It may be best known as a hub for outdoor recreation, but Grand Junction boasts an arts and culture scene that’s just as exciting and expansive. Spreading across the broad Grand Valley, this vibrant university town is as comfortable a fit for artists, galleries, and studios as it is with mountain bikers, winemakers, and hikers. Grand Junction’s charming downtown is brimming with pedestrian-friendly streets, outdoor cafes, and shady trees, all interwoven with sculptures, murals, galleries, and studios that create a city-wide panorama of artistic expression. And in 2018, two of its signature cultural attractions—the famed annual Art on the Corner program and the renovated Avalon Theatre—helped the town earn the coveted designation as a Certified Colorado Creative District.
Ready to experience Grand Junction’s art scene for yourself? Here are the best ways to explore its galleries, museums, and do-art-yourself studios.
Exploring Grand Junction’s Art Galleries
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Grand Junction has a wide array of art galleries that exhibit a diversity of styles and mediums—a sure sign of a burgeoning art scene. Galleries are essential to the local art community, showing contemporary art created by working Grand Valley artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, potters, and watercolorists. A great way to spend an afternoon is strolling around downtown Grand Junction, admiring the public sculptures and murals, dining at a sidewalk café, and stopping by the numerous galleries along Main Street.
Recommended stops include James Howard Fine Art, Red Lion Arts Gallery, The Main Street Gallery, Uncanny Valley Art Gallery, and Working Artists Studio and Gallery. Other noteworthy galleries are scattered throughout the Grand Valley, such as the cooperative Rose Hue Gallery in Fruita and The Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade.
Art Walk on First Fridays
For a fun, convenient way to discover the soul of Grand Junction’s creative district, join a First Fridays art walk around town. On the first Friday evening of each month, year-round, local galleries and art venues stay open late to showcase their offerings. Grab a glass of wine and join hundreds of locals and visitors to stroll the city streets, leisurely viewing the art, meeting the artists, and perhaps picking up that special piece that really speaks to you. Serious collectors and art enthusiasts usually arrive early to stroll the exhibitions and galleries, while later arrivals savor Grand Junction’s friendly downtown atmosphere, complete with live music, food and drink vendors. Show up on Main Street to stroll the festivities at your leisure, or stop at The Art Center at Seventh Street and Orchard Avenue for a staff-led gallery tour.
Art on the Corner
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Art revitalized Grand Junction’s downtown, turning western Colorado’s commercial center into a place that also honors beauty and the creative spirit. After a recession decimated the city core in the mid-1980s, the late sculptor Dave Davis and other local artists created Art on the Corner, placing 32 sculptures on downtown streets. The pioneering outdoor art exhibition, the first of its kind in Colorado, continues today, with more than 100 sculptures, murals, and other works gracing walls, alleys, street corners, and sidewalks around town. The displays feature a permanent collection—including a larger-than-life buffalo made of gleaming car bumpers—plus a temporary collection that changes annually.
Head downtown and wander along the streets of Main and Colorado to discover the eclectic works that are part of this outdoor collection. Dip into alleys to peek at colorful murals of Pueblo dancers, or admire dramatic sculptures like “High Heeled Feet” on pedestrian-friendly Main Street.
A Pair of Amazing Art Centers
In addition to public art and galleries, Grand Junction boasts a couple of superb art museums. The Western Colorado Center for the Arts, often called The Art Center, is dedicated to improving the region’s quality of life by displaying more than 25 rotating art exhibitions, housing a permanent art collection, and offering a wide range of educational programs for adults and children. The Colorado Mesa University Art Gallery, known as 437CO, sits on the northern edge of downtown Grand Junction and features regular exhibitions by guest artists as well as students attending the university’s fine arts program.
Do-It-Yourself Art Opportunities
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Are you inspired to take the step from admiring art to creating your own? Grand Junction has plenty of options to get you started, no matter which medium you fancy. The Western Colorado Center for the Arts offers adult classes all year in ceramics, painting, drawing, and sculpting (check the website for current offerings). The Palette, meanwhile, is a downtown painting studio that encourages guests to uncork their inner artist with a handful of friends, a glass of wine, and plenty of paint—all supplies, including canvas, are provided. At Angelo’s Pottery Studio, up-and-coming artists can try their hand at throwing their own clay, decorating pottery, or take an acrylic painting class. Fat Cat Pottery in downtown Grand Junction offers a wet clay studio and pottery painting. Finally, Funky Junk, a do-it-yourself studio, offers both open and private studio time, craft projects for kids, and art parties. Whether you take a drawing class, decorate a ceramic vase, or splash paint on a canvas, you’ll find a do-it-yourself studio in Grand Junction where you can create a one-of-a-kind piece of art that brings back lovely memories of your trip.
Written by Stewart Green for Matcha in partnership with City of Grand Junction.