the east side art institute

According to the 2019 Census of Boulder Arts, professional artists constitute nearly 3.5% of the city’s workforce. The backdrop of mountains and environmentally focused lifestyle beckon artists from all over the country to live and work in the area, situating Boulder as the third-highest concentration of artists in the nation — just behind Los Angeles and Santa Fe.

However, the ever-increasing housing costs of Boulder — and Colorado as a whole — make it difficult for many artists to transition from the beginning stages of their careers to earning a reasonable living. According to the same study, another issue Boulder artists face is the lack of an art-focused community. East Side Art Institute is here to change Boulder’s art community for the better. They hope to serve many front range artists, including Longmont, Lafayette, Erie and even Denver!

the who

Renowned painter and potter Nancy Utterback opened her first studio in 1975 after studying for several years prior. Her work has been showcased in galleries, exhibitions and shows across the world all while maintaining a full-time studio. Throughout her career as a local artist and educator, Nancy has heavily advocated for energy efficiency and zero-waste recycling.

Nancy brought these practices with her in 2016 when she established East Side Art Institute (ESAI) — an arts school guided by the motivation to become one of the most diverse centers available in the arts.

Adults, seniors, children and people of all abilities wishing to pursue the experience of art and creative development are welcome at ESAI. Beginners and advanced artists alike can benefit from ESAI’s diverse schedule of programming, including those seeking college credit and certification. Although ESAI’s programming is available to everyone wishing to integrate art into their lives, special care is taken to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities and veterans in search of art therapy.

the why

After recognizing the need to provide an alternative, affordable path to in-depth formal education in the arts, Nancy had one desire: to build a home base for those seeking both a challenge and a community through the act of making art. Less than 2% of Boulder County is currently being served through art education — and existing programs are operating at or beyond capacity.

Without reliable programming that bridges the gap between recreational programs and higher education, Nancy dreamed of a haven for art students where well-equipped studios and collaboration with highly qualified teachers were available with affordable tuition. ESAI has initially affiliated with CSU to offer college credit to students and will continue to build partnerships with accredited colleges and universities to ensure the institute meets curricula standards.

Additional offerings include a strong international and national artist in residency program, college credit for teachers and certificate programs for individuals that wish to further their art education in a way that was not satisfied through traditional education.

Furthermore, as a champion for sustainable practices, Nancy believes that the act of making art and environmental advocacy are intertwined. In addition to performing research focused on energy-efficient equipment, water conservation and environmentally friendly studio design, ESAI will work with well-established farming organizations — such as CSU and Wish Gardens — that will make the institute a community resource for regenerative farming.

the how

phase 1 // With the above vision in mind, the ESAI Board of Directors set out to begin the creation of the institute’s physical address. Phase 1 includes the acquisition of 14.25 acres on Isabelle Road in Boulder. This address is the ideal location for ESAI due to its proximity to RTD bus stops, bike paths and the nearby communities of Erie, Lafayette, Longmont and Louisville. Additionally, the immense acreage sets the stage for botanic gardening, regenerative farming and land management opportunities.

The second step of Phase 1 includes the renovation of an existing 3,500-square foot building to make the structure an energy-efficient hub with updated infrastructure including a new septic system, water, gas and electricity. This building will be the site of all ESAI classes for the first year after purchase.

phase 2 // The second phase marks the beginning of new construction, fulfilling the vision of a completely accessible campus with classrooms, studios, cleanup areas, an exhibition space and a community room equipped with a kitchen for hosting large-scale events.

The addition of this one-level building means inclusivity for all. Without barriers keeping those with mobility challenges separate from other students, people of all backgrounds are encouraged to collaborate between art forms.

phase you // Although 2020 has delayed the initial phase of purchasing the property at Isabelle Road, ESAI has been cleared by Boulder County with flying colors and is pushing the project forward with more motivation than ever before. The organization has already accomplished so much in just a few years, but still needs the help of its community to complete the important work left to do.

There is no shortage of ways to help make the dream a reality. Monetary donations can be made on the East Side Art Institute’s website and volunteers can donate their time by filling out an application.

To learn more about the East Side Art Institute and the details of their project, visit their website.