ArtWalk

“Points of Perception,” an augmented reality-enabled oil on canvas by Brooke Einbender, on exhibit at telluridearts.org. (Courtesy photo)

“A festive celebration of the arts in downtown Telluride for art lovers, community and friends.”

That’s how a press release from the Telluride Arts District describes its signature gallery event, Art Walk. 

Held the first Thursday of practically every month (save off-season), Art Walk is easy to find, or at least was: pre-pandemic, participating galleries and venues unfurled brightly colored flags outside their businesses. The flags served as invitations to drop in and peruse new works at a leisurely pace — Art Walk venues stayed open late, until 8 p.m. — perhaps with a glass of wine. 

ArtWalk could have screeched to a halt for its final showing of the season in April, were it not for the nimble programmers at Telluride Arts, who brought the “virtual exhibition showcase” online.

There were advantages to that — you could peruse the art at your own pace, from your own couch, in your very own pajamas (if you so desired). 

On the other hand, one of the chief charms of Art Walk has always been downtown Telluride itself, and strolling its streets during twilight. 

But the main disadvantage to art viewed on a phone, or a tablet or (even) on a computer, comes down to limitations of scale — and of the human imagination. It can be difficult to picture artworks in the shape and size that the artist intended them to be seen unless you are there looking at them in person. Paintings, photographs, and sculpture are generally more powerful when you can experience them up-close, no matter how high-res your computer screen. 

Brooke Einbender’s Gallery 81435 ArtWalk exhibit last month, “The Unknown Zone,” not only took on the challenge presented by a virtual exhibit, it embraced it: Einbender was able to translate and “transmute” her oil paintings into virtual-reality pieces through the use of an app that you downloaded called Arize (Einbender’s work is still up at telluridearts.org). 

Next month, Telluride’s signature monthly cultural event returns to the streets of downtown. And Einbender, who is so good at staging art in fresh ways — and who also happens to work for Telluride Arts — will be integral to an event reimagined for a new era: because ArtWalk 2.0 will be held both indoors and outdoors.

The event will acknowledge new realities: the ongoing need for social distancing, and face covering. Yet you will still be able to see new artworks up-close and in person, because the works will be right there, inside the galleries themselves and displayed in gallery windows. 

There will likely be local musicians performing on street corners. 

And, perhaps, participating restaurants — such as La Cocina de Luz, which acts as an ArtWalk venue — offering a take-out dish or two especially for that evening.

“I don’t know everything, exactly,” said Kate Jones, the head of Telluride Arts. “Everybody just decided about this yesterday.” 

Much of ArtWalk 2.0 is still in the works.

“There will be both two-dimensional and 3D works” displayed in windows, Jones said, “but a lot of these galleries’ spaces” will, in effect, be reconfigured “to be experienced from the street.”

“Many of the galleries you’ll be able to go into,” Jones said. On the other hand, some patrons may not prefer venturing into closed spaces at this time. So much of next month’s Art Walk will be reconfigured to meet people where they are, as they stroll the streets of Telluride at twilight.

“The windows will be used as live gallery spaces,” Jones said. “This is a bunch of creative people,” she added admiringly of her staff and the many artists who call the box canyon home, “and people will get creative. We’ve all had to pivot” because of Covid-19, “and everybody is just brimming with ideas. People are full-on responding, and it’s so inspiring.” 

Which means Art Walk 2.0 also promises to be inspiring. There has never been an event like it in Telluride.