At the start of this past ski season, the Aspen Art Museum held a free dance party on its rooftop with local DJ Alex Golden. The event served as a celebratory kickoff to the winter and was met with such success that it snowballed into a weekly après series — becoming a post-ski party hotspot for locals and visitors alike.
Now, to many peoples’ excitement, the AAM dance parties are back and rolling into summer with a seasonal twist.
The event, named the “Sunday Sunset Dance Party” for the summer, got underway last weekend and will commence every Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. through the end of August. Exceptions include the week of ArtCrush and July 3, when instead, the party will transpire on Monday at its normal time to be part of the museum’s Fourth of July festivities.
Angela Bellotte, director of events and membership cultivation at the AAM, spearheaded the initial party last winter — which was not necessarily intended to be a reoccurring event at its inception, she explained.
“We made the first one happen, and it was so successful and it was so much fun,” Bellotte said. “So we thought, well, let’s try it again. And then, every week, it just grew and became what it is now.”
Week after week throughout the recent ski season, more and more people would show up for these free après parties atop the art museum. And from toddlers bouncing their knees to Golden’s house beats to senior citizens dancing on chairs, the inclusive event attracted all walks of life.
Golden, who remains the AAM’s resident DJ for the summer season, said “it was like a snowball effect.”
“Because there’s nowhere else for anybody local to go where it’s free, where we can all actually hang out and get a reasonably priced drink,” the DJ added.
Bellotte noted that through this new venture, members of the community have started to experience the museum’s space in a different way. And for a lot of people, she said, this experience has been both surprising and enlightening.
“It’s really opened up the space for people in the community who thought this was more of an elitist, exclusive institution,” Bellotte said. “And now they’re realizing that it’s for them. It’s for our community. And art is free.”
Following a successful winter season, Bellotte said she sat down and assessed all of the benefits the party created for the museum itself. From increasing revenue streams and attracting corporate sponsors, to exposing both locals and visitors to the museum’s exhibitions, the weekly dance parties at the AAM Rooftop Café have proven beneficial for the museum as an institution and the community at large.
Amy Roldan, AAM marketing and communications manager, said the ongoing event has also been a step forward in the museum’s “artists-first mentality” — which is an initiative by AAM Director Nicola Lees.
“It definitely follows Nicola’s approach, you know, Golden is our artist with this event,” Roldan said. “And it’s shifted the way that people see us: Yes, we’re still educational; yes, we still have workshops, but now we have a little party in us too — we have a little bit more to give.”
Changes or new features that come with the summer iteration of the dance party include the day being moved from its Saturday slot in the winter to Sundays. This decision was due to summer being the AAM’s high season for private facility rentals, particularly Wednesdays-Saturdays. Additionally, Sundays are typically more open in the summer for the large demographic of locals in the service industry, Golden explained.
While Golden is still the main act, other local DJs will be brought in some weeks to play back-to-back with Golden or fill in when she’s traveling for other gigs.
Like in the winter, the weekly party is free and open to the public. Attendees can purchase cocktails from The Slippery Slope bar and snacks from the new Rooftop Café menu.
“It’s an event that’s casual enough to where you can just drop in, but it’s also something that when you’re visiting town, it’s something special to do or come across,” Bellotte said.
Bellotte, Golden and Roldan all expressed gratitude for the Etkin family in Aspen for being a central supporter of the event and in the continuation of the accessible gatherings.