At the Aspen Chapel Gallery, the only constant is change. Opened in 1985, the gallery on the first floor of the church at the roundabout has rotated shows nearly every six weeks since then (172 consecutive shows, by the count of gallery co-director Tom Ward, who also has been a constant for its 29 years).
The latest show in the gallery, opening today and remaining on display through late August, includes work from 10 local artists, chosen by curator Jennifer Ghormley. Titled “Works on Paper,” the show is surprisingly diverse, with a range in mediums and styles.
“They’re all works on paper, but nobody is doing the same thing,” Ward said.
Susanne Clark has painted watercolors of beach scenes. Judy Hancock has fashioned untitled landscapes with ink on paper. Trace Nichols uses paper for photo etchings of large-scale skulls in two pieces, “Yang of Impermanence” and “Yin of Impermanence.” Marcia Fusaro’s mixed-media prints on paper include still-lifes and outdoor scenes. Sandra Johnson has made abstract monotypes featuring leaves and autumn colors. Liz Frazier has painted oil and acrylic scenes. Dasa Bausova offers childlike figure drawings on paper, unframed and pinned to the gallery wall. Ghormley has used layers of tissue paper to display drawings of hands.
Each artist gets between 10 and 12 feet of wall space, with some overflow of work going up in the bathrooms.
Show themes are often narrower in scope than this summer exhibition. The next show, for instance, titled “Flock,” is focused on artwork about birds. The gallery’s most popular exhibition is usually its annual pre-Christmas “Small Wonders” show, where 30 artists create small-scale pieces and sell them affordably.
Over the years, Ward and co-director Carol Lowenstern said some shows have completely sold-out — a few times to a single buyer decorating a home — and others haven’t sold a single piece. The opening receptions, over the past three decades, have become community-wide events, often with hundreds gathering to see the new work, and partake in the spread of food and drink that’s become customary at the events.
The regular changeover in the gallery, and the frequent additions of new local artists to the ranks of hundreds who’ve shown there, keeps running the gallery interesting, Lowenstern said.
“Every time we have a new show it’s the same excitement all over again,” she said.
Foot traffic outside of the openings is sparse, though pieces have occasionally sold to people who come upon the gallery while attending other chapel happenings — church and Shabbat services, weddings, memorials, 12-step meetings — and from bicyclists who stop in to use the bathroom.
“We’re a well-kept secret,” said Ward. “We try not to be, but we are.”