Summit County artists make do with virtual art night
FRISCO — Like many gatherings, instructional courses, book clubs, festivals, concerts and other forms of in-person entertainment, the pivot to the internet has been a crucial life preserver for events during the coronavirus pandemic. Venues have had to get creative with livestreaming platforms or video conferencing apps as a substitute for live connection.
Frisco’s HighSide Brewing joined the fray with online music and trivia even though the taproom remains closed. Another one of the brewery’s events, Third Thursday Art Night, has been uploaded to the web. Rather than people mingling with artists selling their creations on HighSide’s second level, participating vendors put photos of their works on Facebook in hopes of catching a customer’s eye.
April’s event was the first to transition to the new format and the next is scheduled for Thursday, May 21. However, since it now lives online, the products don’t vanish afterward unless they’ve been sold.
The monthly night started last fall shortly after Jessica Johnson of Dry Fly Art had a solo show at the brewery. The brainchild of Johnson and HighSide owner David Axelrod and General Manager Kurt Zolbe, Johnson has a rotating stable of about 40 artists for the monthly event.
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While the first virtual event had fewer participants than normal, Johnson is happy with how it turned out.
“The response is better than I thought it would be,” Johnson said. “We had numerous sales and people were engaged and commenting. It was pretty cool. I wasn’t sure what to expect initially.”
Alicia Clark-Fulcher of Spicy Heart is one of the regularly attending artists. The 34-year-old from Peru has a decade of jewelry making under her belt. She has always had a creative side — enjoying painting, photography and crochet — but she studied marketing in college and didn’t realize her self-taught hobby would become a business.
She chose to make her mark with jewelry over the other mediums because of its expressive and symbolic nature as well as the fact that it’s functional.
“It adorns people, they’re going to cherish the pieces, and it’s going to be something that will last,” Clark-Fulcher said. She started with earrings, moved on to necklaces and then bracelets and rings.
Regardless of what metals she’s bending or hammering, Clark-Fulcher is enthralled with mountainous landscapes, wildflowers and ancient cultures. An inspirational moment for her is when she was 8 years old and her parents took her to see the recently discovered burial site of El Señor de Sipán,
“His tomb was amazing,” Clark-Fulcher said. “… There were ceramics, jewelry, huge gold plates. … That’s like one of my first memories.”
What: Third Thursday Art Night
When: 4-9 p.m. Thursday, May 21
She never thought she would leave Peru, but Clark-Fulcher now honors her roots often by incorporating Peruvian textiles into the jewelry. They become a conversation starter if a customer happens to have visited Peru.
Those interactions are one of Clark-Fulcher’s favorite things about being an artist. She showcases her pieces at farmers markets such at the Breckenridge Sunday Market and loves making connections with repeat customers. The weekly shows generate more revenue for her than her website, and she likes how it fosters a community of artistic people pursuing their passion.
However, this year, the future of those markets is uncertain.
Beyond events, the pandemic has affected other facets of Clark-Fulcher’s life. The courthouse clerk and her husband juggle working and taking care of the two out-of-school kids along with the Spicy Heart business. She now only works on her art either early in the morning before the kids wake up or after they’ve gone to bed.
“Maybe this year is going to be a good thing that we don’t have the farmers market so I can be with my kids, but then it’s going to hurt us because I’m going to have to figure out a way to sell my jewelry,” Clark-Fulcher said. “The farmers market was huge income for my family. … I’m excited about the virtual thing though, because it’s my jam.”
Though a vendor and not an artist herself, Kelley Wren collaborates with various creative minds for her company Thumbs Up Birds and frequently can be found at the Third Thursday Art Night promoting women in the outdoors. Working on the brand’s apparel doesn’t make up the majority of her time — that would be scheduling clinics, finding guides and organizing other events — but she enjoys the expressive outlet.
“I try to make these really natural looking, nature-inspired graphics that aren’t too feminine but still have that really feminine touch,” Wren said.
The 9-year-old company has come a long way from its old, basic T-shirts and one of Wren’s favorite items is Coni Terrado’s Nativa hoodie that features a stag and bird. Wren also enjoys working on hats and is planning to use Johnson’s hat-making skills for a collaboration.
Wren often uses Thumbs Up Birds as a channel to boost artwork. Sometimes they run contests where artists can win the opportunity to be featured on the brand’s apparel. The company got involved with the Third Thursday Art Night because Wren met Johnson over the summer when Thumbs Up Birds held its own artists market at Rocky Mountain Underground’s beer garden.
Naturally, Wren prefers forming in-person connections, yet she’s been pleased by the success and camaraderie of the first virtual art night.
“It was great to see that people were still into this artistic community and supporting these small local businesses,” Wren said. “Everybody kind of needs it right now, whether they’re an artist or an outdoor company.”
It unfortunately wasn’t the first virtual event of 2020 that Thumbs Up Birds took part in. Wren has had to cancel four events, including one of the company’s biggest overnight backcountry courses, so they came up with the idea of a virtual waxing clinic. People could buy a bottle of wine from Rocky Mountain Underground that came with its own bar of wax and then tune into social media for a workshop on proper waxing, cleaning and storage techniques.
As for the future, everything is still in flux, but Wren is working on adapting events to the new paradigm and likely will make them free given the economic hardships.
This month’s Third Thursday Art Night is from 4-9 p.m. May 21 on HighSide Brewing’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/highsidebrewing.
“We’re doing what we can to keep local artists going and keep some good spirit in the community,” Axelrod said.
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