By Emily Clingman
It’s no secret that Fort Collins is a booming art town, but many artists are still in the dark when it comes to exposing their talent. Without their own galleries or significant funds available to rent space in existing galleries, many aspiring artists go unnoticed.
Fortunately, there are several alternative venues in the Fort that cater to local artists with unique opportunities for them to showcase their talent. Bars and restaurants are increasingly opening their doors to artists – some even incorporate art displays into their calendar of events.
Luscious Nectar Juice Lounge, located at 253 Linden Street, fills its tall walls with local art and rotates the displays each month on the first Friday to coincide with Old Town’s monthly walking gallery tour.
“Featuring artwork is a connection to the community,” said owner Jeremy Kempter. “It keeps regular clientele visually entertained and it adds a nice ambiance.”
Featuring artwork at Luscious is a natural fit, as it was previously an art gallery.
“Having the art component connects us to the other new galleries on the block,” he said. “It’s an exciting little part of Old Town to be a part of.”
Luscious sits right next to a handful of other alternative art galleries that have opened recently on the same block. Edgy, abstract and whimsical is how he describes the type of art he looks to hang on the walls of Luscious.
“Other galleries do a nice job of featuring traditional scenic and nature art,” he said. ”I like to promote things out of the ordinary. The Front Range is loaded with talent and we have a strong history of supporting it.”
Kempter finds meaning in the unique vibe that Fort Collins has.
“It’s very entrepreneurial here,” he said. “Collaborations between business and artists foster even more creativity. It’s progressive, yet down to earth.”
Another notable venue featuring local art is The Eyes Have It, an eyeglass store located at 107 S. College Avenue. Owners Dennis and Patricia Bell have been in the downtown area for 18 years but added artwork to their store two years ago.
Mixed in with display cases of eyeglasses, customers will find paintings, photos, jewelry and handcrafted fashion accessories like purses and eyeglass cases, all made by local artisans.
“The location of the store made it ideal for art,” said Dennis Bell. “ We sort of play on the name of the store. Art is candy for the eyes. Accessories are artistic. Eyeglasses are accessories. It’s all connected.”
A lot of the Bell’s customers are artists, so finding art to display wasn’t a problem.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Dennis said. “We love supporting local artists and people are starting to come in for the art instead of the glasses.”
He also said that the artwork influences their choice in glasses.
“We’ve been leaning toward more unique and funky styles.”
The Eyes Have It is always open on Friday evenings, so it has become a destination spot for First Friday browsers.
“It’s a great time to meet new artists and get feedback about what’s currently up in the store,” said Patricia Bell.
Lindsey Corcoran, Marketing Director for Hot Corner Concepts, oversees the art displays at Big Al’s Burgers and Dogs, located at 140 West Mountain Avenue. She said that she looks for artists that represent Big Al’s fun and quirky persona. Colorful, bold art on the walls catches the eyes of customers and keeps the staff entertained.
“It’s really fun to provide artists with a space to show their work,” said Corcoran. “ The artists appreciate it too.”
Big Al’s offers its walls to artists for free, and there is no specific time limit for their displays.
Once chosen, featured artists can expect to hang around for a while, as long as the display is regularly updated with new pieces.
“We just want to help local artists,” Corcoran said. “We enjoy working with them, and we’re just amazed by all the local talent.”
Chris Bates, a local artist who has painted several outdoor murals around Fort Collins, is currently showcasing his artwork at Big Al’s.
“I enjoy hanging art in businesses that I frequent,” Bates said. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They get free art on their walls when they otherwise would be purchasing something. I get a free place to display, where with a gallery, I would be paying.”
Many other businesses in Old Town feature regularly rotating local art, including Surfside 7, Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewing, Mugs Coffee Lounge, The Forge Publick House, and many, many more. As an artist or an art lover, take a stroll downtown and you’re bound to find unique places that feature homegrown alternative artwork!