By Alissa Smith, Colorado Springs Independent
Alright, alright, we know every mid-sized city in the U.S. likes to brag about how it’s an up-and-coming artistic hotspot, but in the case of Colorado Springs? We really are booming. Between the vibrant Downtown Creative District, Old Colorado City’s thick concentration of galleries and studios, our neighboring towns of Manitou Springs and Monument, and those who work outside established creative zones, our area boasts hundreds of fine artists and craftspeople of all mediums, philosophies, styles and levels of experience.
This holiday season, if you’re shopping for anyone who appreciates something unique and handcrafted, you have no shortage of options to explore. In fact, since you might be so paralyzed by the sheer glut of art available to you, we’ve whittled down some surefire safe bets for places to pick up the perfect piece of artwork on your shopping list — whether that means jewelry, pottery, paintings or even tickets to stage shows.
Say you’re not sure if you’re looking for something artsier or craftier? Shop a huge selection of both at Commonwheel Artists Co-op (102 Cañon Ave, Manitou Springs) this month. Its annual Holiday Market (through Dec. 30) brings together co-op members and talented artists and crafters from outside its walls. You’ll find here traditional holiday gifts like ornaments by the likes of ceramic artist Deborah Hager, plus soap and body products offered by regional vendors such as High Country Skincare, alongside fine art running the gamut from mosaic to paintings, from photography to sculpture. Commonwheel’s marketing manager Juanita Canzoneri says the gallery strives to keep all prices below $100, so you won’t break your bank wandering the incredible variety of artwork on display.
Speaking of variety, we’d be remiss not to mention one of our favorite annual exhibitions and sales: the annual Small Works show (Dec. 6-Jan. 3), co-presented by The Modbo and S.P.Q.R. Artspace. True to its name, Small Works includes pieces that are no larger than 18 inches in every dimension, but that is the only restriction. You’ll find pottery, paintings, wood and glass work, prints and photography and more from nearly 150 artists. Small Works is a juried show, but it had an open call for entries, meaning you might find work by artists who have never exhibited on Springs gallery walls before.
But, of course, familiar artists will also be well-represented among the galleries’ nearly 500 works. Rockstar painter Phil Lear is sure to submit a few pieces, along with S.P.Q.R. owner Brett Andrus, and fine art painter Claire Swinford whose figures often capture a sense of warmth and nostalgia.
Modbo owner Lauren Ciborowski estimates that most works in the show will be priced between $20-$300. Small Works is a purchase-and-take event, so be sure to show up early in the show’s run to get the best selection. We recommend opening night, Dec. 6. Claim the perfect gift before it’s gone!
Next, let’s take you somewhere outside the Springs’ creative districts: Gallery G44 (1785 S. Eighth St., suite A), which will once again offer its annual Holiday Show through Dec. 22. Here, you’ll find the playful and exuberant sculpture work of local eccentric Sean O’Meallie, the fascinating layered paint constructions of Karen Khoury, and the intricate textile and mixed-media work of Cass Mullane— plus, you know, more than 50 other artists if none of that suits your fancy. According to owner Gundega Stevens, prices run anywhere from $4 to $3,000, with most pieces falling between $200 and $500.
That’s the stuff that’s up throughout the month, but ‘tis the season, too, for holiday gift and craft fairs. There are too many to name, so here are two that we’re looking forward to.
First off, we love everything underground, eclectic and off the rails — meaning we love graffiti artist Jantzen Peake, who has joined with a cohort of other locals to put on a group art show and market at The Perk Downtown for First Friday (Dec. 6, 7:30-10 p.m.). Works for sale will range between $10-$100, and Peake expects a variety of mediums from watercolor to jewelry to custom T-shirt graphics, sculpture and mixed-media, among others. Look out for abstract and contemporary art, and works influenced by pop culture, like cartoon-inspired art by Tokka, clothing by Richard Arnot of Edifice Clothing, and of course Peake himself. This is also a curated show, so be assured that you’ll be browsing the best of the best.
This same weekend, Colorado College will, once again, host its annual Arts and Crafts Sale (Dec. 6, 4-8 p.m., and Dec. 7-8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), a juried market with original works by more than 80 local artists and many Colorado College students, who bring fresh work to the table. Here’s your chance to jump in on the ground floor and patronize the next big name in Etsy handcrafting or fine contemporary art. The sale lasts three days, and CC press materials say there will be a variety of mediums: clay, fiber, metals, glass, wood, photography, painting and drawing, and sculpture.
Of course, art doesn’t only exist on the wall or on a pedestal. If that special someone on your list enjoys a good stage show now and again, look no further than the Springs’ local theaters. Take your darling on a date to the Millibo Art Theatre’s annual holiday cabaret, Yule be Naughty Too (Dec. 12-22), which features local circus acts, physical comedy, aerial acrobatics and sweet and sultry music to put you in the holiday spirit. Wanna bring the kiddos? Look instead to the MAT’s Dances with Trolls, a family holiday show about Princess Snowflakey’s adventure with a crew of naughty holiday trolls.
Meanwhile, over at the Ent Center for the Arts, you can give the gift of a spirited cultural experience with A Celtic Family Christmas (Dec. 18, 7 p.m.), a concert of award-winning fiddlers Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy, and their children. Should you wish for a little less sweetness in your holiday, Funky Little Theater Company will be putting on the irreverent southern Christmas comedy, A Doublewide Texas Christmas (Dec. 6-21).
Still not seeing the perfect gift? Check out our art exhibits and stage listings in our calendar section on p. xx. Trust us, the Springs’ art community has you covered 100 times over this holiday season.