Grand Junction is an art-lover’s paradise. This relatively undiscovered jewel is home to more than 275 working artists and 75 arts and cultural organizations. In fact, Grand Junction was the recipient of the 2007 Governor’s Arts Award, which recognizes a Colorado city or town that effectively employs the arts to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of its community.
Here’s a suggested itinerary for three days of artistic inspiration and entertainment in the Grand Valley.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
To get a comprehensive calendar of what’s shakin’ on Grand Junction’s cultural scene, check out the events page. And if you plan on visiting individual artists’ studios while you’re here, be sure to also ask for The Sourcebook: A Directory of Grand Junction Area Artists and Arts Organizations.
10 a.m. — When you first enter the Grand Valley, be sure to tune your car radio to KAFM, Grand Junction’s Community Radio. Then head out the door for a leisurely stroll down Main Street. Here, you’ll discover an outdoor art exhibit like no other. The city’s Art on the Corner sculpture exhibit is the first of its kind in Colorado, and one of the first in the country. The exhibit boasts more than 100 original sculptures created in everything from bronze, iron and chrome to other unusual materials. While you’re viewing the wonderful sculptures along tree-lined streets, be sure to pop into any of the shops, galleries and more along the way. Check out FrameWorks Gallery and the Working Artists Studio on Main Street, as well as HangUps Gallery on Colorado Avenue. Unique Expressions, Razzmatazz and Girlfriends (all three on Main Street) also carry wonderful jewelry, pottery and gifts by fine artists. Stop to grab lunch at any of the inviting and varied restaurants downtown.
2 p.m. — Head over to the Museum of the West on Ute Avenue downtown. (It’s just a few blocks from Main Street; ask anyone for directions). Here, you’ll discover the real Wild West in a thousand years of history. With everything from exhibits on Colorado’s most famous cannibal, Alfred Packer, to an Adobe dwelling filled with one of the country’s finest collections of Southwest pottery. Admission is $6.50 for adults, $5.50 for seniors and $3.75 for children.
4 p.m. — Visit Coffee Mugger’s Coffeehouse and Cafe on Main or Colorado Java House on Colorado for a latte, tea or other liquid concoction to raise your spirits. You’ll also be able to enjoy local artist’s exhibits while you sip.
Evening — Grand Valley’s wide assortment of entertainment includes checking out a concert or movie at The Avalon Theatre, listen to a concert by the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, attend a live theatrical production by Two Chairs Theater Company or Colorado Mesa University or take in quality performances by the High Desert Opera.
10 a.m.— The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens is a good way to start the day amid the beauty of botanicals and butterflies. Located just south of downtown, the gardens offer 600 varieties of tropical plants as well as numerous themed gardens and a butterfly house, along with turtles and fish meandering in freshwater ponds. With a $5 entrance fee for adults, this is a quick and inexpensive trip to the land of Zen.
Noon — With more than 275 working artists in the Grand Valley, there are plenty of opportunities to see incredible photography, paintings, sculpture and ceramics by creative types who show in galleries all over the country. If you’ve called in advance for The Sourcebook, you can look there to get artists’ phone numbers to call and arrange a studio visit. Visit the largest gallery in the valley, The Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade (open every day except Monday) and view work by more than 30 of the area’s finest artists. If you want to see more, feel free to ask whoever is working for phone numbers to arrange other studio visits.
While you’re at The Blue Pig, be sure to buy a copy of The Grand Valley Magazine, which is packed with wonderful photos, recipes, happenings, stories and more — all pertaining to the Grand Valley.
If you check out Chef Wayne’s Food & Wine itinerary, you’ll see that his suggestions coincide geographically with this itinerary, so you can do them all.
Evening — Check out the local events calendar (also available in the local papers — The Daily Sentinel and the Grand Junction Free Press) or the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau’s online Events Calendar on this site to decide what trips to trigger. There are a multitude of entertainment and cultural options waiting to be discovered.
A cultural tour of Grand Junction just wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Western Colorado Center for the Arts (affectionately called The Art Center by locals). Here you’ll discover a minimum of three exhibits at any given time. The fine art variety is vast — from contemporary to traditional, two-dimensional and three-dimensional, even an occasional bonsai exhibit. The Art Center also houses a wonderful gift shop featuring arts and crafts from several of the area’s artists. The center is a visual delight and cultural oasis.
With so many wonderful artists who love to share their talents, the Grand Valley truly is an artists’ haven.