Art Base hosts virtual exhibition for mentorship program

Cody Thompson's "Crisis Heads" in the ARTmentors exhibition at Art Base in Basalt.


What: Claudette Carter ARTmentors Program exhibition


When: Through May 28

More info: Artist talks, moderated by curator Lissa Ballinger, are also featured on the site.

Basalt High School junior Cody Thompson spent the early stretch of his time in the Art Base’s Claudette Carter ARTmentors program kicking around ideas with ceramicist Matthew Jinks, his mentor, looking at various artists’ work and Pinterest pages in search of inspiration for a project.

The novel coronavirus pandemic ended the search, along with his in-person sessions with Jinks, and led to his “Crisis Heads,” a collection of 50 polymer mask-like sculptures depicting the faces of distress during the public health crisis.

“The coronavirus happened and my inspiration shifted while I was doing this,” Thompson explained in a recorded artist talk about the 2020 ARTmentors show, which opened virtually and runs through May 28 on the Art Base website. “I would go out in the pandemonium and just look at people — they were panicked and everything was crazy. When lockdown happened I would pull inspiration form movies and TV shows.”

Thompson is one of four high school students who the Art Base paired with a working artist for the 2020 edition of ARTmentors. Now in its 13th year, ARTmentors included new wrinkles for 2020, like mentoring in the commercial arts aimed at career development and a focus solely on students who live in Basalt.

Basalt High freshman Analyn Hoffner paired with Nancy Lovendahl, who founded the ARTmentors program. Hoffner made puzzle piece-shaped mixed-media works on tar paper inspired by constellations.

Colorado Rocky Mountain School freshman Tanner Beazley was mentored by painter Doug Graybeal and made watercolors of natural Roaring Fork Valley scenes and prints of nature merged with man-made infrastructure.

Katherine Davila, a Basalt High senior, teamed with Summers Moore and made photo portraits of her friends. She began in black and white, but shifted to color as the coronavirus shutdown limited her access to facilities.

The trajectory of each project shifted as mentoring sessions moved from art studios into virtual space.

“All of them had to change their projects dramatically,” said Art Base curator Lissa Ballinger, who hung the show while observing social-distancing protocol with Jinks (none of the students have yet seen the installation in person).

Producing an exhibition in the crisis, these student artists noted, also gave them an unexpected lesson in time management as they learned to balance the personal turmoil of the shutdown and remote schoolwork while also plugging away on this paid internship. The work they’ve produced, Beazley noted, gives them something tangible and positive to hold onto from this traumatic and historic moment.

The online exhibition is nimble and user-friendly, approximating an in-person experience. Virtual visitors can see installation and detail photos, along with 360-degree imagery of the gallery and recordings of artist talks — taped on Zoom and moderated by Ballinger — with each of the students and mentors discussing the work, their process and the effect of the pandemic on both.

In mid-March as public health orders closed the Art Base, its administrators got to work on planning its first virtual exhibition. The Art Base now plans to host online exhibitions in perpetuity to complement in-gallery shows.

“We will always, moving forward, have an online platform,” Ballinger said.

In the Roaring Fork Valley art world, the Art Base was the leader of the pack in responding to the constraints of the stay-home period. On March 14 as stay-home orders began going into place, the nonprofit launched its free and popular Art Kits To-Go program, leaving art-making kits on its porch for pick-up. Online classes soon followed, and later a window art project for the midvalley.

The Art Base also quickly got to work on an online exhibitions program, beginning with this student show.

“There was never a question,” said programs director Abby Gierke. “We knew that exhibitions are a huge part of what we do at the Art Base, so right away we knew we were going to put exhibitions online.”

Local students have also led the way on the virtual exhibition of art in the Roaring Fork Valley. The ARTmentors show follows the virtual opening of the Aspen Art Museum’s Young Curators of the Roaring Fork last month. For young people, many experiencing their first time exhibiting art, postponing or canceling was not an option.

“The work from students has so much more resonance installed,” Ballinger said. “That’s always true, but it was extremely important to them and to the mentors in this case. It felt like an endpoint.”


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