The POP! Gallery at at 1421 Pearl Street features one-of-a-kind works by local artists. Credit: David Harwi

Update — Dec. 10, 2021: This story has been updated to acknowledge the former tenant at 1421 Pearl Street, the Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery, which was a cultural institution in Boulder for 50 years.

Stepping into the new POP! Gallery in downtown Boulder feels like entering a bustling network of artist studios. But instead of furrow-browed creatives toiling over their works in various states of completion, visitors to the temporary space at 1421 Pearl Street (the former site of the shuttered Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery co-op) will find rows of one-of-a-kind art items ready to take home — from sculpture to photography and points in between.   

“You’ll see excellence in art by more than 90 artists from all around Boulder County,” said Open Studios Executive Director Mary Horrocks. “Every time you turn around, there’s something exciting to discover, whether it’s functional ceramic art or furniture or jewelry. You’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting local artists.”

Open Studios has been promoting the visual arts in Boulder County since 1995, when the nonprofit organization launched its flagship, free-to-the-public studio tours of working artists. Its POP! Gallery social enterprise program began in 2018, transforming temporary spaces into bustling art markets during the summer and holiday months.

The idea is to help local artists show and sell their work in the community they call home, but Horrocks says it’s not just artists and buyers who stand to benefit from the pop-up gallery initiative. “It enlivens the other [nearby] businesses and brings the energy of these local artists and makers to the block,” she said. “It just makes it a more exciting experience in the downtown area.” 

But Open Studios’ reach extends far beyond downtown Boulder. In addition to the POP! Gallery, other programs include the Boulder Plein Art Festival (BPAF), the Mobile Art Lab for “art-based community-building projects” and the EdLinks Art Education program, which pairs BVSD art instructors with local working artists for classroom instruction. The Open Studios public art program is also responsible for a number of murals and other beautification projects throughout the city. 

Member artists currently pay a participation fee and share the cost of gallery operations. All artists who live or create in Boulder County are eligible to apply for Open Studios membership, currently offered at the mid-year rate of $75 through December.

“There’s a really strong community of artists here — 200-plus artists, in and around Boulder,” said local artist Mitch Levin, whose vintage industrial sculptures will be available for purchase at POP! Gallery alongside work by his wife Susie and daughter Madison. “[Open Studios] has really networked us into the community.”

Fellow exhibiting artist Cathy Faughnan agrees on the value of belonging to such a vast and vibrant network of local creatives. 

“It’s providing multiple kinds of connections. There’s the artistic connection, but there’s also the personal connection. It’s a group of friends who all get it,” the Lafayette-based painter said. “Artists have always created communities because they learn from each other and inform each other’s work. Open Studios does a good job connecting people that way.”

The newest holiday POP! Gallery is open seven days a week, 11 a.m.–7 p.m., with extended hours on Friday and Saturday. Weekends will also feature make-and-take events and live art-making demonstrations. Artists interested in applying for Open Studios Membership can learn more here.

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.