Photo courtesy of Micah Barnhill-Wright

How Boulder Art Association Supports Creatives




Inspired by the surrounding wilderness and natural beauty, artists have long flocked to Boulder. And, for at least the last century, they’ve had the Boulder Art Association (BAA) with them every step of the way.


This nonprofit organization has helped foster Boulder’s thriving arts scene by supporting visual artists of all kinds, from painters and photographers to sculptors and mixed media artists. Through member shows, critique groups, exhibitions, competitions, workshops, meetings and other events, its 120 active members not only have an opportunity to grow their artistic prowess, but also to learn the business and marketing skills necessary to succeed in the industry.


“Our mission is to help uplift local artists, whether they’re beginning, emerging or professional artists,” says Amber Winston-Squires, the association’s marketing chair. “We’re here to help support them and showcase their voice through their creative outlet.”


The association traces its roots back to 1923, when art patron Jean Sherwood and University of Colorado Boulder arts and sciences dean F.B.R. Hellems identified a gap in the local arts scene—particularly for CU students, some of whom had never seen an original painting. Together, Sherwood and Hellems decided to start the Boulder Art Guild, which they officially registered as an arts organization in 1925.


In the first 10 or so years, the group flourished and grew to include some 200 members. The Boulder Art Guild brought traveling fine art exhibits to a gallery space at the CU library and offered community classes. After Sherwood’s death in the late 1930s, the guild disbanded and, for 20 years, no formal arts organization existed in Boulder. However, artists around the city continued to meet informally in private homes. In 1958, the group reorganized and became the Boulder Art Association (BAA), as it is known today, and has been operating ever since.


One of the ways BAA supports the artist community is by holding monthly member meetings, currently at R Gallery + Wine Bar. In these meetings, members might learn a new technique, get marketing tips or discuss how to land a gallery show.


“We really try to make those events about topics that help to benefit our membership,” says Winston-Squires.


Courtesy of Rob Lantz/R Gallery + Wine Bar


The association also strives to provide hands-on opportunities for artists to learn and experience new mediums. But another benefit of membership is simply having a social outlet for getting together with like-minded creatives, says Jeanne Kipke, who is starting her sixth year as BAA’s president.


During Saturday art critiques, for example, artists can interact with each other and share tips about techniques, materials and more. The word “critique” may be a bit harsh for what actually goes on at these gatherings, which Kipke says are “really positive and really gentle.”


With all of its offerings, the organization tries to give its members the tools, support and knowledge they need to be successful, while at the same time enhancing Boulder’s overall art culture and identity.


Before joining BAA, Winston-Squires, a photographer specializing in film, didn’t think it was possible for her work to be shown in galleries. But that’s an opportunity she’s had many times since joining the organization last year. “It’s really given me a lot more confidence as an emerging artist,” she says. “I have a community I can rely on for questions and support. Everybody’s been incredibly welcoming.”


“I had the same experience,” says Kipke, a painter and digital artist. “I never thought my work would be in a gallery. And now I’ve sold several pieces.”


For Kipke, becoming a BAA member has affected her life beyond artistic opportunities. Though she used to be shy and reticent about showing her art, the group helped her find her voice. “Now, as president, people ask me questions and I feel more comfortable,” she says. “I’m not just talking about myself or trying to force some small talk. I have something to talk about and I really enjoy it.”


The organization’s board members are volunteers who put in many hours to keep BAA’s mission alive. “It’s really a team effort,” says Winston-Squires. “As volunteers, we are all really putting a lot of time and effort into helping to build this community, helping to provide resources and events for our community to thrive.”


While BAA’s leaders love partnering with venues like R Gallery + Wine Bar and Cafe Aion, they’d eventually like to have their own facility to hold classes and workshops, as well as their own wall space for displaying member artwork.


Courtesy of Jeanne Kipke


“It would be amazing to have a space to foster the next generation of artists, as well as having more walls to feature our current artists, too,” says Winston-Squires. “It’s a dream that’s been brewing for 100 years, to have our own space.”


In the meantime, Boulder Arts Association will continue supporting its community of artists however it can. The group also plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary as an official arts organization in 2025 by releasing a commemorative deck of cards designed by members. The fact that Boulder artists have been gathering and supporting each other for such a long time is certainly worth celebrating.


“The artist community in Boulder, for 100 years or so, really [has] been valuing art and making that a huge priority,” Winston-Squires says. “It’s absolutely a joy to be a part of.”

Boulder Art Association Through the Years


1923: Art patron Jean Sherwood and F.B.R. Hellems, the CU Boulder dean of arts and sciences, form the Boulder Art Guild with the goal of elevating CU students’ exposure to fine art.


1925: Boulder Art Guild (BAG) is officially registered as an art organization.


1923-1933: BAG grows to 200 members and brings traveling fine art exhibits to a gallery space in the CU library. They also displayed the work of high school and college students and local artists from the guild, held Sunday afternoon talks and offered community classes such as businessmen’s sketch class and studio art for women, as well as a children’s summer art institute.


1933: The CU library needs the gallery space for its own operations, and BAG becomes a transient organization.


1937: BAG rents space on Arapahoe and launches the Sherwood Gallery.


1937-1939: BAG hosts 5,000 visitors a year in its Sherwood Gallery space, displaying art, holding two all-county juried art shows and offering workshops and photography classes. BAG also makes space at the gallery for the Boulder Historical Society.


1939: The Boulder Art Guild disbands and closes Sherwood Gallery after the death of founder Jean Sherwood.


1939-1958: No formal arts organization exists in Boulder for nearly 20 years. The remaining BAG artists continue to meet in local homes as the “Creative Interest Group.” The group used CU’s fine arts facilities and grew in size during the post-war years.


1958: The group reorganizes as the Boulder Art Association and holds the Beaux Arts Ball at th Boulder Country Club to reintroduce themselves to the community. The group no longer hosts traveling art shows, as the Denver Art Museum, founded in 1949, fulfills the need for displaying fine art. BAA continues community outreach, county art shows and providing space for artists to gather.


1961: BAA begins its annual tradition of hosting regional art shows.


1963: Along with local art groups, BAA founds the Boulder Art Center (now the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art).


1992: BAA members help to establish The Flatirons Center for the Arts, which is now The Dairy Center for the Arts.




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