When the dust settles: Joshua Doolittle reflects on 20 BLAM events
KEYSTONE — Joshua Doolittle is an idea man. The New York native has been drawing his whole life and attended Rhode Island School of Design for a degree in industrial design. Before he left the corporate world, Doolittle created sandals for Teva, rock climbing gear and handholds, and more.
More recently, he has been prototyping a fly-fishing invention and working on modular bamboo houses.
“It’s this sort of perfect fusion of affordable, sustainable and earthquake-resistant housing, with this initial focus on post-disaster refugee tiny houses for the homeless,” Doolittle said.
When: 5-9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23. Live music begins at 6.
Where: Warren Station, 164 Ida Belle Drive, Keystone
Cost: $5, free for children younger than 5. Visit warrenstation.com to purchase in advance.
But it was about 14 years ago that Doolittle got the idea for another project that fused different elements. Called BLAM, the pop-up art show that combines beer, local art and music is a constant in his life. He came up with the idea while hanging out with fellow artists at Snake River Brewing in Jackson, Wyoming, in October 2005. Because no one had enough art for a solo show, they pitched the event as a group show for the brewery to host during the off-season.
“’Well, we’ll have beer, local artists, our buddy will DJ, so we’ll have music,’” Doolittle recalled saying at the brewery. “So it was just like that — BLAM: beer, local art and music.”
Multiple surgeries related to his adventure lifestyle — three right hip socket surgeries, two right shoulder surgeries and one left shoulder surgery — took him to Boulder. With the support of his family and Medicare, he had time to focus on his art, so he put on 13 more BLAMs at places such as Sanitas Brewing Co., Dot’s Diner and PrAna before his girlfriend got a job in Summit County.
Doolittle likes that the biannual event is casual and affordable — for the artists who might not have gone to openings in art school as well as the attendees who are looking for a fun night out.
“It’s a vortex of people that are looking for interesting Christmas gifts this time of year, but it also turns into a network event,” Doolittle said. “It’s fun to sit back and see all of these different pods of people connecting and having fun.”
While the summer one is not be as profitable as the winter, according to Doolittle, it keeps BLAM on people’s minds and the artists engaged. Doolittle also said it’s important for artists to experiment creatively with a looming deadline of a public show.
The upcoming event Saturday, Nov. 23, at Warren Station will be the sixth in Summit County and the 21st overall. The venue will have 17 tables measuring 3-by-8 feet for artists to display prints, photographs, custom skis, woodwork and more. It would be difficult to expand beyond those 17 because of space, but Doolittle is glad to have reached a point where artists ask to come back, and he has a few on a waitlist in case someone drops out. He’s found an enthusiastic core, such as Amanda Jesse’s landscapes, Christian Tai Leach’s snowboards and Brandi Violetta’s illustrations, yet he tries to get new artists in the mix whenever possible.
A few new people this year are photographer Natalie Wolfe, printmaker Alie Mahoney, painter Becca Scwab and potter Melissa Michel.
One thing Doolittle has learned along the way is to keep the participating artists as truly local as possible, not only for the spirit of the event, but for the logistics, too.
“If the tunnel shuts down, no one from the Front Range is going to make it here,” Doolittle said.
Another returning artist is Doolittle himself. His main medium is landscape field drawings that he then turns into a silk screen and hand watercolors. He’ll also have hats with the artwork on them for sale for those who want the work in a smaller or wearable scale.
“It had been six or seven years since I had left that job at Teva, and I got nervous about maintaining my drawing skills,” Doolittle said. “So I started drawing the Tetons. If you want dramatic and exciting mountainscapes, Jackson Hole has got it going on.”
He would specifically hitchhike to travel to his locals to be without the distraction of a car. Once dropped off, Doolittle hiked to an even more secluded spot to get the sweeping vistas he desired.
“I sat down and had a chunk of a door that I had cut in half to use a lightweight drawing table for my big piece of tracing paper. I just busted out this ballpoint pen drawing of the Teton Range.”
Those drawings of the Tetons, along with others of Yosemite and the Flatirons, harken back to one of Doolittle’s oldest pastimes.
“One of my earliest memories was me and a friend down the street taking 8-by-11 Xerox paper, taping them together and drawing these extensive panoramas of the Hoth battle scene from ‘Empire Strikes Back,’” Doolittle said. “’Star Wars’ movies are really where I learned about what an industrial designer is from the ‘Art of Star Wars’ books that came out.”
Doolittle will provide tunes at BLAM for the second time in addition to his physical art. A part-time DJ for KSMT, he’ll open the evening with “lounge-y electronica” that’s perfect for people mingling around the show as they shop. Then Todd Johnson will strum on his guitar followed by a performance from Tyler Easton and his band.
Guests can chow down on the mac and cheese bar as they listen to the music, and the family-friendly event also will have The Sunny Side Up Studio with art crafts for kids. Getting all of the right aspects to line up was a bit like “herding cats,” but even though Doolittle still gets stressed as the event nears, it has become easier to pull off each time.
“The name BLAM is kind of perfect,” Doolittle said, “because it is very much this collision course of creative energy that then shows up, explodes and then it’s over.”
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