Virtual Reality

Tune into Aspen's Summer Arts Season

Music, theater, art exhibits, lectures—find a mix of live and online programming.

By Cindy Hirschfeld July 1, 2020 Published in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Ranky Tanky is slated to play in August as part of JAS Café.


The cultural slate is not what it normally is this time of year, but local arts organizations have stepped up in creative ways to offer insightful, thoughtful programming—some of it even live and in person. The silver lining: Many events are free, increasing access for all, and in the case of virtual broadcasts, you can listen in from the comfort of your couch, your patio, even your bed.

Delaying its blockbuster productions until next summer, Theatre Aspen returns to its roots in a way, staging more intimate shows in a scaled-down seating area inside the Hurst Theatre tent. The season (July 27 to August 18 ) includes cabaret performances, a vintage-style radio play, and the second annual Solo Flights festival of one-person plays. The organization also solicited nominations for Aspen Heroes—local essential workers who shone during the pandemic—and will honor one before each performance.

DON'T MISS: Broadway performer, Tony Award nominee (for her unforgettable performance in Fun Home), and local favorite Beth Malone will perform at one of the cabaret shows (date TBA).

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience morphed into livestreamed concerts, and the massive Labor Day shows have been rescheduled for next year, but the music will keep going from mid-July through mid-August with six JAS Café shows at the Aspen Art Museum and the Collective in Snowmass. The catch: only 50 tickets will be available per show. Plus, the all-scholarship JAS Academy for student musicians, led by acclaimed bassist Christian McBride, is still slated for July 26 to August 9.

DON'T MISS: Ranky Tanky, a South Carolina quintet that inflects its infectious blend of jazz, gospel, funk, and R&B with low-country tradition. August 14–15, 6 & 9 p.m. at the Aspen Art Museum’s rooftop venue.

No, it’s not the same as sitting in the Benedict Music Tent as the orchestra rises to a heady crescendo or enjoying the precise acoustics of Harris Hall, but the Aspen Music Festival and School has done a remarkable job of transforming its season into an eight-week virtual experience (July 4–Aug 23), and it’s all free. The schedule includes Monday High Notes discussions (with audience questions via chat), recitals, faculty-student showcases, and a weekly Sunday concert, with many events broadcast live.

DON'T MISS: In what’s assured to be a crowd pleaser, Uzbek piano sensation Behzod Abduraimov plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Debussy’s “Children’s Corner,” and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Live August 2, 3 p.m.; rebroadcast August 4, 7 p.m.   

The Aspen Institutes lineup for the Hurst Lecture Series, McCloskey Speaker Series, and Murdoch Mind, Body, Spirit Series will be on Zoom, running through August 21, free of charge (registration required).

DON'T MISS: “100 Years After the 19th Amendment: Where Are Women Now?” with Katherine Grainger, Ai-jen Poo, Cecile Richards, and Peggy Clark. July 28, 3 p.m.

“The Summer Series: Featured Artists and Conversations” from Anderson Ranch Arts Center also moves online (registration required), with a slate of six influential creatives. In addition, the Ranch’s Digital Fabrication Lab, newly renovated by Aspen architecture firm Rowland and Broughton, is open for private and semi-private art-making sessions, and summer workshops, branded this year as Innovation Studios, have gone virtual; many have a wait list, so don’t delay in signing up. 

Nation by Deana Lawson, one of the participants in Anderson Ranch's virtual speaker series.

DON'T MISS: The Summer Series session with photo-based artist Deana Lawson, whose striking portraits explore themes of family legacy, community, romance, and religious spiritual aesthetics. July 23, 12:30 p.m.

The Aspen Art Museum continues its Slow.Look.Live series (Fridays at 4 p.m. on Instagram Live); Learning Director Rachel Ropiek discusses with artists and curators how our geographical locations influence perception, creation, and community. Painter and sculptor Jeffrey Gibson appears online for the Questrom Lecture Series (July 17, 5:30 p.m.). And for those wanting to expand their own creativity, Art Studio Live (Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. on Instagram Live) teaches how to make something with everyday objects. 

DON'T MISS: When the museum reopens July 1 (though admission is free, reservations are recommended), view exhibits by Oscar Murillo, Lisa Yuskavage, and Rose Wylie, all of which have been extended through the fall, as well as two new outdoor sculpture installations, Marin Hassinger's Nature, Sweet Nature and Kelly Akashi's Cultivator.

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