At home in Aspen: Red Brick Center’s online art classes, virtual exhibition
The final in-person interview I did on the art beat before the coronavirus shutdown was with the artist and curator Trace Nichols at the Red Brick Center for the Arts. It was Monday, March 9. We bumped elbows instead of shaking hands when I arrived and, in keeping with the public health advisories of the day, kept a little extra distance between us on our walkthrough of the show, which had been scheduled to open three days later.
As we all know, everything changed in the hours and days to come as Aspen’s public spaces began shuttering to stop the spread of COVID-19. That Thursday’s opening of Nichols’ curated “Artists at the Intersection of Technology and Tradition” was canceled, and soon after that the Red Brick itself was closed.
But since then, the city-run nonprofit Red Brick has begun rolling out virtual versions of its program of art exhibition and education.
“Technology and Tradition” itself went virtual, with a 30-minute online video experience. It includes a walk-through of the show, narrated artist and process statement and detailed close-ups of the artworks, along with footage of the works being made.
Not knowing how relevant the concept would be to our moment of isolation and crisis, Nichols curated the show – with works by herself, Teresa Booth Brown, K Rhynus Cesark and Andrew Roberts-Gray – around ideas of art and the techonolgies used to make and share it, including videos sharing the artists’ processes. It translated well to the virtual public space we’re all living in now.
“This situation has definitely made me consider the future use of advanced broadcasting and presentation technology as an integral component to any future project and exhibition,” Nichols said. “At this point I don’t feel we will return to a ‘things as usual’ position, but rather create a new norm that considers the possibility of such public health crises – and other global and/or local situations – as part of that norm.”
In addition to the virtual exhibition, the Red Brick has begun rolling out virtual versions of its popular art classes for kids and adults.
Masterpiece Mine, the popular series of art-making classes where novices recreate masterpieces, went online with a free class led from home led by Lorraine Davis, where with simple pen and paper or other supplies you have at home, you can make a Picasso-inspired portrait.
And on April 8, the Red Brick launched “Meaningful Memory” for kids, an instruction manual for kinds for to making an original card game at home.
Those interactive art-making offerings are supplemented by spotlights on the people who work in the Red Brick, both in its art studios and in its administrative offices for arts nonprofits. Among them are a blog from resident artist Kate Flynn on her at-home projects, reading recommendations from Aspen Words’ Caroline Tory and a quarantine playlist by Jazz Aspen Snowmass founder Jim Horowitz.
The virtual offerings from the Red Brick are leading City of Aspen entities as they launch an #AspenTogether remote engagement initiative with social media posts that will also include virtual activities with the Wheeler Opera House and Aspen Recreation Department.