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A place for art, a space for community | Culture & Leisure

A place for art, a space for community |  Culture & Leisure


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Daniel Joseph DJ Watkins is pictured in his new gallery. The Aspen Collective is located in the Wheeler Opera Houses tenant gallery space at 213 S. Mill St. The gallery will showcase the work of Roaring Fork Valley artists. The first exhibit features the work of Carbondale resident Chris Erickson. The grand opening of the gallery will take place this evening from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

One small step for local galleries, one giant leap for local artists.

Tonight, the official opening of the Aspen Collective, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., marks a new chapter in Aspen's artistic and cultural history. Local author, filmmaker, art gallery owner and personality Daniel Joseph DJ Watkins is opening his new gallery, located in the Wheeler Opera House gallery space at 213 S. Mill St.

Aspen Collectives' mission statement is to promote the work of local artists in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The goal is to give a place and a platform to the artists who live and work here, Watkins said in an interview in his office, where 200 roses had just arrived from Ecuador. I've done 50 shows in 12 years in Aspen and have met a lot of amazing artists who work and live here. I strive to give them a platform. And it's not just about artists. It’s also gallery owners and curators.

Watkins has operated galleries in Aspen since 2012. He is currently curator of the Fat City Gallery at 415 E. Hyman Ave., which displays political posters by activist Thomas W. Benton, works by Hunter S. Thompson and his illustrator Ralph Steadman, and the work of other contemporary photographers and artists.

Watkins Spaces has not only been celebrated for its art, but also for the eclectic, inclusive and energetic events it has hosted regularly over the years and which have made its galleries valuable community gathering spaces.

Aspen Collective's goal is to bring energy, vitality and fun to the historic Wheeler Opera House by using the space for lectures, events, dinners and exhibitions, Watkins said. One of the things I'm proud of is that we have billionaire clients, ski enthusiasts, working artists, colorful characters who all love coming to our openings and events. The idea is that we can all come together as a melting pot of community in this beautiful downtown space and make it a place where there can be a dialogue not only about art but also about issues that affect the community.

Lisa Rigsby Peterson, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, said she looks forward to future arts and community gatherings in the gallery spaces.

The small space that is the Wheeler Gallery plays an outsized role for our community, she said.

The first artist on The Aspen Collectives roster is Carbondale resident Chris Erickson, whose murals and sculptures have appeared throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

Chris's work is colorful and multifaceted and he has many connections within the community. So it's really an honor that he's the first person to launch this new initiative, Watkins said. His philosophy is that art builds community, transcends all racial and ethnic boundaries, and brings meaning and understanding to the unexplainable.

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The work of Carbondale artist Chris Erickson is on display through June 5 at the Aspen Collective, a new gallery located in the Wheeler Opera House building.

I believe that art with a message and philosophy behind it is powerful. It’s a way to encourage discussion and community engagement. My goal is to showcase the work of artists who are making important statements about our times and to give them a platform to discuss the themes of their work with the community and to expose Aspen to these incredible local artists.

Erickson said he was honored to be the first artist featured at The Aspen Collective and was grateful for the new venue.

It's really exciting to have a gallery that provides the opportunity for emerging local artists to exhibit their work in a world-class destination city, enriching the already vibrant art scene, Erickson said. There are very few places that elevate and support local artists to this level and it is inspiring to see a gallery that harnesses local talent to provide opportunities for people trying to create a life here.

Peterson echoed this point.

It's the place where local gallerists and artists can draw attention to their work in an affordable and sustainable way, she said. Mia Valley and its Valley Fine Art gallery offered locals and visitors the opportunity to discover, appreciate and collect the works of great artists of the West, its history and its culture.

With the opening of The Aspen Collective, Watkins will now enliven the gallery with works featuring local contemporary artists in several exhibitions throughout the year, while also creating opportunities for community engagement with the work and with questions important to us today.

In the foreword to his book about Thompson, Freak Power, Watkins quotes an ad from Thompson's mayoral campaign: The only thing he's accused of is that he's a visionary. He wants a world that is too pure.

The same can be said of Watkins. Thompson's campaign for sheriff was a statement against the development and gentrification of Aspen in 1969. Fifty-five years later, if there is one person in Aspen who carries on Thompson's gonzo spirit, it is indeed Watkins himself.

Watkins differs from Thompson in one major respect. Thompson was very cynical about Aspen and the future of the Roaring Fork Valley. Watkins sees Aspen from a different perspective.

I'm optimistic about Aspen, Watkins said. The community has changed over the years, but it remains an incredible place to think about big ideas, Watkins said. It's a place where you can change the world. The people who are here, the connections, the institutions, this is the cultural capital of America. And I believe my role is to keep the past alive while forging a new, exciting and fulfilling future. »




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