But strewn westward from the city’s core and into Manitou Springs are concentrated pockets of creative life — taking the form of galleries, studios, centers and stores — encompassing all manner of media.
It is a region inhabited by hundreds of artists — impacting El Paso County by $72 million in 2012 — and in each of Colorado’s nicer months they are afforded exposure and opportunity by way of First Friday events in both downtown Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City, followed by Manitou’s own Third Friday Artwalk.
The three events are scarcely affiliated, save by name, but all share a few common themes: They all celebrate the arts, they’re all free, and they’re all good for business.
“They really are the quintessential way in which arts and business have a genuine connection and interaction,” said Andy Vick, executive director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. “These events attract visitors and locals to these downtown hubs … to engage the arts and patronize the businesses, and to create a sense that those hubs are alive and vibrant.”
First Friday Downtown Colorado Springs Art Walk
Perhaps the region’s biggest art-centric event is the Art Walk in downtown Colorado Springs, which offers visitors and residents a chance to experience the city’s core in a unique way each month.
Lasting from 5-8 p.m. the first Fridays of April through December, the event exposes its guests to “cultural landmarks, award-winning outdoor sculpture, independent galleries and one-of-a-kind cultural and entertainment opportunities,” according to PeakRadar.com (operated by COPPeR).
Downtown galleries often open their own exhibits to coincide with First Friday events. Among this month’s openings are:
The Kreuser Gallery (218 W. Colorado Ave.) will host Black & Blue, featuring the works of David Duncan and live music by Dave Patrick;
The AHA Gallery (218 W. Colorado Ave.), which will host Bloom in Art featuring the works of Rebecca Flott, as well as music by Maddy Hershiser, Deadwood Honey and Curtis Boucher and the Heavy Light;
Gallery 113 (113 N. Tejon St.), featuring the works of Wanda Veltkamp and Mary Gorman, as well as live music by Colorado Springs Youth Symphony violinist Elena Vivot;
Colorado Expressions (122 E. Kiowa St.), featuring the works of sculptor Huberto Maestas;
DreamCatchers (103 S. Wahsatch St.) will host The World as We Know It, a group show with pieces pertaining to relevant social issues, as well as a beer tasting by Grand Lake Brewery and live folk music by Adrian Alexander;
The Bridge Gallery (218 W. Colorado Ave.) will host What’s So Funny, featuring the works of Dave Armstrong;
Modbo and S.P.Q.R. (17B and 17C E. Bijou St.) will host Hypothesis, an opening of works created in oil and mixed media by gallery owner Brett Andrus, as well as live music by Eros and the Eschaton; and
Nourish Organic Juice (303 E. Pikes Peak Ave.), which will host a collection of works by Elin Skov Vaeth.
This month’s event will feature a recent addition: First Friday Downtown Bike Tours. The city partnered with local company UpaDowna to offer the $10 guided tours, which will allow patrons to explore the city while learning about local arts, culture and history. That tour begins at 5:30 p.m. at McCabe’s Tavern (520 S. Tejon St.).
The evening will also include “sidewalk stage performances” by Celtic music group The Rare Ould Times at the corner of Tejon and Bijou, and Salida Circus, a group of stilt walkers and balloon artists, along Tejon Street.
The street performers will help to “connect the dots between the galleries, where people can stop in at restaurants and storefronts along the way,” said Lara Garritano, creative district manager for the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs.
She said that the experience is about more than just contributing to the local arts community; it’s about attracting people downtown who might not otherwise drop by.
“One of the things that we really like is that it happens every month — it’s a habit-forming experience,” Garritano said. “People get to see new art exhibits and experience new things along the streets of downtown.”
Garritano said the Partnership is in the early stages of tracking First Friday data and trends related to demographics, traffic and the economic impact. Thus far, however, she said the turnout has made her optimistic.
“It has been pretty great to see how many zip codes are being represented,” she said.
First Friday OCC ArtWalk
Since the tradition began regularly in 2005, the Old Colorado City ArtWalk has become a night of good times and good business for Westsiders.
“It’s a win-win,” said Sharon Wolff, owner of Hunter-Wolff Gallery at 2510 W. Colorado Ave.
Wolff, who helped start the ArtWalk, said the monthly event is a huge benefit to the surrounding community. She said local business owners were at first skeptical that such a plan could work consistently in OCC, but after nine years, she hears a wealth of positive feedback.
“It has become very effective,” she said. “It is a fun family weekend that the art walkers all certainly appreciate … and it also keeps the artists and business owners energized.”
This month’s ArtWalk, scheduled for tonight (June 6), will feature visual arts from local galleries and artists from throughout the region. The event lasts from 5-8 p.m. and is a self-guided walkabout with hundreds of pieces of art for patrons’ purchasing and/or viewing pleasure.
Among the locations involved with the event are:
Arati Gallery (2425 W. Colorado Ave.);
Chavez Gallery (2616 W. Colorado Ave.);
Colorado Creative Co-Op (2513½ W. Colorado Ave.);
Cucuru Gallery Cafe (2332 W. Colorado Ave.);
Hunter-Wolff Gallery (2510 W. Colorado Ave.);
Michael Garman Museum and Gallery (2418 W. Colorado Ave.);
Kathleen McFadden’s Range Gallery (2428 W. Colorado Ave.);
Flute Player Gallery (2511 W. Colorado Ave.);
Laura Reilly Fine Art Gallery (2522 W. Colorado Ave.);
Second Floor Studios (2418 W. Colorado Ave.);
Squash Blossom (2531 W. Colorado Ave.);
Thunder Mountain Trading Co. (2508 W. Colorado Ave.);
Visual Culture Gallery & Cafe (2616 W. Colorado Ave.);
45 Degrees Gallery (2528 W. Colorado Ave.); and
503W Open Kitchen & Craft Bar (503 W. Colorado Ave.).
“It has been a huge benefit for our community,” Wolff said. “People love coming, and they love meeting the artists. … It has been a tremendous value to our community and our businesses.”
She added that the monthly event in Old Colorado City — which in a three-block area contains the highest concentration of galleries and studios in southern Colorado — helps new small-business owners gain exposure and get their name out there just as the event did for her when she moved here nearly a decade ago.
“We want our community to thrive and to grow and to be successful as a unit,” Wolff said.
Third Friday Art Walk in Manitou Springs
A similar event in Manitou runs from March through November, each third Friday from 5-9 p.m., and offers creations by hundreds of local artists in more than a dozen galleries.
Manitou’s next art walk, which is organized by the Manitou Art Center, is scheduled for June 20.
Natalie Johnson, the MAC’s executive director, said the decision was made six years ago to switch from First Friday to Third Friday in order to cater to “regulars who just couldn’t make it to all three events.”
Although Johnson said it is difficult to track the economic impact of the event (because people often spot a piece and come back for it later), she said the benefits are evident each month.
Regular participants in the Third Friday events include:
Green Horse Gallery (729 Manitou Ave.);
Commonwheel Artists Co-op (102 Canon Ave.);
Manitou Art Center (515 Manitou Ave.);
Mountain Living Studio (741 Manitou Ave.);
Manitou Springs Heritage Center (517 Manitou Ave.);
Tracy Miller Gallery (16 Ruxton Ave.);
Fare Bella Studio and Gallery (16 Ruxton Ave.);
Swirl Wine Bar (717 Manitou Ave.);
Third Eye Art Supply (715 Manitou Ave.); and
Darpino Studio Gallery (934 Manitou Ave.)
“It has been huge in bringing attention to all of these galleries, and it’s been great for local business,” Johnson said. “We usually get a crowd of around 500 to 750 come through, especially if it’s a nice night.”