Artists and their art will fill Paepcke Park this weekend

The Downtown Aspen Art Festival returns this weekend and will be held at Paepcke Park. | File photo
The Downtown Aspen Art Festival returns this weekend for its 19th year. Although the festival has moved over the years, the festival will take place this weekend at Paepcke Park, where it will remain for years to come, according to show director Elaine Laurent. “The reason it started is because, oh my God, this is Aspen, how do you not have a spectacular arts festival held here in Aspen? It’s one of the best locations,” Laurent said. The 120 artists will showcase a variety of different mediums including painting, jewelry, sculpture, photography and clay. All the artists will be present in their stands to exhibit their craftsmanship. The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s quite upscale, but there’s something for everyone,” Laurent said. The quality of the art is ensured by the festival’s rigorous application process: artists must send three photos of their works in different styles, in addition to a photo of their booth. If the work is outstanding but the stand presentation is not up to par, the festival organizers will work with the artists to improve their presentation.

“There will be no draped tables,” Laurent said. “It’s a really professional piece of art, it’s very beautiful.” This year, the festival will feature a smaller number of exhibitors due to increased travel costs, including gas prices and hotel rates. Ongoing construction on the side streets also limits the amount of space available for the festival. “Instead of trying to squeeze this show in and push everyone into spaces, we intentionally chose to make it a little smaller so we could fit properly into the park,” Laurent said. Kyra Coates is an artist who will be at Paepcke Park with her oil paintings and a sample of her clothing line. “(My art is) for people who love vibrancy, who love high-energy work, statement pieces, art that pops off the walls,” Coates said. “It’s not art you buy to match your furniture.” With degrees in religious studies and psychology, Coates’ colorful abstract art is inspired by her spiritual journey. After showing her art professionally for four years, Coates took a break from the professional art world in 2005 to become a Hindu nun. “I’m fascinated not only by the spiritual journey, but also by the psychological journey, how it relates across cultures,” Coates said. “And what is this universal human experience of being a conscious being, something greater than ourselves, the growth that we go through on a life path? That’s really what inspires me. Coates last exhibited her work at the Aspen Art Festival shortly before taking a break from professional art. Coates said she was looking forward to returning to the Aspen Art Festival, which she considers a high-end show with art-savvy attendees. “I think Aspen is a very sophisticated crowd and they’re very art savvy,” Coates said. Jaime Barks, who will also present his art at the festival, uses acrylic to paint expressionist landscapes inspired by nature. All of her paintings were crafted from places she visited, including through her role as artist-in-residence for the National Parks Service. “I want to bring attention to the power of nature and the feelings we get when we go outside,” Barks said. “Art is really special because it allows us to remember what it feels like to go outside and look at the stars.” Barks’ love for nature extends to a passion for conservation and leave no trace principles, which are reflected in his art. Her art is used as a way to spark a dialogue about the environment. “Art is a great way for me personally to have conversations about the importance of sustainability and conservation and keeping our public lands clean and preserved for future generations,” Barks said. “I feel like art is a way to have that non-judgmental conversation; it’s more accessible. After this weekend, the show will travel to four more Colorado locations. Anna Meyer is an editorial intern at The Aspen Times for part of the summer. She will be a sophomore at Vassar College this fall.

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