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Celebrating the arts

May Eynon

You don’t have to look too far to satisfy cravings for culture and the arts in the summertime around Aspen. A prodigious supply of arts and entertainment activity is available at close range, from fine-art exhibitions to rousing musical performances.The Aspen Art Museum (AAM) has been marking its 25th year with a stream of events, openings and special features. On Thursday, July 22, Brooklyn-based artist Roxy Paine was on hand for an exhibition, reception and community picnic at the museum. One of his trademark life-size, stainless-steel trees was installed on the grounds of the museum, immediately drawing attention from all guests and passersby. Standing 40 feet tall, Paine’s sculpture, titled “Dead Tree,” blends into its natural environment of spruce, aspen and cottonwood trees. “I think it’s wonderful for Aspen to have a sculpture of this quality on display,” said private art dealer Arno Schefler of Aspen and New York City. “It’s very impressive, wonderfully fabricated and well-conceived. I truly hope there’s a way for this sculpture to somehow remain permanent.”Jack Johnson, the chair of the AAM Contemporaries, a young professionals association, reverently expressed his concern for the piece. “What will happen if we get a mighty wind?”Later that evening in Snowmass, an entirely different art form was celebrated: the music of famed New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his band. As part of the Free Summer Concert Series presented by Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) and the Snowmass Village Resort Association, Ruffins commanded quite a crowd to congregate on Fanny Hill that evening. Ruffins’ rich history as musician includes his role in the Rebirth Brass Band, which he left in 1994 to break out on his own. “This cat played my sister’s wedding in New Orleans,” said a concertgoer. “He’s an unbelievable performer.”The Free Concert Series continues through Thursday, Aug. 26, with blues, hip-hop and Latin music on the calendar.Another recent JAS event was the JASummerNights Swing staged at Aspen Highlands on Saturday, July 24. A benefit for JAS’ Jazz Academy, the gala evening featured popular swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. JAS Academy Summer Sessions Bands preceded the headliner, performing on the main stage under the big top and inside at the Iguana’s Lounge. Among the performers that night, Zach Lucas of the East Coast band, “Insight,” remarked on his time in Aspen for this year’s Summer Sessions. “It’s been intense being in the academy. I’ve learned a lot this week.” The benefit to support music education clearly had a flavorful feel to it.Chef Bryan Nelson of Iguana’s Bar & Grill wowed the crowds with his clever buffets, ranging from a sushi bar to Latin appetizers to a carving station. Clearly the most popular post of all was the chocolate fountain created by Nelson. Guests skewered marshmallows, pound cake or their choice of fruit and then dipped it under the flowing chocolate stream. “I haven’t left this table all night,” confessed a guest.Other hits at the party included an ice sculpture martini bar and an endlessly-flowing margarita fountain. Joe Lang, JAS’ festival director and education programs director, was pleased with the venue and appreciated the cooperative weather, which enabled the outdoor setting to work to its full potential. “Lady luck smiles when the music’s good,” he stated.When Big Bad Voodoo Daddy took the main stage around 9 p.m., a rousing dance party commenced. Under the colorful lights and on the green, guests shook their collective thing to the ever-so-popular swing.Look for their latest DVD, “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Live,” which will be available in stores starting Aug. 3. To contact May to send info, insight or invites, e-mail: allthewaymaymay@hotmail.com


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