Second wave of local artists to exhibit work at Aspen City Hall
Roaring Fork Valley’s Sam Harvey and Esther Nooner are just two of a dozen artists from Colorado installing their work on Wednesday morning in Aspen City Hall.
The new works are replacing the inaugural exhibition that went up in February 2022, shortly after the new 37,000-square-foot building on Rio Grande Place opened that autumn.
The exhibition will consist of a curated selection of works by local and regional artists as a testament to their talent and reflect themes and experiences relevant to life in the Mountain West.
This exhibition will run to spring 2025.
“Building on the success of the inaugural exhibition when the new Aspen City Hall opened in 2021, City Council agreed to fund the continuation of this exciting exhibition program,” said Sarah Roy, executive director for the Red Brick Center for the Arts. “The Red Brick is proud to foster an environment where local artists can create and be seen by a wide variety of people around our community in the public sphere. This is part of the Red Brick and City’s larger vision to support a public art plan, building on Aspen’s cultural vitality.”
Harvey, who first came to the Roaring Fork Valley as an artist in residency at Anderson Ranch, has been living and working here since the 1990s. He said he fell in love with the area because of the beauty and his experience at the ranch, a “perfect post-graduate experience, a casual and inviting environment to meet lots of artists and make friends.”
He and Nooner will be showing works exploring a deeper questions.
Harvey’s piece will be a hanging sculpture made of a series of colorful arcs, which he described as a “cross between doorway or window that serve as stand-ins for personalities or individuals.
“I’m just trying to sort out the sociopolitical state of being an American right now, just like all the ugly stuff that used to be hidden, becoming exposed and visible,” he said. “What does it mean to have a voice now? What does anything mean? And how do we survive?”
For her part, Nooner will be exhibiting a landscape photography piece that represents the Maroon Bells, in which the Bells aren’t clearly visible.
“It’s a photograph of the Bells, but the Maroon Bells have been removed,” she said. “I removed them with Clorox bleach wipe. I have this body of work where I use household chemicals to manipulate the ink on the paper, and it’s a metaphor to our relationship to the landscape. Using those things that we all have access to and that we use every day. Poking at you know what the landscape could look like in 50 years and 100 years or so forth, as we continue to treat it the way we do.”
She and Harvey have managed to carve out a way to pursue their art here — but not without challenges from limited affordable studio space, lack of galleries that show work by local artists, and the high cost of living. They said they appreciate that the city is creating opportunities for them and their peers work to be seen and supported by the community.
“Unless you’re connected to the Anderson Ranch or The Red Brick or you’ve been here a long time, you can’t come into this community now unless you’re already funded in some way,” Harvey said. “It’s nearly impossible. That being said, before the last 10 years or so, it was an incredibly dynamic artists’ community, and a lot of crazy weird stuff was being produced and happening. So it’s always been supportive. It’s just the bar for entry has changed.”
Likewise, Nooner — artist and Anderson Ranch’s studio coordinator of photography and new media — credited the dedication of the city and other non-profits for making it possible to live a creative life here.
“It’s great that Aspen and City Hall want to support local artists,” she said. “It’s an amazing thing for people coming in and out of City Hall every day to have a little bit of a taste of the local perspective on the space.”
The collection will also include works by Leah Aegerter, Brenda Biondo, Ghislaine Boreel, Jessie Chaney, Emily Chaplin, Brian Colley, Chris Erikson, Michael McConnell, Johanna Mueller, Trace Nichols, Esther Macy Nooner, Kristin Wright, and a selection of Tom Benton political posters on loan from the Gonzo Gallery.
City Hall is open to the public, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.