Aspen is known for its art scene, featuring the world-renowned Aspen Art Museum and a plethora of high-end galleries lining its brick-studded mall. For a local art perspective, exit the ballyhoo and travel over the bridge and through the roundabout to find the Aspen Chapel Gallery tucked under Prince of Peace’s steeple. The gallery has a dedicated entrance and is open to the public daily from 10am to 5pm.
The Aspen Chapel Gallery’s 240th show, “Here,” was curated by local architect and photographer Greg Watts and will run through Saturday, April 1. The exhibit showcases local photographers both young and old by promoting five high-school students among the eleven contributing artists.
“I wanted to get all types of perspectives,” Watts said. “We are going to be leaving this valley to these young people, and I want them to have a say in what this valley is about.” The vision of the portrait, landscape and architectural photograph show is to represent lifestyles across the Roaring Fork Valley. It is in partnership with the Aaron Roberts-Gray Memorial Scholarship at the Aspen Community Foundation.
The interfaith Aspen Chapel was established in 1967 with a mandate of inclusivity and a focus on the arts, which is evident not only in the pews but the gallery below. The chapel was conceived in the 1960s by a Mennonite bishop who was influenced by a trip to France where he discovered old windmills, which were converted to wayside chapels by the simple addition of a steeple. They were often referred to as “Paux Mulon” or “Mill of Peace,” according to the chapel’s website. After services, the mixed congregation is invited to socialize and pursue the ever-changing local artwork lining the whitewashed walls of the communal space at the base of the chapel.
Molly Briggs, one of the artists in this show, was inspired by her photojournalism work for The Aspen Daily News. “Here” is her first photography show. Her candid images capture emotionally imbued scenes of women interacting in the Vally’s nightlife. Briggs’ work encapsulates a narrative within still but almost fleeting photographs. She utilized the existing ambient light, instead of a flash. Employing color grading techniques she produced saturated pigments and enhanced visual textures within the images.
Photographer Michele Cardamone contributed an array of portraits titled “Denizens of ‘70s in Aspen.” Beneath each image of a longtime local is a quote relaying their experience of Aspen. For example, Tim Cottrell said, “I loved the irreverent ‘messy vitality’ that was so prevalent back then. We were one.”
The gallery exclusively shows artists from the Roaring Fork Valley, and is one of only four locations consistently featuring local artists, along with the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen, The Art Base in Basalt and The Launchpad in Carbondale. Tom Ward has facilitated the gallery’s eight annual group shows since the gallery’s inception almost 38 years ago. He told The Sun, “Local artists are very challenged when it comes to getting into a downtown gallery.”
In 2018, the gallery started donating 10% of the proceeds from the sale of artwork to local nonprofits. To date, the gallery has donated $38,500 to 23 organizations. From its annual high school shows, an additional $9,200 has been given back to support local art departments.
Each show has a unique curator responsible for selecting artists and establishing a relationship with a Valley nonprofit. Michael Bonds, a local ceramicist, joined Ward at the gallery in 2017 to aid in managing the curators and communicating with artists. Bonds said that the gallery exemplifies the concept “of building community and giving back to the community.”
Bonds and Ward also seek sponsorship for each show, and the gallery is regularly awarded a grant from The Aspen Thrift Shop, which is applied toward a weekly KAJX spot announcing the current show. TKC Foundation is also instrumental in supporting the work of the local artists. The gallery functions under the umbrella of The Aspen Chapel but is independently run and pays rent for its space. Ward said, “We couldn’t rent a space downtown. That would be impossible.”
The upcoming show, titled “Les Femmes,” is a mixed medium exhibit of all female artists in partnership with Planned Parenthood of Glenwood Springs. When asked about the current religious and political controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood, Ward told The Sun, “We can’t shy away from supporting things that support people.” The Aspen Chapel and its gallery are fulfilling the mission to build community through spirituality, the arts and inclusivity.
The Aspen Chapel Gallery’s shows are open to any artist living in the Roaring Fork Valley. For more information, to participate in a show or support the gallery, visit www.aspenchapelgallery.com