The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Before the age of social distancing, Evergreen artist Julie Leidel had 16 art shows on her calendar. When the majority of them were canceled due to the pandemic, she turned her attention to website sales of her paintings but really wanted to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts.
Leidel, whose work is influenced by the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, gained inspiration to donate her sales from artists who participated in the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In the 1930s and ’40s, the government program employed job-seekers to carry out public works projects, including creating inspirational and promotional posters. She decided to pay tribute to the artists’ contributions by donating half of her sales in April and May to the Red Cross, an organization that was active in providing relief to those in need during the Great Depression and World War I and II—and now supports those negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Leidel’s fundraiser allowed her to donate $1,800 to the organization in April and she hopes to raise the same amount or more in May. “I just really wanted to make sure I sent out a positive message,” she says. “My art has always been about positivity, and connecting us to not only ourselves but to the land. Especially in this time, I wanted to make sure that message was at the forefront.”
For those unfamiliar with the Arts and Crafts Movement, it is an international trend that flourished between 1880 and 1920 and emphasized a return to handiwork, skilled craftsmanship, and an appreciation for the natural world. Leidel fell in love with the movement in 2005, after working as a graphic artist for many years, and began working full-time as a painter in 2013. Since then, she’s created hundreds of paintings that celebrate the splendor of nature, including over 75 pieces depicting Colorado’s attractions, landscapes, universities, ski resorts, and more.
“My artwork has been really focused on the connection to nature,” says Leidel, who has lived in the Centennial State since she was four years old and graduated from Colorado State University in 1997. “I fell in love with the forests, valleys, mountains, cities, and everything that makes Colorado unique.”
A lot of Leidel’s latest pieces, which are inspired by her experiences in quarantine, also focus on finding light in the darkness and connecting with your inner spirit. For example, Power of Hope features a bright light piercing through a dark forest, while See me is a self-reflective piece about letting oneself take in all feelings, including sadness, during these unprecedented times.
“I figure in any situation, no matter how big or how grave, there’s always a silver lining,” she says. “But I’m always trying to put on a happy face, so I realized that maybe I needed to listen to the sadness: the voice inside my head that says it’s OK to not be 100 percent right now. With my art, the biggest goal is to bring peace and calm—not only to your home but also to your heart.”
Despite losing 75 percent of her revenue from the canceled art shows, Leidel is excited to spend her newfound free time producing more paintings to expand the selection available on her website, especially now that her family has settled into a quarantine routine (she lives with her husband and two children). Upcoming subjects for her paintings include the University of Northern Colorado and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, as well as Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks—but she loves taking requests from fans on what Colorado attractions they’d like to see painted next. “It’s going to be a wonderful summer of making,” she says.
Get Involved: Send Leidel a request here, and browse original paintings, prints, and more on her website, the Bungalow Craft; 50 percent of sales through May 31 will be donated to the Red Cross (proceeds from Colorado sales will benefit the local branch and the rest will go to the national one).