Artists and their art will fill Paepcke Park this weekend

The Downtown Aspen Art Festival returns this weekend and will be held at Paepcke Park.|File photo
The Downtown Aspen Art Festival returns this weekend for its 19th year. Although the festival has moved locations over the years, the festival will take place at Paepcke Park this weekend, where it will stay for future years, according to show director Elaine Laurent. “The reason it started is because, oh my gosh, this is Aspen, how do you not have a spectacular fine curated art festival here in Aspen? It’s one of the most prime locations,” Laurent said. The 120 artists will showcase a variety of different mediums including painting, jewelry, sculpture, photography and clay. All of the artists will be present in their booths to display their handmade work. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“It is all pretty upscale, but there’s something for everyone,” Laurent said. The quality of the art is ensured by the festival’s stringent application process: The artists must send in three photos of their artwork in different styles, in addition to a photo of their booth display. If the artwork is exceptional but the booth display is not up to par, the festival organizers will work with the artists to improve their display.

“There’s going to be no draped tables,” Laurent said. “This is really professionally displayed artwork, it’s very beautiful.” This year, the festival will feature a smaller number of exhibitors due to the increased expense of travel including gas prices and hotel rates. The construction taking place on side streets also limits the amount of space available for the festival. “Instead of trying to tighten this show up and shove everybody in spaces, we chose to have it a little bit smaller intentionally so that we would fit in the park properly,” Laurent said. Kyra Coates is one artist who will be at Paepcke Park with her oil paintings and a sample of her clothing line. “(My art is) for people that love vibrancy, love high energy work, statement pieces, the art that pops off the walls,” Coates said. “It’s not art you buy to match your furniture.” With a degree in religious studies and psychology, Coates’ colorful abstract art is inspired by her spiritual background. After showing her art professionally for four years, Coates took a hiatus from the professional art world in 2005 to become a Hindu nun. “I’m fascinated by not only the spiritual journey but the psychological journey, how that relates across cultures,” Coates said. “And what is this universal human experience of being an aware being, something bigger than ourselves, the growth that we go through a life path? That’s really what inspires me.” Coates last exhibited her work at the Aspen Art Festival shortly before taking a break from professional art. Coates said she is looking forward to returning to the Aspen Art Festival, which she considers a high-end show with attendees who are knowledgeable about art. “I think Aspen is a very sophisticated crowd and they’re very art savvy,” Coates said. Jaime Barks, who also will show her art at the festival, uses acrylics to paint expressionist landscapes inspired by nature. All of her paintings were conceived from places she’s been, part of which is through her role as an artist-in-residence for the National Parks Service. “I want to draw attention to the power of nature and the feelings that we get when we go outside,” Barks said. “Art is really special because it allows us to remember what it feels like to go outside and look up at the stars.” Barks’ love for nature extends to a passion for conservationism and leave-no-trace principles, which is reflected in her art. Her art is utilized as a way to spark a dialogue about the environment. “Art is an excellent vehicle for me personally to have conversations about the importance of sustainability and conservation and keeping our public lands clean and preserved for future generations,” Barks said. “I feel like art is a way to have that conversation in a very nonjudgmental manner; it’s more approachable.” After this weekend, the show will travel to four more locations in Colorado. Anna Meyer is an editorial intern at The Aspen Times for part of the summer. She will be a sophomore at Vassar College this fall.

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