The Valley Visual art exhibition at the R2 Gallery in Carbondale is the longest-standing open-call art show in the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s open to all artists with an area code that starts with 8-1-6. The show features an eclectic mix of local art, a lot of which comes from non-professional artists. Some are hobbyists who know this is only place they’ll be able to exhibit their work all year. Others see it as a career move, a way to get a foot in the door in the art world.
Local artists Staci Dickerson and Diane Kenney wander through the Valley Visual show on a quiet Friday afternoon. There are photographs, watercolors, sculptures and lots of other mediums in all shapes and sizes. They range in price from $25, to more than $1,500, to “NFS,” or "Not For Sale."
Diane Kenney says she’s blown away by the both the wide range of the work and the quality.
"I’ve seen this show over many years, and I’d say this is the best I’ve ever seen, because a non-juried show, you never know what you’re going get," she said.
One-third of the artists in this year’s Valley Visual have never exhibited in the show before. Others are consistent contributors. Kenney’s been in the show more than 25 times. This year, she has three porcelain cups on a rough brown ceramic tray, a piece she calls “For Sake Or Bailey’s.” She says seeing the work in the sunny, spacious R2 gallery gives it dignity. She remembers years where the setting of the nearly-four-decades old show was a little different.
“The show’s been all over town. It used to be in the old post office building; it used to be upstairs above the theater; it was in the lobby one year and then where Main Street Gallery is, it’s been there, and then in the old library building, and it’s also been at Bonfire," she said.
Show curator Brian Colley says Valley Visual is a rare chance for non-professional artists to exhibit their work.
"They don’t have an opportunity to show their work in other places. You know, they’re not professional artists, they don’t have time to dedicate their lives to making art, but they have this show every year that they can put something in," he said.
Colley says the show can be an opportunity for a new artist to get their work out in front of the public. He’s heard of some veteran artists who purposefully don’t apply to Valley Visual, in order to make room for up-and-comers.
The art world’s a scary place, and the valley, even though it is a bubble sometimes, it can be a family," he said.
That support has been key to artists like Heather Hopper. Her watercolor and acrylic painting “Highlands in Blue” hangs in one corner of the R2 Gallery. She says, until now, art has been more of a hobby.
"I’m your classic Girl Friday here in the valley; I have a number of different jobs. I’m a ranch manager, I’m a floral designer, I’m a cameo bartender at kemosabe, I dogsit and I paint," she said.
This is the first time Hopper’s work has ever been publicly displayed. During the show’s opening, she looked around the gallery and felt pretty intimidated by the caliber of the art.
“You know, having it be my first show, part of me felt, 'Do I even belong here?'”
But she feels supported by other local artists, who encouraged her to apply to this show. And now that Hopper’s had a taste of exhibiting her work, she says there’s no going back.
"I’m in! It’s giving me a chance to go in the direction I want to go," she said.
Thomas Tomezsko is also displaying his work for the first time here at Valley Visual.
One thing that Tomezsko hasn’t really had to consider before was pricing his art. He says it involved a lot of guesswork. He finally settled on $125 for his collage assemblage “Applied Robotics.”
"It’s a fair price," he said. "It’s enough for the amount of work I put into it."
As artist Staci Dickerson concludes her walk through the gallery, though, she says the value comes not in the price tags attached to the individual work, but in the show as a whole.
"You know, here are 50 different artists, and there’s not one piece that is like the other," she said.
Dickerson says Valley Visual gives her faith that art is thriving here in the Roaring Fork Valley and will be for a long time.
"If anybody says art is dead, they’re crazy, because it’s so beautiful. There’s so much variety," she said,
That variety of style and skill is on display through Feb. 22.