Aug 022011
 
Authors: Alan Perry

Fort Collins is, for better or worse, a college town.

The peculiarities of such a situation extend to the art scene here — the dichotomy of locals coexisting with students also translates to local art coexisting with scholastic art — and this is an extreme advantage.

Cross-pollination can strengthen and distill art. There is a wide range of artists here, concerning their backgrounds: we have student-artists learning their craft here at the university, young artists who have never been scholastically conditioned, professor-artists that tend to go unnoticed, commercial artists, fine artists, reclusive artists and conspicuous artists.

All this makes for a very exciting and interesting art scene here in Fort Collins. One that, in my personal opinion, doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Compare it with the thriving music scene here: just as we have fantastic and skilled bands, we have fantastic and skilled artists as well — but they don’t enjoy the same following. Why should art be marginalized, purposefully or not?

To illustrate my point: Scene Magazine has a section devoted to reviewing albums by local musicians, yet nobody talks (in any detail) about the art exhibitions around town.

We have a wealth of galleries here, but one often has to go out of his or her way to find out information about them. Sure, there are occasionally fliers in the visual arts building or local coffee shops, but sometimes the art museums on campus feel hopelessly elitist — and by accident.

Likewise, local art has a sort of “in-crowd” pressure to it. I’m not pointing fingers, and I don’t regard this as a conscious decision, but rather, just an unfortunate circumstance.

In an effort to alleviate this situation, I’d like to overview the galleries we have here, beginning with the newest: the GNU Gallery.

An interesting, multi-functional gallery underneath Old Town Square, GNU filled the void left by the Gallery Underground earlier this year. The owners change out the art monthly, usually featuring one or two artists at a time. And, perhaps what’s even better, there is almost always a music show happening there on the weekends, which has the potential to bring the art and the music scenes together.

Of course, you can go in during the day and look at the art — you just can’t be timid about going, as it can seem almost deserted in contrast with the music shows they put on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, and paradoxically a block-and-a-half away, is the Fort Collins Museum of Art. The FCMoA tends to provide art from outside of Fort Collins. Earlier this year, they exhibited some beautiful Ansel Adams photographs.

While I want to focus more on the art specific to Fort Collins, it’s important to remember that there’s a whole world out there producing art. The fact that we can see physical art objects from around the world is astoundingly important: to provide an anecdote, I despised Ansel Adams before I went to see his photos (Mountains? This is Colorado, if I wanted to look at a mountain I can just look to the West), but the experience of seeing the photographs he personally made completely changed my opinion.

In between these two representative galleries exist the galleries on campus, and that is a very plural “galleries.”
The Curfman Gallery is in the southernmost part of the Lory Student Center. I suspect there’s a second gallery lurking somewhere around the LSC as well, but that remains a suspicion.

In the Visual Arts Building, there’s the mini Gallery, the Directions Gallery and the Hatton Gallery. Across College Avenue, the University Center for the Arts houses both the Avenir Design Museum and the University Art Museum.

While these six galleries each have their own interesting characteristics, the unifying trait that ties them together is the fact that they are for a university, by a university.

This provides a distinct flavor of art, especially when it comes around time for the BFA and MFA thesis exhibitions. When these exhibitions aren’t happening, these museums showcase art that is decidedly in between the local and national art scene, choosing to display art from both spheres rather indiscriminately.

When it’s all said and done, there is an abundance of art out there. And with “First Friday” right around the corner, you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to experience the art culture here. Old Town, on the first Friday of any given month, is bristling with activity. There’s an opening at the Center for Fine Art Photography this Friday at 6 p.m., another at the GNU Gallery at 8 p.m. (with live music) and art to see at the FCMoA and University Art Museum.

If you’re in Old Town this Friday, you’ll have to try hard to not see good art.

_Alan Perry is a senior art major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@colleigan.com. _

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