Boulder’s community-driven, creative culture has helped make it a paradise for emerging artists
You might think of Boulder primarily as a hub for those who appreciate an active lifestyle spent in Colorado’s expansive, beautiful landscape. While the city is certainly popular with those seeking a health and fitness-minded lifestyle, it also has a thriving culture and arts scene that draws creatives from across the nation to learn, create, and find inspiration.
If you want to learn about what makes Boulder such a great city for artists, read on. We’ve compiled the best galleries, events, and more that make this city such a hot destination for creatives of all types.
A City for the Arts
In recent years, Boulder has increased its funding for the arts, making the artistic and cultural development of the city a major focus for local and state governments. This growth in support, along with the work of nonprofits, grassroots organizers, and creative collectives, has helped shift the city into one that values and respects the contributions of its artistic community. This is reflected in the growing artistic districts and institutions that are thriving in Boulder.
- Pearl Street is the most popular shopping and dining district in Boulder’s historic downtown, but it is also home to many of the galleries, studios, and creative spaces that are crucial to the city’s burgeoning arts scene. While visiting Pearl Street, four blocks of which are closed to traffic, you can freely explore the brick streets and find inspiration in the bustle of the city.
- The North Boulder Arts District is a growing collective of artists, businesses, and city leaders in North Boulder that brings together resources and creative ideas to shape the neighborhood's future. The District and its operations are overseen by a non-profit local board, and the organization places emphasis on grassroots, community-focused work to make the city an even better place for the artists who call it home. Many great art events in the area are co-sponsored by the District.
- One of Boulder’s most unique art shops is Art Parts: Creative Reuse Center. Unlike a traditional art supply store, Art Parts prides itself on offering unusual, inventive, and upcycled materials for artists of all mediums.
Art Centers and Museums
Boulder’s art centers and museums serve as both educational institutions and launchpads for young artists. You can peruse these spaces to find inspiration and learn about their programs and offerings for artists at all stages of their careers.
- The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is a cultural and artistic cornerstone in Boulder. Opened in 1972, the museum is known for the excellent work it houses, as well as its extensive schedule of exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs that work to engage the community in creating and appreciating art of all kinds.
- The Dairy Arts Center is a thriving creative workspace and performance venue for art, film, live theater, and more. It is Boulder’s largest multi-disciplinary art space.
- The Art Museum at the University of Colorado in Boulder is an elegant gallery space that provides students and the public the opportunity to see and learn about art from around the globe.
An Inspiring Landscape
One thing everyone knows about Boulder is that its natural beauty is unmatched. The landscape itself is a significant draw for artists who want to find inspiration in the open, preserved wilderness that surrounds the city, and its many parks and trails provide great opportunities to create in the outdoors.
- The city’s defining natural feature is its view of the Flatirons—an iconic mountain range that has much historic, spiritual, and ecological significance in the region. Creative takes and interpretations on the mountains are a staple of the Boulder’s arts scene, and their powerful presence on the horizon has provided inspiration to many local artists.
- A popular destination for plein air painters is the Chautauqua Trailhead, where you can access a wide array of stunning vistas from which to draw inspiration and ideas.
- Central Park lies in the heart of Downtown Boulder, near many of the shops and galleries that are crucial to the city’s arts scene. You’ll commonly find artists of all types in and near the park creating, engaging with the community, and finding inspiration in the bustle of the city.
Galleries are often the artistic lifeblood of a city. They bring together creators and communities, provide a platform for both new and established artists, and offer space for local, up-and-coming talent to show the city their work. Boulder has an array of great galleries—many of which are open to the public year-round—that provide an amazing opportunity to discover new artists and support them directly.
- 15th Street Gallery is a premier contemporary art gallery that also provides custom, museum-quality framing services. They pride themselves on spotlighting all mediums of art and regularly feature innovative works from nationally and internationally-established artists. You can attend one of their public openings to enjoy talks from featured artists, who generally also encourage questions about and engagement with their artwork.
- The SmithKlein Gallery is a family-owned establishment that has been serving Boulder’s artistic community since 1984. This 2,800 square foot, carefully-curated space features works from globally-renowned artists and encourages patrons to take in the variety of mediums and styles it houses, including paintings, blown glass, sculpture, jewelry, and more. It’s one of the largest and most lauded fine art galleries on Pearl Street, making it a must-visit destination for those who want to appreciate and take home some incredible works of art.
- Rembrandt Yard is an art gallery and event center with a mission to bring together the work of local and international artists. This refined space is excellently curated and also regularly hosts private events.
- If you want to find incredible art and handmade goods, there’s no better place than the Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery. This unique co-operative space brings together artisanal items from both local creatives and artists all over the nation, providing an incredibly dynamic and unique shopping experience that’s perfect for those seeking an unusual gift or hoping to find some creative inspiration of their own. There are over 20,000 items stocked here, including woodwork, pottery, paintings, jewelry, and much more.
- Madelife is much more than an average gallery. This unique, community-driven establishment acts as a workshop and creative space for Boulder’s local artists, with a focus on development and education through its mentorship program. Its monthly exhibitions provide a glimpse at the work created in the space, and you’ll also find a black box theater and production studio on-site for even more creative collaboration.
Festivals and Events
Part of what has helped put Boulder on the map of great artistic cities is the variety of events and festivals it hosts year-round. Summers, in particular, are a great time for artists in Boulder since everyone is out and about, ready to enjoy performances, see gallery openings, and attend shows.
- Boulder Arts Week is one of the city’s largest annual events. It celebrates artists of all kinds and brings the community together for a variety of programming, including many free events. Its offerings include art walks, exhibitions, dances, lectures, and workshops that are hosted by various creative spaces and institutions throughout Boulder.
- For fans of theater, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is one of Boulder’s longest-running artistic traditions. Started in 1958 by a professional theatre company associated with the University of Colorado Boulder, this festival offers fresh and invigorating takes on Shakespeare’s classic works that bring the community together every year.
- One event that many residents look forward to is the Boulder International Film Festival, which is known for providing a springboard for many young, up-and-coming filmmakers. Drawing around 25,000 attendees each year, the festival has a growing influence on the film industry and brings a wide range of talent to Boulder for its four days of screenings and events.
- The Colorado Music Festival has been a favorite for locals and visitors alike since 1976. Held at the historic Chautauqua Auditorium, this festival offers an excellent series of performances from classical musicians.
- Open Studios is an arts organization known primarily for the annual Open Studios event it facilitates: a self-guided tour of artists’ studios that allows for open dialogue between Boulder’s residents and the many artists who work in the city. With over 125 artists participating, there is no lack of exciting art to learn about.
Experience Boulder’s Artistic Culture Firsthand
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