Aspen - Home of the very rich, celebrity types, the beautiful people, the very fortunate and so on. These are the facts that persist in my little town I call home. The fact is,
I am a well-connected working artist with friends who fall into those category and many friends that actually hate the perceived clientele of Aspen. But here is the catch; money brings certain privilege with it and the opportunity to have nice things; those things being art, theater, music, and events which are brought to us, the poor locals, that you would only get if your were living in a big city or if you were lucky enough to be well traveled with the will to find “out there in the real world” what comes to our 6 by 6 square block town. I like that. I like it very much.
Striving to be an artist is difficult enough, but as many of you know, the key to success is numbers; the number of eyes on your work, the number of people that talk about, Instagram, Facebook and share your artwork or performance. That is simply the perceived secret sauce of success of making a living as artist. We are lacking the volume of people that visit a small destination town, but being that we have a desirable place to visit and the “mystique” of the image of Aspen it still can work out. Let me share an one example of what our arts culture is in a town of 5000 people or less.
What we do have The Aspen Art Museum
I will be the first to admit that I hated the idea of this gigantic square lobster trap looking, 3-story monstrosity in the heart of downtown. What was wrong with the funky smallish building they used to have? The old space was fine. The old location was not that big, showed art well, despite the horrible entry and second floor gallery space that was more like a fat hallway or future assistant art directors office space. But it was charming, funky, social and out of the way a touch, not all bad.
The new building is complete and the protests have become more of a passing opinion of cocktail banter. The place has been accepted into our community, like that charitable loud mouth city guy in a slick suit with a swimming pool that throws great parties. Easy to hate but there is something about him that you really like. It’s not like you have to marry the guy.
What has the Aspen Art Museum (aka the undesirable new town resident that’s here to stay) done? It has done so much more for those who are willing to give it a chance than it has done for the naysayers that were all up in arms about it going up. I will tell you, my opinion has changed.
First off, the place is free to visit; you walk in, get a sticker, look at art, and go home (or in my case, find a cocktail.)
Secondly, it would be easy to say that most people really didn't like (or should I say understand) some of the exhibits that have been installed, like the ‘Flipping Pony Tails’ or the ‘Hair Brush Microphone’. It is easy to attack Heidi Zuckerman - it falls directly into the “What the fuck were you thinking?" point of view, but that is an easy thing to surmise, what’s harder to get your head around and much more interesting is to understand why they decided to feature that show in the first place?
The Museum does a great job of bringing in the artists who make the art, providing an opening event that allows the patrons to have a direct and intimate Q & A session with the artist i.e. Julian Schnabel, who, by the way, allowed us to see works of art that have never been shown together. Ever! Badass!
It has also been said that the Aspen Art Museum doesn’t support local artist like they should. I don’t know what that means exactly. Sure they used to host a Valley Artist show where you could show your work among hundreds of other artist IN the main gallery. Cool for sure, but really? Does it pad the artist’s resume’ or are they expecting that you might be “Discovered” and you will be set for life as an artist the had “a show” at The Aspen Art Museum and neglecting to say you were in a group show to give the illusion that it was all about you? Oh! Our artistic egos. They stopped doing that, and I'm ok with it. What they have done for local artists is created a “Crit Session” with international museum curators whereby local artist are welcome to be take part.. I have taken part in a number of these and it is just plain awesome. Sure, I might not get a million eyes on my work but I am getting the RIGHT eyes on my work and that’s the entire point of this article.
I love art: making it, talking about it, supporting it, learning about it. The rich people are easy to vilify but in my experience, passion is passion and your bank account doesn't necessarily affect the content of the arts but it sure does help in endless and abstract ways.