Art by George Burnette
Amidst falling school budgets and surging sports interest, now more than ever is the time we should be paying more attention to the arts. And that’s exactly the role the Artists’ Association of Northern Colorado looks to fill. The oldest art organization in Fort Collins, It was founded in 1955 as the Poudre Valley Art League, and has officially been the Artists’ Association of Northern Colorado since April 2007. Here, members of the board explain why the arts matter, how you can get involved, and how they’re helping children across the region.
FD: Tell me about yourself and how/why you came to be involved
James Cole (president): I joined the AANC several years ago just as I was beginning to explore art as a photographer and digital artist. I shared the presidency with Helen Cook and during that year we were forced by the IRS to separate out the gallery from the Association. I became CFO of the for-profit gallery (Art on Mountain) and soon the Director and President. This job kept me so busy that I was only partially active with the AANC. However, Art on Mountain was closed, along with several other Downtown Fort Collins galleries, at the end of last year for financial reasons. I was recently elected President of AANC through a vote of the membership.
FD: What kinds of impacts has Artists’ Association made? Why is the art scene better for its presence?
JC: The National Show which has been held for 22 years, is one of the major art activities in Northern Colorado. It is a prestigious show, highly regarded by artists all over the country. The show brings the best current art in the U.S. to the Northern Colorado community to expand art appreciation. Secondly, the AANC has been providing scholarships to college and high school students and funding an endowment at CSU for art students. Finally, the AANC offers the opportunity for new and emerging artists to gain experience, network, and learn from the masters in the area. AANC has historically helped artists learn how to market their art and has helped artists connect with potential buyers in the community through programs like Art-N-About, which provides art to local businesses, and venues to local artists.
Amy Lewark (Secretary): I started attending figure drawing sessions in Loveland in March of 2013 after a long hiatus from art (about 14 years) during which I worked in medical research and also became a mother. Figure study is a great way to get ones’ eyes, brain and hands working together in quick order. In August, one of the other artists, Steve, who organizes the Monday night figure study at the AANC in Fort Collins, suggested that I put some pieces in the Go Figure! show at the AANC in Fort Collins. These open studio things are pretty fun — I get to draw alongside accomplished artists, art professors, hobbyists, and other emerging artists like myself. The environment is fun, supportive and respectful.
FD: If I’m someone with little to no understanding of art in general, why should I care about the Artists’ Association?
AL: Former President John F. Kennedy stated, “I see little of more importance to the future of our country and of civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his/her vision wherever it takes him/her.”
If we expect to continue enjoying high quality art in our communities in the future, we need to consider future artists. The current education bubble requires that communities rethink how its members, particularly in the arts, achieve learning. The Art Institute of Chicago’s 2014-2015 estimated tuition is $45,000 per year, not including room and board. The Artists’ Association of Northern Colorado and organizations of its type have been aiding personal learning networks (PLNs) for many years. Educational theorists believe that such networks of mentors and learners support the most robust and accessible learning. The AANC provides access to the knowledge of a diverse community of successful artists without excessive cost by maintaining low-cost classes, workshops, meetings and open studio sessions for emerging artists and artists interested in continuing studies. In addition, the AANC contributes high-quality art shows to the community.
The AANC provides the public a way to view art that is produced locally by artists they may actually meet or know. Many people like to meet the artist when they buy a piece of original art —they want to know the story of what influenced the artist to make the work. The AANC Gallery is always full of “Community Sponsored Art” and it always has been. Northern Colorado holds a great community of fine artists, many of whom are respected nationally, and many of them got their start showing in the community galleries in Northern Colorado, or were members of the Artists’ Association.
JC: In the future, the Artists’ Association of Northern Colorado also intends to bring art to seniors and at risk children, as it has done in the past.
FD: What are some of the most popular events/workshops you offer?
AL: The National Show, which has been held almost annually, has by far been the most consistently popular event. Concurrent with the National Show, there are usually several workshops and demos that are offered by the judge for that show to continue the education of our local artists.
FD: How does someone new get involved?
AL: Anyone can show their work in our local shows, provided the work conforms to the theme set in the prospectus. It is not necessary to be a member to put artwork in the shows. There is an entry fee which goes toward our operating costs for the space. Becoming a member provides access to a personalized web page, networking opportunities, monthly critiques, and discounted show entry, class and workshop fees. The organization is volunteer-run to keep costs down, and so we encourage volunteer participation from our members.
Check out artistsassoc.org for more information on upcoming shows, events and calls for entries, and to get involved with the Artists Association of Northern Colorado.