Margaret Hair: Art community making strides

Gallery walks, First Fridays would give downtown spark

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Margaret Hair

Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

— For this week's 4 Points, I talked to a few prominent members of Steamboat's arts community about organizing.

Organizing the 26 members of the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat into a functional collective. Organizing people interested in dance around a certain kind of music (big band swing). And organizing as many of the community's visual artists as possible to create a monthly "art walk."

As gallery owner Kimberly Saari noted in an interview, scheduling show openings for the same day every month - in this case, the first Friday - gives both locals and tourists a reliable dose of new, strong art.

Even if a gallery wants to open its new exhibits on some other date, that wouldn't necessarily bar them from participating.

With some of Steamboat's larger galleries now in a straight line down Lincoln Avenue, creating a regular event that people of any age can enjoy only makes sense.

Saari referred to her experience with "art walks" in Richmond, Va. Of course, Richmond has more galleries than Steamboat by merit of being a bigger city and has had an active, professional arts community for years.

But Steamboat also has an active arts community, and one that works for a population that's small enough to support it wholeheartedly.

Between Saari, Laura Wait and Diane Conni - two of the artists who will show work in her gallery on Friday - and me, none of us has ever seen an organized "art walk" fail.

That's because the setup is so good: a couple of galleries within walking distance of each other; a couple of businesses in between with some art on the walls and maybe a dinner special; and, depending on the demographic of the town's arts community, bottles of wine or kegs of beer.

Add some live music - anything can work here, so long as it fits the feel of the gallery - and you've got an event that not only draws locals out to the art spaces one established Friday a month, but can also become an attraction for visitors.

Saari said there simply are too many people in Steamboat Springs who care about art too much for this idea not to pan out.

Hopefully, she's right.

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