Aspen Chapel Gallery celebrates 200th show this week with ‘Small Wonders’ |

Aspen Chapel Gallery celebrates 200th show this week with ‘Small Wonders’

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times


What: ‘Small Wonders’

Where: Aspen Chapel Gallery

When: Wednesday, Nov. 29 through Jan. 7; opening reception Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m.

More info; This year’s ‘Small Wonders’ artists are Julie Adriansen, Jocelyn Audette, Sheila Babbie, Mary Ballou, Amy Beidleman, Michael Bonds, DeDe Brinkman, Curt Carpenter, Brian Colley, Jeanette Darnauer, Lorraine Davis, Staci Dickerson, Doug Graybeal, Liz Heller, Kathy Honea, Suzanne Jackson, Sandy Johnson, Steve Kelly, Carol Loewenstern, Sam Louras, Summers Moore, Judy Nordhagen, David Notor, Molly Peacock, Lisa Pendrys, Gail Price, Lisa Singer, Mindy Vernon, and David Warner.

The Aspen Chapel Gallery will celebrate its 200th exhibition Wednesday — a milestone that nobody, including gallery co-director Tom Ward, imagined reaching when it opened 32 years ago.

Ward ran an art gallery and framing shop downtown in the 1970s. When he closed it, he believed his days in that world were done.

“I thought, I never want to go to another gallery opening in my life,” Ward recalled. “But here I am.”

“Here” is still the Chapel Gallery, where Ward has served as co-director since its opening in June 1985. He opened the nonprofit gallery with the late Cornelia Madsen, aiming to hang one summer exhibition and one winter exhibition annually in the modest space below the chapel at the roundabout. After a few years, they began turning over shows more frequently — settling on what Ward calls the “comfortable number” of eight exhibitions per year for the past three decades.

The annual “Small Wonders” show, now in its 12th year, has dependably been its most popular event. The exhibition hosts small works — none bigger than 12 inches-by-12 inches — from about 30 selected local artists. Each makes at least eight works for the show and most sell out. The success of “Small Wonders,” Ward believes, is in the high quality of the artwork and affordability of the pieces on sale, the small scale of the work and its scheduling during the height of holiday shopping season.

“The art is terrific and makes perfect holiday gifts,” curator Ada Christensen said.

In its 32 years, the gallery has showcased work by hundreds of local artists and high schoolers and just about anybody who makes art in Aspen. The gallery shows off works by newcomers to the valley and veterans of the local scene, it offers a forum to hobbyists alongside professionals. Using a rotating stable of guest curators, the gallery manages to cut across styles and media — capturing the diverse array of working artists in the Aspen area.

The gallery’s openings long have been some of the best-attended art events in the valley, drawing capacity crowds of locals (and some tourists).

“Over the years it has become a real community event every time we do an opening,” Ward said.

And in recent years, it has become a vital forum for locally based artists as Aspen galleries have shifted away from local art, leaving the Red Brick and the Chapel Gallery as the only places in the upper valley to consistently show locals’ work.

After 200 shows and 32 years, Ward and current co-director Michael Bonds are still tweaking the Chapel Gallery formula. This summer, for instance, they brought gallerist David Floria on board to organize art talks complementing each show in the gallery. In October, they opened the inaugural Four Rivers Biennial — a new juried show that they’re hoping will become an honored Aspen tradition along with “Small Wonders.”