‘Works from Home’
Aspen Art Museum welcomes kids’ art back with 400-plus piece exhibition
What: Roaring Fork Youth Art Expo: Still Lifes and Works from Home
When: Through March 14
Where: Aspen Art Museum
How much: Free
More info: Work will also be viewable online at aspenartmuseum.org. Reservations for timed entry are recommended, as the museum is operating at a limited capacity due to COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Young people’s art is back in the Aspen Art Museum, filling two lower level galleries with more than 400 works, adorning the Veit Laurent Kurz sculptural installation from the museum’s recently concluded “Winterfest.”
The Roaring Fork Youth Art Expo asked artists from kindergarten through 12th grade to reflect, in pandemic-appropriate prompts, on what they miss, their favorite things or rooms and meals they enjoy.
The result is an immersive experience where a viewer can take in this massive volume of work while navigating Kurz’s sculptures and survey the pandemic experience of young people from Aspen to Glenwood Springs to Parachute.
The task of designing the exhibition fell to Los Angeles-based artist Adam Stamp, whose work has centers around functional sculpture (he also made the working bar/installation The Slippery Slope on the museum’s rooftop deck) and in non-traditional exhibition, including his Los Angeles studio/gallery The New Low.
While he was making the bar, museum director Nicola Lees asked if he would be interested in curating the Roaring Fork Youth Art Expo. He thrilled to the idea, as he recalled during the chaotic last push of installation before the show opened on Saturday.
“The idea of encouraging some of these young makers to become artists, or art professionals or collectors or museum members, to encourage them to seek out art,” Stamp said, “and that they’re exposed to contemporary art early, I think that’s really cool.”
He noted that taking the museum’s approach to the show – bringing its full curatorial resources and filling two of its main galleries – evidences a respect for the work that young people are rarely afforded by such an institution.
“This is an amazing museum with amazing projects,” Stamp said. “Hopefully, by being in it, they gain a desire to understand what else is in it, maybe for the rest of their youth and then into adulthood.”
The expo, with the punny name “Still Lifes and Works from Home,” takes its inspiration from the homebound existence of people young and old during the pandemic.
Based on the work that came in from prompts, Stamp was able to break up the expo into sections – a food wall, a selection of interiors hanging inside of a Kurz structure, depictions of mountain scenes in an alpine area (with aspen trees on the walls inspired by a phenomenal version made by a 4th grader), a beach section for all the young artists wishing they could travel, and a dog park for portraits of pets (poo bags and faux poo included on a set converted from Kurz’s former alpine lake).
The work offers more than cute kids’ drawings, though, offering an insight into the minds and hearts of young people enduring the pandemic.
It’s hard not to be shaken by seeing a class’s ceramic masked self-portraits or seeing how elementary schoolers process grief through portraits of their dead pets.
“A lot of the artist statements are really heavy,” said Stamp, noting some of the statements and other resources will be in the online supplement to the expo.
The student show, open to area K-12 students, marks the first time local student art has hung in the museum’s galleries since its new Aspen Art Museum building opened in 2014 and the first time the museum made an open call for local student art since the Valley Kids Art Show was discontinued in 2005.
The end of Valley Kids is among a handful of bitterly contentious and very public art controversies of recent Aspen history. When the museum discontinued the show – then its longest-running annual event of 25 years – the Aspen Times ran a banner headline across its front page announcing its end. Weeks of parent and teacher protest followed, with the museum eventually hosting a town hall meeting to broker peace.
The museum replaced Valley Kids in 2006 with its Young Curators of the Roaring Fork program, which offers long-term mentoring and programming experience for artistically inclined high schoolers. it has continued since then and became the first Aspen area art show to open virtually following the pandemic’s shutdown in spring 2020.
But while Valley Kids simply invited young people to thumb-tack their work on the walls of the museum, the new Youth Expo offers art students – and the viewing public – a thoughtfully designed exhibition. The goal was to engage and inspire young people, Stamp said, and to provide “a real art show” – the kind of thing they might place on a resume if they apply to art school.
Everyone who submitted is included but there is also a best-in-show award for each grade, offering some extra encouragement for the more ambitious artists in the exhibition.
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