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Art as Essential

A local gallery’s vibrant mural reminds us that art is life, it is beauty, and above all else, it is hope.

Article by Livia Hooson

Photography by Alex Beal

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

“Art brings out the spirit of humanity and what it means to be alive,” says Ann Klein.

The mural on the outside of her and her husband Nathan’s family-owned gallery on Pearl St., SmithKlein Gallery ( celebrates this message. The art came as a response to the pandemic when the Klein’s asked themselves: how is art essential?

Their answer became: Art is Life. Art is Beauty. Art is Hope.

“People relate to art because of life experiences, and the artists create based on their life or their dreams. Art brings beauty to the world and embraces what the world really is, whether it’s our sorrow, grief, or happiness. Art is hope, as it reflects human history and within that a bigger message that art asks you to open your eyes to,” says Klein.  

To promote this message, the Klein’s connected to the owner of Streetwise Boulder, Leah Brenner Clack whose non-profit promotes public art murals, to find an artist for the project. Inspired by the bird graphics on Clack’s own fence, Klein enlisted artist Patrick Maxcy (, whose career has been on pause due to the virus. He completed the project in just a day and a half; a vibrant series of birds and butterflies on a twisting branch against an azure-blue background. Walking by the gallery, you will see these brightly-hued and flight-bound birds that Klein says represent freedom and the first signs of spring.

“Even though this virus is separating us, we need to find that deeper connection with ourselves, we need to rise up; flying high and getting a different perspective of life itself.”

Klein discussed the power of art in terms of loss, referencing many artists in her gallery whose work has a shared theme: bereavement. The Klein’s were recently confronted with loss themselves when their family’s Goldendoodle and “gallery dog” Lola, passed unexpectedly from cancer. That same day, a client purchased two pieces of art as a pledge to ensure their business would last long-after the epidemic was over—a  validation that art is essential.

Klein says, “these experiences remind me that we need to be open, just come in and enjoy art, come in and heal.”