“Art,” claimed Pablo Picasso, “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
With mass shootings, the ongoing pandemic, war in Ukraine, wildfires and political upheaval, we’ve all recently had our share of dust.
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is back in full force this weekend as a summery feather duster for the masses. The art booths, street food and an eclectic array of live music typically draw upwards of 150,000 people over the Independence Day holiday.
“Art can be so healing for everyone,” said Cherry Creek Arts Festival CEO Tara Brickell.
“The artists as they went through what all of us went through were still creating. What they’re bringing to the show is the way they expressed what we’ve all been going through in visual media. This art can help people let go of what we’ve been dealing with and explore other ideas and ways we can heal from all the craziness that has been going on.”
Though held in Cherry Creek North, one of Denver’s toniest neighborhoods, the festival isn’t for highbrow café society only. The event’s tagline is ‘Art for Everyone.’”
“That means everyone,” said Brickell. “With culture and equity, we open up and we really do not have any barriers.”
Festivalgoers can feast their eyes upon paintings, drawings and prints, photography, jewelry, ceramics, glass, sculpture, fiber, wood, metal, mixed media and digital art. The festival encourages guests to enjoy art-gazing, but also to try their hands at a variety of arts and crafts projects for all ages. Individuals can make their marks on a collaborative work titled Imagination Mural, a community work-in-progress ongoing throughout the weekend. And the event includes art-making for blind or low-vision visitors, too.
The festival’s art auction and a ticketed benefit concert by Tune-Yards — a genre-bending pop band — help fund the many programs of CherryArts, a year-round
nonprofit organization promoting the arts throughout Colorado.
“We like to walk our talk,” said Brickell.
Myriad vendors will serve up an eclectic menu of street food. And the world’s largest cocktail shaker with the capacity to hold 12,000 bottles of whiskey will be mixing things up at the corner of East Third Avenue and St. Paul Street
The art fair amps the musical arts, as well. Central City Opera will offer “Create Your Own Opera Aria.” The Main Stage and the beer garden will boogie with a range of beats from rock ‘n’ roll to soul, hip hop, pop, funk, jazz, and blues. Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca, a traditional Mexico/Azteca dance group, will perform.
The 2022 commemorative poster image makes a cautionary statement about Colorado’s growth spurt and our rapidly diminishing mountain vistas obliterated by more and more buildings.
Titled “Light Born in Spring,” the acrylic and gouache on canvas painting by Noelle Phares depicts Hallett Peak above Estes Park’s Dream Lake, but with superimposed ghostly lines suggesting future structures.
For Phares, the gratification of being the featured artist was delayed when COVID scrapped the event in 2020. In 2021, when a modified festival was rescheduled for Labor Day weekend, Phares didn’t participate because she was honeymooning. (Her mother-in-law is Amy Metier, the esteemed painter represented by William Havu Gallery in Denver.)
Phares, a transplant from San Francisco to Denver, said in a telephone interview, “This honor is huge. I’ve been waiting two years. I’ve lived four and a half years in Denver, so it feels like a rite of passage.”
Phares holds degrees in biochemistry and environmental science. She directs her artistic talents toward making what she calls “thought experiments” about the impact of human development on our natural world.
“These beautiful Colorado landscapes are dear to my heart, and I spend a lot of time in them hiking, mountain biking and river-rafting,” she said.
“I wanted a local landscape recognizable to Colorado folks. There are no buildings right around there in reality these days, but there’s a constant threat to our natural spaces with modification from development,” she said.
“I want us to think harder about the value of open space and how important it is to preserve these places,” she said, “My job as an artist is to think about the way we build. We can’t put the brakes on development, but we can encourage responsible growth, a synergy of development that enhances and functions with natural beauty. I want us to think harder about the value of open space and how important it is to preserve these places.”
The painting bears particular poignancy for the festival’s site: Cherry Creek North. Once a quaint village-like enclave, the area has morphed into a more densely populated mini-city of towering high-rises.
“Noelle’s work is more relevant than ever,” Brickell said. “The piece she created for us is defiantly about changing landscapes, and our local setting over the past 31 years is evolving in every way with all the Cherry Creek North development.”
The marquee Cherry Creek happening presents 250 artist exhibitors narrowed from 1,700 applicants. Thirteen award-winning artists return from the 2021 show. Five emerging artists were juried in and provided with mentoring. Approximately 600 volunteers support the event, together with many festival sponsors.
Questioned about safety concerns related to COVID, Brickell said, “We encourage people to stay home if not feeling well, take their temperature, take a rapid test. We want to make sure our team is constantly testing and staying healthy. We welcome people to wear a mask if more comfortable. The benefit of our event is that it’s 100 percent outdoors.”
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is a high point of high summer in the Mile High City, yet historically and notoriously hot. It’s July,
after all. So if you go, wear your most comfortable walking shoes, a hat and your sunscreen. And remember to cast your vote for the People’s Choice award.
For more details, visit cherryarts.org.
Colleen Smith writes from Denver and is curating the Art & Object online Denver Art Showcase.