New trade organization aims to connect visual artists across Colorado | AspenTimes.com

New trade organization aims to connect visual artists across Colorado

A fledgling trade organization for Colorado visual artists is launching a statewide series of artist meet-ups with an event at Justice Snow's in Aspen.

The nonprofit Colorado Artists was founded by Roaring Fork Valley artist Lynn Walforf and aims to provide professional support to working artists.

Its first "Violet Hour" event, aimed at connecting artists in rural areas, will be Thursday at Justice Snow's in Aspen.

"Visual artists tend to work in isolation by the very nature of their work, especially in rural regions, and these pop-up events provide them with the opportunity to meet kindred spirits, find new colleagues and forge new collaborations," Waldorf said.

She was inspired to start the membership organization after a visit to Washington state in 2014, when she heard a presentation about a trade group there called Artist Trust, which offers grants and professional development opportunities for artists.

"I thought, 'Gee, why couldn't we have something like that here in Colorado?'" Waldorf recalled.

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So she came home to her painting studio in the Red Brick Center and got to work. The nonprofit got on its feet with the support of Carbondale Arts and last year was given its own federal nonprofit status.

While local organizations and the state-run Colorado Creative Industries do provide support for artists, Waldorf saw some clear shortcomings and blind spots. She specified the unique needs of the region through a survey of 1,100 artists across Colorado. She heard that artists wanted business training opportunities, affordable supplies, ways to connect with fellow artists spread around isolated rural communities and a directory of working Colorado artists. She's now hustling to fundraise and grow her membership base.

Colorado Artists already has launched some basic services, including creative coaching sessions, webinars and regular art marketing workshops on the Front Range and in the mountains. It's recently signed up 20 business partners across the Western Slope (including four from Aspen to Glenwood Springs) offering discounted museum memberships, art supplies and framing services in the valley.

The "Violet Hour" sessions aim to bring artists together to network and talk shop.

"Artists who are working at one end of the valley don't necessarily know who is working at the other end of the watershed," Waldorf said.

She also is hopeful events like the one Thursday at Justice Snow's — featuring a short talk about working with galleries by photographer Sandy Kaplan — will encourage attendees to become members of Colorado Artists, which is open to all visual artists. Annual membership is $25.

Walforf hopes to grow membership to 5,000. She's currently on a push to raise $50,000 to get all of its pilot programs up and running on the Western Slope by year's end.

Once Colorado Artists gets its membership numbers up, Waldorf explained, they'll be able to launch a statewide artist directory. The online portal would allow artists to connect with peers in other parts of the state, while also showcasing their work to buyers, collectors and galleries.

"It will be arranged by region and by art discipline, and will be a way for artists to find one another," Waldorf said. "So if I know I'm going to Grand Junction, I can see who is doing sculpture there, I can call that person and say, 'Hey, can I stop by?'"

And from there, Waldorf hopes eventually to be able to begin giving grants to artists across the state and scholarships for artists to teach in schools that have cut art education programs. Waldorf is aiming to build the organization to the point of running on a $250,000 annual budget. For now, it's a labor of love with Waldorf volunteering her time and working without any paid staff.

atravers@aspentimes.com

If You Go …

What: ‘Violet Hour’ with Colorado Artists

Where: Justice Snow’s

When: Thursday, May 25, 5-7 p.m.

More info: Guest speaker and photographer Sandy Kaplan will discuss how to work with galleries. Artists who sign up for membership will be entered in a raffle to win art supplies; http://www.coloradoartists.org

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