New network pulls artists of area together

No one can argue that Sara Oakley is one persistent woman.

After 10 years of pitching an idea for an interactive artists group, an effort that included five presentations before city officials, Oakley finally got the grant she desperately needed to form the Grand Valley Art Students League.

Since June, after receiving a small grant from the Grand Junction Commission on Arts and Culture, the league has met from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  the third Sunday of every month at the Lincoln Park Barn. The meetings were designed so artists can create in the presence of other artists for inspiration, advice or social networking.

However, the art made at the Lincoln Park Barn isn’t for sale. The sessions are casual, informative and educational, with no pressure to sell or buy anything.

“We are trying to build a base where artists are working together,” Oakley said. She has been an artist for nearly 30 years and loves to interact with other artists in this area.

At 56, Oakley has found a true friend in artist Janet Kelleher, 22, who is a member of the Grand Valley Art Students League. Through the relationship, Kelleher has found guidance and a little kick of inspiration from a woman she considers a mentor.

Mentorships are common in Europe, Oakley said. The Grand Valley Art Students League ideally would work in a similar way whereby aspiring artists can learn from — and meet — more experienced artists. On the flip side, more experienced artists can explore new mediums and meet new artists.

“It’s intended to link mentor relationships and reach people who can’t be reached otherwise,” Oakley said.

Only members of the league can come to Lincoln Park barn to produce art, but becoming a member of the Grand Valley Art Students League is a simple thing to do, Oakley said. There is no “talent” requirement.

Cost to join the league is $25 through December for one-year membership. The application is available online at

People can watch the artists during their eight-hour Sunday sessions for free.

The league has 100 members. It doesn’t pay for materials, so artists are expected to bring everything they need to and from the barn. Minimum age to join is 18. There are no geographical restrictions.

The next art session will be Nov. 21. At the most recent session Oct. 17, nearly 25 artists came to Lincoln Park and were working on projects that included knitting and printmaking, Oakley said. It is a diverse group, she added.

Her hope, Oakley added, is that Grand Junction will continue to move toward becoming a destination for artists and art enthusiasts who want to see what’s going on and even learn a thing or two.

Kelleher swears that by making art — and artists — accessible, people will see that most area artists are creative, fun-loving people quick to joke and share advice.

“The perception that (art is) a big exclusive club that no one’s allowed to join is a fallacy,” Kelleher said.


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