fishing in the Gulf, they like fishing here, too, and are shifting artistic gears to Rocky Mountain trout. “I’ve been surprised by how well we’ve done out here,” he says. “The Denver economy is so strong, and people are actually buying art.”

Moore Family Folk Art is sold in three Colorado venues: Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery, the Wandering Daisy in Breckenridge and Show of Hands, "our home here in Denver," Moore says. “We’ve been in Show of Hands since October, and my daughters and I teach art classes there. We bring giant bins of the stuff we use, and guide folks in making art.”

Classes are held outside, and the kids’ versions are walk-in style, with Isabella and Emma setting up shop for about six hours as budding artists come in and experiment — and nosh on ice cream courtesy of the High Point Creamery truck. Moore’s adult classes are more formal, and typically last about two hours; they'll continue into the fall. “We’ll hold them until it starts snowing again,” Moore says.

For information on both classes and artwork, visit the Moore Family Folk Art website, or follow the clan on Facebook

Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.

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