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Young artists step into spotlight in Aspen, the valley

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” To those looking for a break from frenzy of a long winter of serving visitors, it’s offseason. To those who find themselves stranded between the pleasures of snow-filled slopes and clear alpine trails, it’s mud season. For those breathing in warmth and sunshine, longer days and blooming flowers, it’s spring.

And for the younger set, it is arts season. In the weeks ahead, the local youth take over the valley’s stages and galleries to screen their films, show off their dance moves, present their visual art creations, shred their guitars and release their voices.

Following is a look at the various kid-oriented arts activities coming up.

Opening reception Friday at the Aspen Art Museum

Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the Aspen Art Museum director currently at the center of the museum’s effort to build a new downtown facility, first attracted community lightning with the cancellation of the Valley Kids exhibition. Somewhat lost in the storm was the Young Curators of the Roaring Fork ” a program that replaced Valley Kids, and focused not only on the artwork of local high-schoolers, but also taught curatorial skills to interested students.

The program has grown in each of its four years; this year, 21 Young Curators considered more than 100 submissions and selected 34, representing artists from Aspen to Rifle. Those works are featured in the exhibition Glitchery, which opens in the museum’s upstairs gallery with a reception today from 4-7 p.m. (A second, closing reception is set for May 3, from 3-6 p.m.) The project had the students handle virtually every aspect of creating an exhibition, such as putting out a Call to Artists, creating publicity materials, and coming up with the Glitchery theme.

“We have this expectation that the world should be a perfect place,” said Matthew Thompson, the museum’s associate curator, who has helped oversee the Young Curators program since its inception. The curators “wanted to contest that notion, and show there is beauty in the chance experience, the subtle hiccups and accidents that make the world an interesting place.”

The opening of the exhibition is the end of a road that began last fall. To Thompson, the process hits its peak when the group juries the submissions over four meetings.

“It’s them taking responsibility for the exhibition they’ve created,” he said. “They learn to have an opinion, articulate that opinion, respectfully argue with each other. Over the process, you see them become more sophisticated about expressing their opinions, their aesthetics.”

Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., Wheeler Opera House

Jayne Gottlieb, director of the must-see local kids theater troupe that bears her name, notes that her latest show is really and truly a kids show. “It’s one of the greatest kids stories ever,” she said of “Oliver!” the musical based on Charles Dickens’ tale of street children in 19th century London. “It’s kids, the story of kids.”

But Gottlieb’s kids ” 55 of them, ages 5 to 16 ” take a very grown-up approach to the story. “This is kind of a true story ” there were orphans treated horribly in London. They were sold; they worked in factories. So we want the kids not to play a character but to play a person. They tell each other, ‘We’re not performing for our parents; we’re performing for the orphans and the orphanage.'”

After the recent small-scale production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (which was successful enough that it will get additional dates through spring and summer), Gottlieb returns to the grand-scale with “Oliver!” Such blockbuster numbers as “Consider Yourself” and “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” will be performed on a set that includes a real fireplace and lanterns. Gottlieb takes on a co-director for the show, local stage veteran David Ledingham. And costume designer Colleen Fawley created all the costumes ” more than 200 in all ” with each of the 40 street thieves getting a unique design.

Next up for Gottlieb and her crew: “The Sound of Music,” to be presented outdoors in Basalt this summer.

Friday and Saturday, April 24-25, Wheeler Opera House, Aspen

The students of Aspen Country Day School, overseen by drama teacher Marci Sketch and music director Tom Paxton, came up with “Camp Smart,” set in a summer camp for secret agents. Instead of softball, there’s surveillance; instead of s’mores, there’s robotics.

KC Johnson Student Concert, Saturday, April 25, Steve’s Guitars, Carbondale

Local music teacher KC Johnson, best known for his kids group Earthbeat Choir, brings part of the young crew to the small stage at Steve’s Guitars.

Friday and Saturday, May 1-2, Wheeler Opera House, Aspen

The Aspen Community School makes a big thing of its annual stage production. It’s a chance to unite the student body, as all children, from pre-K up, take part in the show. It’s a way to learn, with the show themes integrated into the classroom curriculum. And this year especially, it’s a chance to examine current events, especially the contemporary economic climate.

“Route 66 ’09,” written by language arts teacher LouRae Doyle, imagines an Aspen family that has moved to a small Texas town along Route 66. From the gas station they have bought, they gauge the mood of the populace. There are references to the Great Depression ” Will Rogers, hobo culture and Woody Guthrie songs ” and also to modern times, including a scene about mortgage banking.

Despite the subject matter, there is an upbeat tone to the show. “The people are saying, ‘Times are tough, the economy is tough,'” said Doyle, who wrote lyrics for the original tunes, and rounded up valley musicians to contribute songs. “But we’re getting through it. As we always do.”

Friday and Saturday, May 1-2, Glenwood Springs High School

The student-run Rocky Mountain Student Filmfest hits its 10th year, with students from across the state competing in six categories: action sports, artistic/experimental, comedy, documentary, drama and original animation. Submissions ” limited to 10 minutes ” came from across Colorado, and even New York. The 37 finalists will be divided into two separate programs.

Saturday, May 2, Roaring Fork High School, Carbondale

The old Basalt Battle of the Bands has a new name, a new organization behind it, and a new location. But the essence is the same: Twenty teenage musical acts, playing 10-minute sets one after the other, trying to out-jam the rest. With no fear of the grown-ups shrieking, “Turn it down!”

The Band Battle, founded as a grassroots initiative by local pickers Biff Phillips and Dan Sadowsky, is now under the aegis of Jazz Aspen Snowmass. It moves from the festival setting of downtown Basalt to the great indoors of Carbondale’s Roaring Fork High School auditorium. Overseeing the event is Carbondale resident Steve Marker, a founding member of the rock band Garbage.

If the tradition of past events holds, this Battle won’t be merely a fight to see who can overpower the rest with in-your-face hardcore. Past Battles have included guitar-strumming folkies and school-sponsored jazz ensembles as well as guitar shredders.

There’s a new prize, too: a chance to play this summer on Jazz Aspen stages.

Saturday, May 16, Aspen District Theatre

For the first time, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s Spring Performance combines two elements: the students of the company’s school, and the organization’s Folklorico program. In addition to Folklorico’s Latin-based performance, always a show-stopper, the students of the school will dance two short ballets: “The Jungle Book,” and “Oh the Places You Will Go,” based on the Dr. Seuss story. In total, some 200 kids will appear onstage.

stewart@aspentimes.com


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