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Willowdale Arts – music, art and community


Photo by Orien Mann Musician Nick Dunbar and National Geographic filmmaker/photographer Andy Mann, both Niwotians, are the creators of Willowdale Arts of Niwot. The non-profit production company will be kicking off its first monthly show featuring the founders' own art and music on Friday, August 9, at the Left Hand Grange.

For those who love the number of joyful, creative, and rockin’ events just outside your front door, and for those who have lamented that some town festivities have come to an end, there’s a doozy of a reason to once again declare, “Woo-hoo!” It’s Willowdale Arts of Niwot, a new series of events that will feature a cut above visual and musical artists in cozy-sized shows.

Created by local professional musician and realtor Nick Dunbar, along with fellow Niwotian and National Geographic photographer Andy Mann, the first monthly event is booked for Friday, Aug. 9, at the Left Hand Grange on the upstairs stage.

“When you start looking at the town and all its value, you hear so many people say, ‘I wish there was a thing like this or I wish there was...’” Mann said.  “Nick and I were like, ‘We can literally just make that.’ That’s what you do. You don’t sit around and wait. Get together with people and try it out. Create the town you want to live in.”

The close friends’ describe Willowdale Arts as “an open vessel” that brings music, storytelling, and art to the community. With incredible connections and a whole lot of can-do confidence, Dunbar and Mann foresee an evolution of performances and guest presenters in Willowdale Arts’ future. 

The pair attended a Left Hand Grange meeting in April to scope out the historic building that has served as a community hub for nearly 75 years. Their first impression of the upstairs venue was that it had great potential. “How are we not using this?” Dunbar asked.

The two said they looked at each other and instantly knew that was the moment to get the project they’d been envisioning underway. The space’s maximum occupancy of 80 is perfect because it allows for a natural connection between the audience and performers and that’s exactly the house party experience they’re itching for. Other settings are also likely for future shows under the Willowdale Arts umbrella. 

They’d like it to be known across the Front Range as a top-notch series. “We want to create something that’s born here in Niwot,” Mann said. “We want to bring good music. And by good music, we want to bring some of the world’s best folk and Americana music.”

Dunbar added, “We want to come out with some strong youthful things that’s going to bring out a very diverse population, and that can serve the community we have here.”

The endeavor is a non-profit and the first show is free. Down the road, they’ll be selling nominally priced tickets and flying in nationally renowned artists and musical acts. 

Mann and Dunbar said the first show is just to let folks know Willowdale Arts is here and to explain their vision of the entity. Admittedly, there’s no structure or grand scheme just yet but, they want the series to have such a powerful pull that even without knowing what will be on stage next, people will unquestionably want to be in the audience.  

Titled “Summits to Seas,” Mann’s presentation will launch the first Willowdale Arts event.  Beginning with his early work photographing rock climbers, progressing to his current passion of chronicling scientists in the world’s deepest waters, his award-winning images (both films and photographs) will be accompanied by extraordinary storytelling that’s informative and inspirational. Mann spends more than 100 days a year at sea where he experiences mishaps and grand adventures - all the while illuminating the environmental changes occurring on our planet.

Mann said his presentation is “a pilot test-run on the hometown crowd before launching into a year-long National Geographic live series tour.”

Next up will be 300 Days, a folk, swing, bluegrass band with Dunbar on guitar and mandolin, Melissa McGinley on fiddle, and Dave “Pump” Solzberg on standup bass. Already performing across the Front Range in more than 100 gigs per year, including an appearance as opening act for Rebecca Folsom at Rock & Rails July 18, their original music has a solid fan following.

Thus far, four monthly Willowdale Arts events are booked at the Grange:

August 9 - Andy Mann and 300 Days (folk, bluegrass music) Doors open at 6 p.m., show begins at 6:30 p.m.

September 13 - Western Flyers (Western swing band from Texas)

October 16 – Cahalen Morrison (from Seattle, one of America’s finest singers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists)

November’s show lineup is yet to be determined.

Visit: http://www.WillowdaleLive.com for more information 


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