Art explodes across Grand County


by Tracy Navarrete

There’s a new vibe, an excitement, a “yes we can” attitude from Grand County artists and small business owners. Slowly, Grand County is starting to realize what towns and cities all across the country have experienced. Vibrant art scenes and interactive activities attract visitors and locals alike to the area. It brings patrons to existing restaurants and businesses and spurs the growth of new ones.

Sure, towns like Grand Lake, Winter Park, and even Fraser have held concerts, large events, and theater that flood their towns with tourists. This new art movement is about community and entrepreneurial partnerships between small business and local artists. While this concept is not new, there seem to be a lot more local events.

Winter Park businesses Framewerx, Uptripping, and the Viking Lodge combined forces this past winter to create First Tracks Friday, a series of repurposed ski and snowboard themed art creations crafted by patrons and townspeople, with age ranges from pre-teen through retirees. The art was eventually sold by way of silent auction, with half of the proceeds going to the artists and the other half going to various charities. Suzie Royce Cruse, the owner of Framewerx, felt a strong bond with her community. First Tracks Friday drew crowds up to 150 people, mostly locals. “We promoted a call for artists through local newspapers and through Facebook. Anyone who wanted to create art on the skis or snowboards paid a small entry fee.
“Everyone who bid helped to raise money for the charities so everyone was a winner”.

The town of Grand Lake was officially invited by the State of Colorado to become an Art District. Though it’s not yet officially obtained an art district status, Grand Lake Creative Art District has already formed artisan committees, has held several meetings and has over two dozen active members. Members are mostly artists ranging from musicians, painters, photographers, and other artistic mediums. Economic Development Director, DiAnn Butler is fully engaged with GLCAD for future planning. GLCAD has already implemented a successful boat-making workshop and is busy planning future year-round art workshops and events.

The town of Granby was exceptionally busy this past year with artistic activity. The Chamber of Commerce hosted a beer garden every Friday night from June thru Labor Day featuring local bands, cornhole tournaments and Farmer’s Markets at their new location. The Chamber shares space with Westside 40, a co-operative of over 40 local artist and vendors. Westside 40 hosted live artistic events during the beer garden that included wine tasting, live painting, and local author book signings. Crowd sizes for indoor and outdoor events ranged anywhere from 200 up to 1600.

The large majority of the crowds were locals. However, vacationing families and another tourist also showed up to participate. Events like the beer garden and live art events give artists like Westside 40’s Casey Paugh, a stay at home mom, more exposure to her work. “At this point in my life, I never thought I would actually be able to pursue making money with my art. It has been such an honor and privilege to pursue a gift that God has given me, and use it for the enjoyment of others.”

Granby continues their momentum on their art movement with a mural designed and facilitated by nationally acclaimed muralist Pat Milbery of SoGnar. Volunteers have already prepped the wall near the EMS building while the painting of the actual mural will commence later this month. It will be Granby’s first mural and Grand County’s longest. Local artists and volunteers of all ages including students from Middle Park High School will help SoGnar with the painting. In addition, a new art networking group “Art Block” was recently formed in Granby to connect the community through the arts. The group will work with the local Chamber of Commerce, artist and business owners to plan and implement more art events. Art Block will kick off their first official meeting the third week in September to plan for seasonal, winter events and activities in Granby. Anyone wishing to join Art Block can contact Westside 40 at 970 531-9053 for more details.