Margaret Hair: ArtWalk going strong, hoping for more

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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.

Going into their sixth First Friday ArtWalk, event organizers and contributors are eager to see how the event will fare in fair weather.

"We want to see how this thing behaves over the summer," said Linda Laughlin, director of visual arts for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. If that behavior means more street traffic from locals and visitors during the event, Laughlin said street performers or small music acts could be a way to draw people into an art-filled, festival atmosphere in downtown.

Although the logistics of having people perform outside can be tricky and might take awhile to work out, the idea of amping up the ArtWalk atmosphere with live entertainment is a good one, and it's one that should be actively pursued.

A few participating galleries already have made strides toward that, booking live music to go along with Friday receptions and openings. This month, Spill the Beans Espresso Bar features Baroque and Celtic music from the Common Ground Consort trio, Colorado Group Realty hosts members of the Steamboat Springs Orchestra Youth Program, and Blue Sky Pottery presents cellist John Sant'Ambrogio.

"We've always wanted to kind of expand the art a little bit from the visual that we have and enhance it with the music. And it always makes for a really nice night, to have the music in the background," said Deb Babcock, who owns Blue Sky Pottery and shows her work there.

Sant'Ambrogio said he plans to match classical cello selections with the colors and playfulness of the pottery on display at Blue Sky, bending major and minor notes to match the mood of the work.

"I've always been very supportive of art and music combined - add a little food in and it makes it perfect - so people are asking me to play and make some correlation between what I'm playing and the art," Sant'Ambrogio said. "Sometimes it's a stretch, but I honestly do feel that there's a great correlation between music and the arts."

Because, as Sant'Ambrogio believes, music is a universal art form, it can add greatly to an event that is meant to promote any of the arts, visual or performing.

More than that, adding performing elements to a visual presentation keeps people engaged. Offering finger foods, drinks and mingling in a gallery will do that to a point, but free cake keeps even the most interested gallery-goer in one place for only so long. Adding a performing element keeps people out longer and gives them time to absorb the art on the walls while they absorb the art sounding around the room.

Live entertainment inside or outside ArtWalk venues also will aid proposed plans to involve more downtown businesses. Bars and restaurants might be more likely to offer special deals on ArtWalk nights if they're guaranteed stronger street traffic from people who plan to stay in town for the evening.

The more incentive people get to do that - whether it comes in the form of live music or people juggling on the sidewalk - the more successful a monthly art event will be.

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