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Portfolio Gallery keeps art approachable during pandemic

Nikki Nienhuis’ “Abstract Land” is a painting that is part of her solo exhibit “Under the Paint” at Portfolio Gallery in Breckenridge. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the works are viewable online.
Courtesy Portfolio Gallery

BRECKENRIDGE — Nikki Nienhuis’ first solo exhibition isn’t going as planned. She installed and hung her paintings at Portfolio Gallery in Breckenridge on March 9 for what is a major milestone for any emerging artist. Nienhuis returned to the gallery the following weekend on March 14 for the opening. She did some demonstrations, saw customers and even sold a couple of pieces.

As she and her husband were driving back home to Golden, they got an email that Vail Resorts was closing its ski areas for the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. She knew the gallery wouldn’t be far behind.

“Yes, I was sad,” Nienhuis said. “But I don’t tend to dwell on things, and I don’t tend to get very upset. I was just very happy that I got it hung before it closed.”

Quickly, Nienhuis and Portfolio staff started brainstorming ways to pivot the show even with the doors shut to the public. They settled on a virtual exhibit where Nienhuis’ work would be for sale online, and she made videos explaining her pieces.

Since Nienhuis has been a full-time painter for only two years and is used to tent shows and fairs that feature multiple artists, she prefers people develop a more intimate connection with the art in person. Yet she’s glad she learned a new skill.

“I was also so afraid to put myself out there to talk and show my face on video, but I really enjoyed it,” she said.

Sales have been slow during what should be Breckenridge’s busy season, which Nienhuis admits isn’t unusual for her at past shows, but she understands this can be a financially trying time.

“Who wants to spend hundreds of dollars when their husband is out of work or things aren’t certain?” Nienhuis said. “I’m sensitive to the fact that that’s the case. My husband has a full-time job; we are OK.”

Make your own art

To color your own artwork from the Portfolio Gallery, download the e-edition of the Summit Daily News at SummitDaily.com/eedition or pick a physical copy. The coloring pages — along with more details about the art competition, Nikki Nienhuis’ exhibit or other pieces available for purchase — can also be found at PortfolioBreck.com.

Nienhuis’ show originally was going to be six weeks long like the rest of Portfolio’s exhibits, but if the gallery is able to reopen in June, then her physical exhibit is tentatively extended through July 3.

An upside to the pandemic is that Nienhuis has used her spare time to experiment with her painting. She’s been getting comfortable with texture by fiddling with sand paper, glass beading, gloss gels and other inks regularly while sharing the results to her social media.

“I think online is where we’re going to be for a while, so I’m doing my best to figure it out and play in that game,” she said.

Her pieces aren’t the only works available online at Portfolio. This is the first time the gallery has made digital sales possible for all of its artists.

“We want art to be accessible to be people, not just for the elite or people who think you have to have a lot of money to buy art,” Co-owner Carol Kelly said. “We very much feel like art is something that can be for everyone. Whether you create it or purchase it, it’s out there for someone to enjoy. We’re just finding different channels to reach our customers because they obviously couldn’t come into the gallery.”

It’s too early to tell how future exhibits will be affected by the pandemic and if the online store is worthwhile, but Kelly said if they stick with it, there likely would be only a small selection for purchase outside of the physical gallery.

“It’s a bit like going from reading a book to reading a Kindle for me,” Kelly said. “We very much want it to be a personal experience.”

“I Am Not Woke,” by Golden-based Nikki Nienhuis, is currently on display at Portfolio Gallery in Breckenridge. The title refers to Nienhuis’ meditation practice that she uses to paint intuitively.
Courtesy Portfolio Gallery

Along with purchasing pieces by local artists such as Katie Maher and Leslie Jorgensen, people can take a stab at coloring their works for themselves. The gallery has released black-and-white versions of a local artist’s piece that are ready for crayons or pencils on their website and in the Summit Daily News. 

Kelly said they’re great for folks wanting to stay busy at home, especially children who aren’t in school. The artists also have released videos online where they give insight into their style and tips on how to color.

If people want to stretch their creative muscles beyond coloring, they can enter Portfolio’s art competition. The gallery already had one in April where they received about 20 entries for the theme “What Home Means to Me.” CC Anderson won the under-12 age category, Ella Eland won for artists ages 12-18, and Sara Tuell won in the over-18 category.

“Walk” is one of the pieces in Nikki Nienhuis’ exhibit, “Under the Paint.” The show, which opened in March before the shutdown, has gone digital.
Courtesy Portfolio Gallery

A second competition that has the theme “Silver Lining” is underway with the deadline set for May 22. Interested participants can use whatever materials they have on hand to craft an 8.5-inch square piece of two-dimensional art and submit photos of it to info@portfoliobreck.com. The main stipulation is that it can’t be on canvas for mounting purposes so that it fits in with the rest of the art on display at Portfolio Gallery.

Works will be judged by the gallery’s marketing agency in the same three age groups as the previous competition.

According to Kelly, once the gallery reopens, the winners of the competitions will have their artwork auctioned off to raise money for nonprofits such as the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.


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