Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
Colorado is one of the most artistic states in the nation. It ranks No. 1 for the percentage of residents who perform or create art, according to the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2016 survey.
In the most creative state in the nation, Boulder is one of Colorado’s art leaders. According to the City of Boulder’s Community Cultural Plan:
- 8.85 percent of Boulderites are creative professionals, compared to an average of 5.33 percent in comparable cities.
- A whopping 74 percent are artists as a hobby.
- 80 percent of residents use Boulder’s theaters and concert venues, and 65 percent attends art galleries, craft shows or exhibitions.
What this means: Boulder is where to go to dive into art. And two of Boulder’s top visual arts venues are the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Dairy Arts Center.
Both are worth visiting because they’re quite different and unique. Here’s a closer look at two of Boulder’s leading art venues.
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
About: The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, or BMoCA for short, focuses on (you guessed it) contemporary art. The visual art exhibitions that feature rotating local and international artists are the star here, but the museum also offers performances, workshops, tours and more (the museum works with more than 70 local organizations to offer programs). At least 60 percent of BMoCA’s exhibitions feature local artists. The museum draws about 47,000 visitors a year.
1750 13th St. in downtown Boulder, near the Boulder Creek, across from Central Park and near the location of the Boulder Farmers Market.
Admission: $1; free to members and children under 12; free 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays during the Farmers Market. Also look for free programs, like Art Stop, Contemporary Classroom (for kids, featuring a visiting artist and an art-making workshop), ARTlab (for high schoolers) and Artist Hour (for adults).
The building: BMoCA is in the former City Storage and Transfer Company building, a designated Local Historic Landmark for its representation of factory/warehouse architecture in the early 20th century (built in 1906). It used to be a warehouse and offices.
History: The museum was founded in 1972 by local artists. Today, it offers about 500 programs annually across seven counties. It has plans to revamp its building and expand.
Special features: Educational tours, online gallery, Art Stop on the Go (art projects inspired by popular books), the Museum Store (selling local art, books, jewelry and more), tours for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Summer Games (annual games, sports and art-making), MediaLive (annual festival bringing together art and technology) and more.
Kimberlee Sullivan: “Weather Pattern” – “Attention to land, weather and water – the cycle of atmospheric conditions – suffuse these works with pervasive references to landscape, seascape, skyscape and their dynamically shifting patterns, currents and ‘moods.’” Runs through May 6 at BMoCA @ Macky, on the University of Colorado Boulder campus; free and open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Nathan Abels: “History of the Future” – “’History of the Future’ by Nathan Abels embeds contemporary technologies and icons into scenes from a perspective of faith, ritual and religion.” Runs through May 28.
Wopo Holup: “Endless Places, Present” – “This posthumous exhibition explores the vast cartographies illustrated by Holup over the last fifteen years. Many of these drawings were created in her studio in Lyons, Colorado. Although the titles may be familiar or feature well-known places, Holup selectively transcribed her experience of these majestic landscapes into richly layered and selectively sparse drawings.” Runs through May 28.
Dairy Arts Center
About: The Dairy Arts Center is Boulder’s biggest multidisciplinary art center. It offers cinema, dance, theater, music, classes and exhibitions all under one roof. Its Visual Arts Program spans four galleries and highlights rotating local and international artists (even sometimes local students). The Dairy also offers art workshops and lectures for people of all ages.
“It strives to provide art opportunities that inspire, educate, and entertain all people in our community through diverse programming in performance, cinema and visual arts,” says marketing manager Sharon Park. “Our visual arts program is dedicated to bringing high-quality, community-minded, educational and inspiring experiences through the Dairy’s four gallery spaces at little to no cost to our patrons.”
2590 Walnut St., in central Boulder
Admission: Technically free to see the galleries, although the Dairy requests a suggested $5 donation per person when you visit. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (or later) Monday through Friday; noon-7:30 p.m. (or later) Saturday; and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday (or later). Galleries stay open every day until the last performance or film ends.
The building: An old historic dairy plant (Watts-Hardy Dairy, later Sinton Dairy) converted into an art house (hence the name). It used to be a popular ice cream spot.
History: The dairy (for cow-related purposes) stopped operating in the late ‘80s, when local artists began using it for art events and shows. The Dairy, as it is now, officially started in 1992. Today, the Dairy offers about 250,000 arts experiences per year, and classes for about 2,000 music and dance students. The Dairy’s 42,000 square feet recently underwent a significant renovation.
Special features: Third Thursdays (free music and surprises in the lobby with food and drink specials in the cafe); adult and teen workshops; visual arts lecture series; and of course, the many different artistic events happening here every day.
Exhibition Reception for Boulder Valley School District: The Art of Students and Teachers – “This annual community show features art by high school students and art teachers in the Boulder Valley School District. The reception will also feature a special hair art and esthetics runway show beginning at 6 p.m. by students in the CTE programs at Arapahoe Ridge High School.” Open April 27-May 6 in all galleries; free and open to the public.
Marietta Patricia Leis: Melting – The multimedia abstract art in ‘Melting’ was inspired by the artist’s excursions to Antarctica, Iceland and Finland’s Arctic Circle. “The art resonates the whiteness of the snow, glaciers and icebergs contrasting with the black seas and volcanic landscapes. The variant of blues also resound in the work as it does in these primal areas of our planet.” Runs May 11-June 17 in the MacMillan Family Lobby and Polly Addison Gallery.
David Bahr: One End of the Forest – After evacuating his Front Range home and fighting wildfires in New Mexico, the artist says he understands “both the strange allure and the gut-wrenching fear. This portfolio focuses on the disconcerting art found in the smoke and flames of Front Range fires, both controlled burns in the winter and wild in the summer; but the photographs do not shy away from the destruction.” Runs May 11-June 17 in the Hand-Rudy Gallery.
Rebecca Davis and Roger Asay: Wood and Stone, Substance and Spirit – “The sculptural collaborations of Rebecca Davis and Roger Asay generate a deep reverence for the earth by presenting raw natural materials such as willow branches or river stones in strange and unexpected arrangements, inducing in viewers the experience of seeing these familiar objects directly, with an intense clarity, as if for the first time.” Runs May 11-June 17 in the McMahon Gallery.