It’s going to be a good week for art enthusiasts in the upper reaches of the Roaring Fork Valley, with opening receptions on tap at both The Art Base in Basalt and the Aspen Art Museum tonight, an artists talk at the Aspen Chapel Gallery Wednesday and then a double opening at the Red Brick Arts Center on Thursday night. The glut provides evidence of the great opportunities hereabouts for local artists, and, coming on the heels of last week’s First Friday openings in Carbondale, it underscores an interesting point about the different arts scenes in the valley.

In many ways, Carbondale, where the monthly First Fridays have been a great success and the town has earned Colorado Creative District accreditation, could be considered an artistic model for small towns. Openings end up being multi-faceted, free-flowing parties, and bigger events like next week’s Green Is the New Black fashion show often sell out weeks in advance.

It’s an authentic community spirit that Basalt would love to emulate, but the town with two downtowns’ efforts to stimulate something similar have so far proven as riven as the town’s geography and the discussions over the Pan & Fork parcel in Old Town. A number of attempts have been made to institute a Second Fridays art walk, with coordinated openings among the town’s galleries, wine, refreshments and the like, but it never really took off, often leaving The Art Base as the loan holdout.

That’ll be the case again tonight with the opening of a new exhibition by Denver-based artist Daisy Patton, whose “work in oils and archival prints explores the meaning and social conventions of families, little discussed or hidden histories and what it is to be a person living in our contemporary world,” according to The Art Base’s website. Patton is no stranger to the valley, having served a residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center and shown her work at Art Aspen and Aspen’s Skye Gallery.

“She’s really on the radar of people up here in the valley,” said Art Base executive director Genna Moe. “Her style is unique and fresh. She finds old photographs – she doesn’t know the people – and then she paints over them. It’s very decorative, almost like art deco, with a really fun color palette. We just don’t see artwork with people in it very often. Our submissions are mostly abstract work or landscapes or maybe loosely figurative. It’s fun to see something different.”

In Aspen, meanwhile, the arts scene is so entrenched and so robust that there’s no need for any sort of coordinated efforts like First or Second Fridays, resulting in the kind of disparate offerings we’ll be seeing this week.

If any institution could be said to personify the strength of Aspen’s arts culture, it’s the small but mighty Aspen Chapel Gallery, which opened its 210th consecutive exhibition since opening 33 years ago on Feb. 20. That show, called “Flower” and presented in conjunction with human-services nonprofit River Bridge Regional Center, features works from 13 local artists, all of whom will be on hand Wednesday night, March 13, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss their works.

Before that, however, the Aspen Art Museum, which embodies the edificial nature of Aspen’s arts scene in a much more literal way, will welcome Guadalajara, Mexico-based artist Gabriel Rico tonight at 5:30 p.m. for the opening of his show “The Discipline of the Cave.” Taking its name from a 1966 philosophy lecture by John Niemeyer Findlay, the installation, in galleries 2 and 3, will be specific to the AAM and will evoke some of the exhibits on display in the other galleries with, among other things, taxidermy animals.

“It references some of the themes that we’ve touched on in a couple of our recent exhibitions, including the zombie show that’s up right now,” said AAM CEO and Director Heidi Zuckerman. “It’s about the idea of knowledge and how knowledge is acquired, particularly human knowledge. One of the key things in Gabriel’s show is the relationship between humans and nature and between animals and nature and the capacity those elements have for understanding knowledge.”

The week wraps up Thursday, March 14, at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts, with an opening reception for the exhibits “The Figure,” in the Red Brick’s main hallway gallery, and “A Unique Collaboration” in the recently opened west gallery. The former is a group show featuring seven local artists’ takes on the human figure (there are no nudes, however), and the latter is a collaborative exhibition by photographers Diane Rosenblum and Joe Doyle.

“The work in ‘The Figure’ is great,” said Red Brick Executive Director Sarah Roy. “It’s wonderful to see the different ways that artists approach the figure and interpret it, many in a contemporary style. And ‘A Unique Collaboration’ is a project where the artists go into an artist’s studio and photograph the artist in their studio, which represents the space where creativity and ideas are formed. Then they have a program that digitally manipulates the image, so when you look at the image it has these blocks that look like they pop out in 3D.”

Given Aspen’s support for the arts, its almost a given that the reception at the Red Brick will be well attended, which plays into why no galleries in town need to coordinate their efforts. Still, should something like that ever take form, Roy said she’d be interested in trying it here in town.

“I love towns that have First Fridays,” she said. “I think it just brings everybody out in such a celebrating, greet-your-neighbor kind of way in acknowledgment of the arts. That would be interesting if Aspen’s galleries and cultural institutes decided to collaborate together, but I don’t know if those conversations have ever happened before.”

Todd Hartley is the special sections editor for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at

Special Sections Editor