Three years ago, the Valley Visual Art Show filled its 50 available spots in about two weeks; last year, it happened in less than 20 minutes. “Word is getting out,” says Brian Colley, a Carbondale-based artist and manager of the R2 Gallery at the Launchpad, where the celebrated open-call show is held. “Anyone in a ZIP code beginning with 816 can apply, and it’s become a sought-after space for local artists to show their work. Everything must have been completed in the past 12 months, so this really is the best opportunity for the public to see what’s being created in this area right now.”
Until last year, artists were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. For the 40th annual show, which opened in January, Carbondale Arts has decided to try a new lottery system to help make the process more fair for its ever-increasing number of applicants. Spots also jumped from 50 to 60, with an option for some remaining works to be shown at Bonfire Coffee. Still, that leaves dozens on the waitlist each year.
What makes it a must-see? Featuring two- and three-dimensional pieces with no theme whatsoever except the inspiring, quirky creative verve of the Roaring Fork Valley and its surrounds, the show funnels the region’s diverse artistic spirit into a single venue. Translation: Veteran artists hang next to emerging ones, and the result is terrifically dynamic.
“Over the years, some have pushed to make this a juried show,” Colley says. “But the soul of Valley Visual would be lost if it was juried. Some of these artists have never been shown before, but they’re still making time in their lives to create and share with the community. Each year, we’re blown away by what people submit.”
He notes that opening night is particularly rewarding, as it draws the locals who drive “what makes the creative engine of the valley run,” and creates space for newer artists to feel recognized. “This show is a reflection of how people experience the valley in their everyday lives, a manifestation of what they’re thinking about and seeing here,” Colley says. “That’s something you won’t have the opportunity to see at a fine art gallery in Aspen.” Jan. 17-Feb. 28, 76 S. Fourth St., carbondalearts.com