Boulder arts go free range

Boulder’s art hub The Dairy Arts Center + others navigate how to share art and shows virtually

By Paul Hagey Mar 27 2020

Like many Boulder businesses and organizations, Boulder’s art and creative institutions must shift, or beef up, a digital business model quickly.

Some of these organizations, such as Boulder art hub The Dairy Arts Center face a dire cliff. The multidimensional nonprofit featuring a visual art gallery, workshop space and several spaces including a 250-seat performing arts theater that hosts comedians, dance, and other shows and the 70-seat arthouse Boedecker Cinema at 2590 Walnut Street (just west of REI) has furloughed approximately 50 staff and contractors as it rapidly scrambles to adjust to the closures of its physical space.

The nonprofit had to cancel its annual fundraising gala (losing an estimated $100,000 in donations), has had to process refunds for cancelled theater and space reservations and has lost all ongoing revenue for the time being with its doors shut. Executive director Melissa Fathman estimates the org has until June until it runs out of money. Approximately a quarter of its $1.6 million annual budget comes from donations, the rest from operations.

Mellissa Fathman

But Melissa has used the slowdown as an opportunity to refine its core mission — bringing people and the arts together in Boulder — and bring it online.

“We have this incredible group of enthusiastic, loyal, passionate people, both in the arts community and those who enjoy it,” Melissa says. “Those are our people, what do we do for them?”

So, Dairy Arts has launched Free Range Dairy, which includes bringing all of its programs — or many of them — online with shows livestreamed by Zoom, bringing its art gallery online through Facebook and Instagram with artist interviews and streaming the films airing in its arthouse theater, Boedecker Theater.

Viewers can watch livestreamed shows, for now, by donation, including the upcoming Boulder Story Slam on April 5.

The Dairy will charge participants for workshops and events and split the revenue with the performer, creator 50-50. Melissa invites local artists to suggest collaborations.

Sound + image

Clay Rose

The Dairy’s not alone, of course, among the Boulder creative community figuring out how to engaging, connecting and keeping revenue flowing without their typically physical-constrained models.

Thanks to the rapid evolution of digital technology and social media, we can all livestream at the drop of the hat through Facebook and Instagram and set up a virtual paid class through online video platforms such as Zoom. And many Boulderites are doing this.

Gasoline Lollipops frontman + Boulderite Clay Rose and drummer Adam Perry will livestream a show on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. from a magical, and audience-less, Gold Hill Inn. Clay will stream the show from his Facebook page.

Hannah Kinderlehrer

Boulder dance teacher Hannah Kinderlehrer has run her free-form movement class Awaken the Dance virtually now for two sessions. Her dance program calls Alchemy of Movement dance school its home-base, but she has taught it all over the world. When COVID forced businesses to shift online, Hannah joined other Alchemy dance teachers (and many others) in teaching class via Zoom. Zoom breaks the screen into multiple frames, and the participants can all see each other.

So far, each class has had about 15-22 participants, about the same count as an in-person class, Hannah says. All classes are donation-based; none of the teachers take any payment. All of the money goes directly to Alchemy to ensure everyone has a studio to return to.


The annual Boulder Arts Week, which runs today through April 4, has shifted many of its events online.

Boulder Arts Week encourages Boulderites to try Samba online with the fab Kebrina Josefina De Jesus, artistic director of Samba Colorado. Image: @boulderartsweek.

In conjunction with Boulder Arts Week Online, Tinker Art Studio, a local art school for kids, teens and adults, has its first free Kids Art Workshop “Painted Branches” up on YouTube. It’s only 30 minutes long, and you definitely don’t need to be a kid. 🙂

Creativity Alive, the art organization formerly called Mmmwhah — music, movement, mindfulness whoa and art, also moves to the digital realm for Boulder Arts Week. The group, which explores play through a variety of facets from ArtDances to VocalPlayshops, has moved to Plan C for their Boulder Arts Week event, using Zoom for the first time to rehearse.

With additional reporting by Tatyana Sharpton.

Header image: Photo by Andy Kelly

Paul Hagey

Paul Hagey is BLDRfly’s founder and editor. When not wrangling video, audio and words in the name of story, he’s riding his mountain bike, trail running and hanging with his awesome wife Jen and their young daughter.