Boulder is a muse. It’s effortless to plan an inspiring, artsy outing here.
Stroll along Boulder Creek and through Central Park, before heading to the nearby Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Let yourself be amazed by the creativity there, and then talk about it over a cup of chai at the next door Dushanbe Tea House.
Finish the day window-shopping on Pearl Street and checking out the number of other art galleries on the mall. From the west to the east side of Pearl Street, spreading out to the other close streets, art galleries and collectives seem to sprout out of downtown Boulder.
Art is everywhere in town, from coffee shops to restaurants, and scattered on fences, sides of buildings and more.
But when it comes to high-quality, curated art, here are Boulder’s nine top art galleries.
1. Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St.
The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, known as BMOCA, is located right in downtown, in a historic building across from Central Park and neighbors with the popular Dushanbe Teahouse (whose elaborately carved interior and sculptures are an artistic exhibit, in and of themselves).
That trifecta of awesome makes BMOCA our favorite artsy place to take visitors in Boulder.
BMOCA has a long history in Boulder and has been a staple since the early ‘70s, making it one of Colorado’s first contemporary galleries and a renowned destination for art-lovers around the nation. It draws nearly 30,000 visitors yearly.
Visitors can see rotating exhibitions, sign up for educational programs and go on guided tours. The curator’s field trips are a fun, new way to get up close with the museum’s curator and learn more about the art, behind the scenes in a way that not just anyone gets to experience.
2. Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St.
The Dairy Arts Center is the heart of art in Boulder.
First, this quirky center (housed in a former dairy, as in the place where you process milk, hence the name) features multiple visual art galleries with ever-rotating exhibitions that range from local creations to international artists. Experience a wide range of formats, from painting to pottery to multi-media; you name it. The topics tackled here span just about anything you can imagine, and the Dairy doesn’t shy away from controversial, unusual and emotional topics either, such as immigration, veterans and masculinity.
But visual art is just the beginning of what the Dairy offers. It claims to be Boulder’s biggest multi-disciplinary arts center, and this massive 42,000-square-foot facility also houses multiple stages, a ballet school, a movie theater, rehearsal space, teaching studios and more.
You can watch stand-up comedy, see aerial dance, take a dance class, hear a concert, grab a glass of wine, stroll through galleries and see an independent film all under one roof.
3. SmithKlein Gallery, 1116 Pearl St.
The SmithKlein Gallery is a fun visit, and not just because it’s located on the Pearl Street Mall. This fine art gallery is a Boulder art leader, around since the ‘80s, and you’ll find all kinds of creativity here: jewelry, glass, paintings, sculpture.
Browse the 2,800-square-feet of high-quality art and don’t hesitate to chat with the friendly staff, who can tell you all about the artists. Feel inspired? Take a piece home with you as a meaningful memento of your time in town.
Another thing that makes SmithKlein special to Boulder is it’s family-owned. It was opened by Deborah SmithKlein and is now run by her son and his wife.
4. 15th Street Gallery, 1708 15th St.
Boulder’s 15th Street Gallery, also located in downtown, is a great place to see emerging, contemporary Colorado artists. The gallery qualifies its featured artists as “museum-track,” and even a quick look makes it obvious that they’re all carefully selected for their skill and unique expression.
The 15th Street Gallery holds a handful of art openings throughout the year, which typically feature an artist talk, wine and cheese and, of course, the art in the center spotlight.
Prepare to be surprised. The featured work here is always changing and spans all kinds of media, even wood sculptures and lithographs.
5. Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery, 1421 Pearl St.
This Pearl Street art hub is also a long-time Boulder staple. It’s brought Colorado (and American) artists and crafters together since 1971. It claims to be one of the oldest artist cooperatives in the nation, yet another way that Boulder shines in the American art scene.
This gallery highlights handmade and original creations by hundreds of different artists. We’re talking 20,000-plus pieces of art to browse, many of which are one-of-a-kind and can’t be seen anywhere else. Furniture. Photos. Stained glass. Jewelry. All of the things.
If you’re looking for a meaningful souvenir of Boulder or a new piece of art to add to your collection, you’ll find it here. It’s impossible to walk through the gallery without something catching your eye.
6. Madelife, 1421 Pearl St.
Madelife is a different kind of gallery, located way on the east side of Pearl Street. You’ll feel the unique energy as soon as you walk in.
First, 75 percent of this space is reserved for local artists, and in true Boulder style, the art you’ll find here is completely innovative, eclectic and funky. A huge emphasis here is sustainability and innovation.
Second, Madelife is also a workspace, so you may see art being created right on the spot. And not just visual art. In addition to monthly exhibitions, Madelife is home to a blackbox theater and recording/production studio for audio art.
Its large, 6,000-square-foot space always seems to be holding some kind of event. Creativity is made here.
7. Rembrandt Yard, 1301 Spruce St.
Rembrandt Yard, located in an upscale, beautiful building just off the Pearl Street Mall, is a popular venue for special events and weddings, but it’s also the home base for the OpenArts organization.
OpenArts is a collection of 125 local arts who offer artsy events and programs to the public, including a year-round art school for people of all ages. The Rembrandt Yard gallery features work by local artists on two levels and is curated by Open Arts. If you can’t attend an OpenArts event, the gallery is a delightful way to get a taste of its impact on the community.
8. Boulder Creative Collective, 2500 47th St.
The Boulder Creative Collective is the urban side of art in Boulder. This new group of artists, located in the emerging east side of Boulder, provides an artistic workspace (so you can watch art being made) and community connections through performances, exhibitions and classes.
This gallery is in a warehouse, with funky, repurposed decor. It’s creative. It’s a little raw. And it’s affordable, well, for Boulder.
9. Seidel City, 3205 Longhorn Road
Seidel City is a new art center in Boulder, launched by seasoned artist Terry Seidel.
This contemporary art gallery includes a unique group of outbuildings just on the outskirts of town. Seidel City is designed to be an interactive work and play space.