Arts center eyes old library for new digs | PostIndependent.com

Arts center eyes old library for new digs

Supporters of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts are lobbying City Council to consider relocating the arts center to the former library building, after the organization was displaced from its historic Sixth Street digs by a flash flood last month.
Though it appears the damage caused to the one-time hydroelectric plant building is not as severe as first feared and repairs are possible, the library building at Ninth and Blake still might be a better long-term home, arts center advocates said at the July 21 council meeting.
“There are a lot of reasons why this would be a good solution,” attorney Charlie Willman, representing the Arts Council, said of the former library building that, like the hydroelectric building, is owned by the city.
Among them is that the downtown location would be more convenient for parking and picking up and dropping off students for the various youth programs, supporter Maureen Taufer pointed out.
“The timeline is also critical for the arts council, because they are in the process of planning for their fall classes,” Willman said.
Even if the arts center returns to the former location, it still may not be able to use the dance floor because of structural issues that came up in a building assessment that was done after the flood, he said.
Christina Brusig, Center for the Arts executive director, said a survey of arts center patrons and others generated 1,000 signatures supporting the new location.
Moving to the old library building, which was abandoned in 2013 when the new Glenwood Springs Library was completed at Eighth and Cooper, would also bring more people to the downtown business core, Willman said.
A brief but heavy rainstorm on June 12 resulted in a deluge of water that poured in under the front door of the arts center. A worker who happened to be there and her son were able to move a baby grand piano out of harm’s way, but the flood saturated the dance floor in the main gallery space.
Since then, the arts center has been holding classes and other programs at a variety of locations, including the Masonic Lodge on Colorado Avenue and at the Glenwood Community Center.
But the former library building has been on its radar for some time even before the flood.
Two years ago the city obtained voter permission to sell the library building, after Garfield County expressed interest in acquiring the property for a senior citizens center. However, a contract to sell the building to the county fell through this spring after concerns surfaced about needed repairs to that building.
City Manager Debra Figueroa said at last week’s council meeting that the repair work is ongoing, including roof repairs and replacement of ceiling tiles; however some asbestos mitigation may be required. The elevator also is now working again, she said.
Whether the arts center, or any other organization, could move into the building anytime soon remains to be seen, Figueroa said.
Several groups have had their eye on the former library since the city began soliciting proposals for its possible reuse three years ago.
Bill Kight, director of the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, said the museum also is “bulging at the seams” and has had flood issues of its own. But he told council that his organization is willing to waive its interest in the library building if the Center for the Arts could make use of it.
Since the contract to sell the building to Garfield County fell through, the county has not expressed further interest in acquiring it, though the need for a senior center in Glenwood Springs remains of high interest.
City Council said it would continue to weigh the options for the arts center and consider the repair and maintenance needs of both buildings before deciding where and when it can move in.

Arts center eyes old library for new digs

Supporters of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts are lobbying City Council to consider relocating the arts center to the former library building, after the organization was displaced from its historic Sixth Street digs by a flash flood last month.

Though it appears the damage caused to the one-time hydroelectric plant building is not as severe as first feared and repairs are possible, the library building at Ninth and Blake still might be a better long-term home, arts center advocates said at the July 21 council meeting.

“There are a lot of reasons why this would be a good solution,” attorney Charlie Willman, representing the Arts Council, said of the former library building that, like the hydroelectric building, is owned by the city.

Among them is that the downtown location would be more convenient for parking and picking up and dropping off students for the various youth programs, supporter Maureen Taufer pointed out.

“The timeline is also critical for the arts council, because they are in the process of planning for their fall classes,” Willman said.

Even if the arts center returns to the former location, it still may not be able to use the dance floor because of structural issues that came up in a building assessment that was done after the flood, he said.

Christina Brusig, Center for the Arts executive director, said a survey of arts center patrons and others generated 1,000 signatures supporting the new location.

Moving to the old library building, which was abandoned in 2013 when the new Glenwood Springs Library was completed at Eighth and Cooper, would also bring more people to the downtown business core, Willman said.

A brief but heavy rainstorm on June 12 resulted in a deluge of water that poured in under the front door of the arts center. A worker who happened to be there and her son were able to move a baby grand piano out of harm’s way, but the flood saturated the dance floor in the main gallery space.

Since then, the arts center has been holding classes and other programs at a variety of locations, including the Masonic Lodge on Colorado Avenue and at the Glenwood Community Center.

But the former library building has been on its radar for some time even before the flood.

Two years ago the city obtained voter permission to sell the library building, after Garfield County expressed interest in acquiring the property for a senior citizens center. However, a contract to sell the building to the county fell through this spring after concerns surfaced about needed repairs to that building.

City Manager Debra Figueroa said at last week’s council meeting that the repair work is ongoing, including roof repairs and replacement of ceiling tiles; however some asbestos mitigation may be required. The elevator also is now working again, she said.

Whether the arts center, or any other organization, could move into the building anytime soon remains to be seen, Figueroa said.

Several groups have had their eye on the former library since the city began soliciting proposals for its possible reuse three years ago.

Bill Kight, director of the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, said the museum also is “bulging at the seams” and has had flood issues of its own. But he told council that his organization is willing to waive its interest in the library building if the Center for the Arts could make use of it.

Since the contract to sell the building to Garfield County fell through, the county has not expressed further interest in acquiring it, though the need for a senior center in Glenwood Springs remains of high interest.

City Council said it would continue to weigh the options for the arts center and consider the repair and maintenance needs of both buildings before deciding where and when it can move in.

Editor’s column: Just don’t picture them naked

Earlier this month, I had my 40-year high school reunion back in Beatrice, Nebraska, a county seat that’s about the size of Glenwood Springs, but with key differences.

First, it’s much less interesting. While the Homestead National Monument, commemorating one of the nation’s first claims under the Homestead Act of 1862, is right outside town, Beatrice doesn’t get a lot of tourists. Nor is it scenic, nor does anyone get excited about floating the Big Blue River (which actually is brown), which cuts through town. Then there’s the humidity of a Midwestern summer. Ugh.

I went to the reunion anyway, partly because my 94-year-old mother is in a nursing home there and I try to see her two or three times a year.

Not long after I signed up to attend the reunion, which included the classes of 1975 and ’77, I won the American Society of News Editors Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership. This apparently convinced the reunion organizers that, in a group without professional athletes, entertainers, politicians or CEOs, I would be a good dinner speaker for the Saturday night banquet.

Oh, gosh.

That advice about imagining your audience naked when you are speaking doesn’t work so well at a 40th high school reunion. Some things you don’t want even your mind’s eye to see.

But I soldiered on, drawing heavily for my talk from a column I wrote in 2014 in praise of public schools as incubators of hope. Everything went fine, and, overall, I had a better time than I expected.

That’s been the case at all the Beatrice High reunions I’ve attended — maybe in part because I left town as soon as I could and didn’t go to a reunion until the 15th anniversary. By then, time had healed my wounds from our teenage years and my classmates had either forgiven or forgotten my bad moments. The 15-year reunion was enjoyable enough that I also attended the 20- and 35-year events, which came after Mom was widowed.

My takeaway from these gatherings is how our perceptions of high school are so oddly skewed.

In talking with people who were among the popular kids back then, or seemed to be, I’ve discovered they didn’t feel that way and had at least as much anxiety as I did and it still affects many of them. The guy who was our quarterback when we were seniors hasn’t attended a single reunion, even though he seemed extremely relaxed around everyone back then.

We obviously all struggled with the complexity of growing up.

At our 20-year reunion, I talked to a doctor’s daughter for a little while, and she told me about the embarrassment of her older brother driving her to school in his Corvette. She would ask him to drop her off a few blocks away. That seems like a First World problem, but it was as real to her as my embarrassment over shabby clothing that sometimes got me teased.

One woman, on whom I had a serious crush from ninth grade on but who ended up dating my best friend, told me 20 years ago that she lived with abuse at home. Her father would hit the top of her head with a butter knife and call her a slut when she was going out. She still has a terrible time feeling good about herself. She missed this year’s reunion because she is caring for her aging parents now, including the father who demeaned her.

The teen years of course are hard for everyone but the most clueless, and most of us carry a bit of the neurosis forward to adulthood. With any luck, we have enough experiences that teach us our intrinsic value as adults that we can get beyond our adolescent suffering.

But we learn defense mechanisms, too, that linger mostly unconsciously. I believe, for example, that many people learn to put themselves down as a prophylactic against criticism from others. If we point out our own flaws and are particularly harsh, I think we believe others are less able to hurt us. It also becomes part of our personal mythology and holds us back.

Most of us, inside, remain insecure at some level. And it’s a pity.

In preparing for my speech, I wrote the script as I have every other time I’ve done public speaking. About two weeks before the reunion, it hit me that I would be speaking to people I went to high school with. CRAP!

They knew me as the kid who couldn’t get a date, who drove beat-up muscle cars, wrecked one of them, flipped burgers for work and lived in the run-down house at the edge of town.

I decided I couldn’t think about who my audience was. I’d channel my mind back to the 2010 Detroit Free Press Michigan Green Leaders awards breakfast, which I emceed and whose other speakers included the publisher of USA Today and Bill Ford Jr., great-grandson of Henry Ford and chairman of Ford Motor Co. If I handled that, I could handle a bunch of no-longer kids from Hicktown, Nebraska.

In retrospect, it turned out that what I enjoyed about the talk is that I got to reintroduce myself to high school peers as a confident grown-up. I think I’ve finally left high school behind.

Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.

Bankers’ Hours column: Mortgage brokers are alive and well

Remember mortgage brokers, the alleged vultures that settled on the shoulders of unsuspecting borrowers and took their homes away, or pecked their eyes, whichever earned the highest commission?

A major impetus in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was the eradication — or at least the incarceration — of the Snively Whiplashes of the lending business. And, if the feds didn’t get them, the smart money figured that the marketplace would take care of it.

As the Great Recession wound down to its final whimpers, and the casualties and crash debris were swept to the gutters of the financial industry to make way for the brave new world of lending, loan originators proliferated. Big banks ramped up mortgage divisions; online lenders hawked loan apps that are just an icon click away. With all of this, who needs mortgage brokers?

As it turns out, quite a few do. Or they decide to employ them. Why in the world would anybody want to do business with vermin? Well, one reason might be that the brokers that survived the Great Meltdown sport a high degree of professionalism and competence. In retrospect, as a group, they were no more responsible for the bursting of the housing bubble than were CEOs of Wall Street investment firms, bankers, builders, Realtors and, yes, borrowers.

Banks, the very entities that were supposed to put brokers out of business, are a big factor in the survival, and even expansion, of the broker profession. A lot of financial institutions, and especially smaller ones, have a very hazy idea of what their business actually is. They’ll tell you that it’s taking deposits and then lending the money out, when it’s really facilitating the movement of money, in any profitable and practical means possible.

So a surprising number of banks don’t even offer residential mortgage loans to their depositors, even though they could easily do so. They might extend themselves to refer the loan elsewhere but certainly not to the local branch of TBTF (Too Big To Fail) National Bank down the street. Rather, the deal goes to a mortgage broker.

But what about the banks that have an active mortgage lending operation, as many do? What about an online lender like Quicken Loans? Don’t they take pretty good care of their customers? Yes, they do — if you’re the right kind of customer, that is. However, if you, or your property, doesn’t fit the post recession Fannie Mae or regulatory cookie cutter profile, then you’re pretty much out of luck. If you don’t fit the mold, that online lender that touts fast funding and low rates doesn’t have an alternative deal for you.

A mortgage broker often does. He or she can represent a variety of lenders, ones that, for example, will make loans on so-called “hobby farms” in rural areas, or condotels in a Colorado resort. Some even have access to private lenders.

And then there’s the fact that we bankers are, well, bankers. We think like bankers, and we act like bankers. Bank mortgage loan personnel are good at taking an app sitting behind their desks, as long as it’s between eight and five (with an hour off for lunch). Very few of us will show up at a borrower’s home after supper, or on the applicant’s job site during lunch, or come in on a Sunday afternoon to take an application.

Brokers will, and do.

I do some consulting for small banks in connection with residential lending. In one instance, a client’s ad agency spotted a social media query from a home buyer: “Where do I go to get a home loan? I don’t want to deal with a bank.” Her reason: “I don’t think banks care about me as a customer, and they take a long time to process a loan.”

Not surprisingly, mortgage brokers do absolutely nothing to disabuse borrowers of this perception.

Pat Dalrymple is a western Colorado native and has spent almost 50 years in mortgage lending and banking in the Roaring Fork Valley. He’ll be happy to answer your questions or hear your comments. His e-mail is dalrymple@sopris.net.

Meet Your Merchant: Face to face with health-centered dentistry

How did your business start?

We each owned dental practices for many years; however, in 2012 we realized we needed to take some time away from dentistry, so we sold our practices and departed to South America for a “midlife adventure.”

While our time away was everything we hoped it would be, we developed some health issues on our trip that we elected to treat using more natural health remedies.

Through the research of these natural remedies we came upon the practice of biological dentistry, fundamentally the practice of more health-centered dentistry, and that is how Elevate Dental Wellness was born.

What do you sell?

Elevate offers comprehensive dental services for the entire family, with a focus on natural, whole-body health and its relationship with oral health. We offer a full spectrum of dental services ranging from cleanings and routine dental work, to complex restorative dental treatment, cosmetic dentistry, dental implant placement, even the treatment of sleep apnea.

Elevate Dental Wellness is the valley’s only biological dental office offering many services that are unique to our practice.

Why do you like what you do?

As dentists we spend a lot of time face-to-face with our patients. We love our patients, we love getting to know them, their families, and their way of life. We enjoy knowing the full scope of their lives — the happiness, the sadness, as it helps form strong, lifelong relationships built on trust and understanding.

We also enjoy being an integral part of taking care of our patients’ health. The mouth is a mirror and a gateway to your overall health, and we are excited to be playing a part in the transformation of the health and wellness of our patients.

What strategy do you use to hire good people?

For us, the biggest thing is finding employees that are like-minded — the people that smile at us when we smile at them. We can teach anyone how to work in our dental office, but you can’t teach energy. Good, positive energy is our only job requirement.

What is your strategy for growth in the next year?

Our strategy revolves around spreading the message of health and wellness and how it relates to oral health. We plan on giving presentations for various organizations as well as within the community at large to inform people about what we do, and what sets us apart.

Additionally, we know our patients will help us spread the word about the quality of service and care we provide and will help us build our practice by encouraging their friends and family to become patients.

What is the best thing about running a business here?

We are excited to be building our business in a great community that is growing and changing every day. We love being a part of the great energy that not only surrounds Willits, but also the entire mid-valley.

We also get to live and work among the people that are our neighbors, patients and friends. We enjoy getting to see, recreate and spend time with everyone that makes the Roaring Fork Valley an amazing place to live and work. We tried for a year to find a better place to live, and there just isn’t anywhere that compares to the Roaring Fork Valley.

CRMS spends summer giving inner-city scholars a boost

Mount Sopris is symbolic in a lot of ways for 73 high school students who just spent the last five weeks studying and getting acquainted with the outdoors through a special science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment program at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale.

It’s a distant, yet reachable destination that embodies the challenges that lie ahead for each of the participants in the High School High Scholar (HS)2 academic camp.

Founded in 2007 by Fort Worth, Texas, philanthropists and part-time Roaring Fork Valley residents Mollie and Garland Lasater, the program invites low-income, minority students from Dallas-Fort Worth and other inner-city schools to set a path toward a college education.

“These young people are all raised by parents who didn’t graduate from college, and many of them didn’t graduate high school,” notes Janis Taylor, who teaches chemistry in the (HS)2 program and is a teacher at Coal Ridge High School during the regular school year.

“If we picture the game of getting into and graduating from college as a playing field, the field for these kids isn’t just uphill. It’s rocky and thorny and sometimes truly unsafe,” Taylor said. “This program gives the students support to take some of the bumps out of the playing field.”

Earlier this month, 33 of the (HS)2 students, including several of the 22 graduating seniors who successfully completed the three-year program and graduated on Friday, split up into groups to climb Mount Sopris.

“Many of these kids have never hiked before, and to see the encouragement they get from their peers is incredible to watch,” Cindy Blachly, (HS)2 program director for CRMS, said. “They won’t let each other fail.

“As a private school with a public purpose, what we strive to do with this program is serve a different demographic and expose students from other parts of the country to rigorous academics and the outdoor opportunities we have here,” Blachly said.

In addition to the traditional Sopris hike, the students are also exposed to activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, music, blacksmithing, silversmithing and glass-making.

“It’s a great way to get away from the city and experience the mountain life,” said Christopher Mireles, one of this year’s (HS)2 graduates from San Antonio, Texas. “It’s taught me so much about myself and how we can help each other.”

investing in the future

(HS)2 was begun by the Lasaters in collaboration with the Aspen Science Center and CRMS, and for the first four years was managed by the Science Center before CRMS took over the program in 2010. The Science Center still hosts a weekly barbecue and science project showcase as part of the camp.

The program was modeled after the successful Math and Science for Minority Students (MS)2 program at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

To qualify, students must come from a traditionally underserved community including African American, Latino or Native American, come from a low-income family as determined by qualifying for free or reduced fee lunch, be the first generation in their family to set their sights on college, rank in the top 10 percent of their class academically, and have a passion for STEM learning.

Currently, the program partners with qualified students from public schools in Fort Worth, Dallas and San Antonio, Texas; New Orleans; Bronx and Brooklyn, New York; Fort Myers, Florida, and Denver. One private school, the Cristo Rey Institute in New York City, also participates.

The program is free of charge to the participants. Funding from the Mollie and Garland Lasater Charitable Trust and a variety of other foundation grants and individual donors covers the $21,000 cost per student to attend the three-year program starting the summer after their freshman year in high school.

“When you invest in education, you are making a difference,” Mollie Lasater says in the 2015 (HS)2 annual report. “You are turning lives around.”

The program has grown from just 12 students that first year to 65 students last summer and to 73 this year.

Between 2009 and 2014, 100 percent of the participating students have graduated and gone on to attend college at prestigious universities and colleges including Rice, Duke, MIT, Southern Methodist, Texas A&M, University of Texas, University of North Carolina, and, in Colorado, Regis and Colorado College.

“These kids come to our campus, and it’s such a mind-blowing experience for them, because it’s so different compared to where they come from,” Blachly said.

Adds Taylor, “I know from listening to the students that this program is, for many of them, the first place they have felt completely safe and loved.

“When the second- and third-year students refer to (HS)2, they will most often use the words ‘home’ and ‘family,’” she said. “Maybe a part of that is physical safety, and I’m sure a big part is emotional and intellectual safety.”

testimonials

Mireles would like to study biomedical engineering, and has his eye on Duke University as he enters his senior year of high school in San Antonio.

“This is just a phenomenal program, and I could never expect to be so fully immersed in academics and have these other activities like we have here,” he said. “It’s a place where we can all talk and relate to each other and really bond. It is like a second home.”

Second-year students Osa Ibude and Christopher Green both attend Achievement First High School in Brooklyn, New York City, where they will be juniors this fall. They were recognized as high-performing students when they were freshmen, and it was recommended through their pre-collegiate program that they consider applying for (HS)2.

Ibude also considered applying for Phillips’ (MS)2 but liked the outdoor component of the CRMS program and a chance to see the Rocky Mountains.

“Socially, it’s really helped me because I get to meet different people from different cultures,” he said. “Academically, I have gotten a lot more confident in my writing and speaking abilities, which will really help me develop my science and math skills.”

Ibude is still weighing his college options but aspires to study criminology and would like to be an FBI agent someday. Green has an eye toward Georgetown University.

“I have benefited so much from the math classes and chemistry, and I know I will go back to school ahead of most of my class,” Green said. “I recommend everybody who can to come here, because it really helps you succeed and prepare for college.”

Green and Ibude will also be talking up the (HS)2 program at their neighborhood middle school as they recruit new pre-collegiate students.

Rebecca Hernandez, who will be a senior at JFK High School in Denver this fall, also just graduated from (HS)2 and credited the program with making it a realistic goal to study mechanical engineering, perhaps at Northwestern University.

“I just fell in love with the program when I first came here,” she said. “I was scared at first to come to a place where I don’t know anyone, but they really took us in and made us feel like we belong.

“There is such a sense of community here, and we’re getting the experience we need to go on to college,” said Hernandez, who would like to maybe come back to CRMS and teach in the summer program.

Jessica Garza, a 2013 (HS)2 alum, is doing just that. She graduated this spring from Southern Methodist University where she studied geology and math. She was back for the summer as a climbing instructor and alumni speaker as part of (HS)2, and will be returning to CRMS full time as a teaching fellow this fall.

“This is a pretty unique program, and a lot of the schools these kids come from are not the greatest at preparing them to apply for and enter college,” said Garza, who went to Amon Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth but was able to complete her senior year at CRMS.

“The teachers and staff really take care of you and make sure you’re learning what you need to learn to go to college,” she said. “I know it really opened my eyes to what was possible.”

CRMS and (HS)2 also turned her on to rock climbing, which has become one of her passions aside from her studies and career aspirations. Garza coached youth climbing teams during college, and has also done several competitions.

Blachly said the program has not been as successful in attracting Native American students but is looking for support to expand its reach into that segment of students.

RFTA preps for next year’s bridge detour

QUESTION: How are local entities preparing to adapt and contribute in anticipation of the 95-day traffic bridge detour?

As the Grand Avenue bridge project gains headway — we just successfully erected the final pedestrian bridge girders — decreasing motorist traffic begins to occupy our planning process.

About this time next year, the bridge team will prepare for construction of the new vehicle bridge. This means implementing a 95-day traffic detour, and the community’s help in decreasing traffic by 20 percent. Part of our strategy in reaching this goal is leaning on our regional commuter transportation provider.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which operates the Ride Glenwood Springs shuttle, in partnership with Colorado Department of Transportation, is working hard in anticipation for the 2017 bridge detour. Park and ride improvements will offer safe, flexible and efficient options for travelers with upgrades and a new stop for the regional system. These changes will allow for more parking and a bus turnaround area at the West Glenwood location and the recently added New Castle location.

Graham Riddile, CDOT project engineer, explained that the new bus turnaround allows a safer way for travelers to get on and off the bus. It also creates a more efficient traffic flow during the detour, especially for the West Glenwood stop, which is located directly off of Midland Avenue. In addition to these upgrades, the West Glenwood Park and Ride is expanding with trail connections to the Wulfsohn Trail and West Glenwood Trail.

Users will see 32 new parking spaces at the new West Glenwood Park and Ride, a new unisex restroom, the new turnaround area and improvements to the Bustang pick-up. Renovations are anticipated to wrap up around the end of August, and construction costs are about $1.5 million, with $642,000 of federal transportation grant funding.

New Castle residents have noticed the new park and ride stop coming along. Off of U.S. Highway 6 near City Market, this new stop in the regional system will accommodate 62 parking spaces. Construction costs reach just under $620,000 with the aid of $200,000 in Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant money.

During the traffic detour, RFTA buses will shuttle passengers every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from the West Glenwood location to the north side of the pedestrian bridge on Sixth Street.

Additionally, travelers will be able to easily connect to the regional bus stop at the 27th Street Roaring Fork Marketplace stop from the West Glenwood Park and Ride. This service will run every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For more information about RFTA and Park and Ride or to find more locations visit rfta.com/how-to/park-ride/.

Thunder River Theatre founder Lon Winston stepping down after 21 years

Thunder River Theatre Company founder and executive artistic director Lon Winston has taken his final bow at as head of the nonprofit after 21 years.

Winston, 70, is retiring and will be succeeded next month by the Carbondale company’s associate artistic director Corey Simpson.

“I feel like I’ve done the job I set out to do 21 years ago,” Winston said Saturday morning at Bonfire Coffee. “That was to create a theater company committed to talent in the valley, emphasizing a professional standard.”

Winston founded Thunder River in 1995 and made it a home for serious, often challenging, theater in the midvalley — staging classics, contemporary works and original productions with local casts.

“Early on we had this reputation as that theater that just does depressing plays,” Winston said. “If it wasn’t ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ then it was depressing. It took years to educate an audience.”

The opening season included David Mamet’s “Oleanna” and Sam Shepard’s “True West,” and in the two decades that followed Thunder River staged more than 60 shows, including works by Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Chekhov and Ibsen (comedies and the occasional musical also had a place in Winston’s program).

“Our audience started to get it, and it became not just, ‘You’re the ones who do the depressing theater,’ but, ‘Please, don’t stop,’” Winston recalled.

On New Year’s Eve 2005, the company opened the downtown building and black box theater it’s since called home.

“That changed everything, having our own space,” Winston said. “It allowed us to focus on raising the bar.”

With a consistent season schedule and a venue to match its ambitions, Thunder River became an incubator for acting talent in the valley, a creative canvas for Winston and frequent collaborator Valerie Haugen, and a well-respected, if unlikely, hub of the dramatic arts in Colorado.

The season after moving into the new building, Thunder River was a finalist for the El Pomar Foundation’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities. In 2012, it won the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Award for Outstanding Regional Theater.

“In the span of those six years we were able to elevate the stature of Thunder River, with the help of all the artists,” said Winston.

Before Winston and Thunder River’s supporters built the company’s own space, it was based out of an 18-wheeler, traveling up and down the valley to stage shows wherever they could get a room. In 2003, Winston mounted a production of Israel Horovitz’s “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard” in the Carbondale storefront of what is now a CrossFit gym. For the first 11 years, Winston worked for free. Despite Thunder River’s vagabond existence, the company earned a reputation for artistic integrity and originality. Winston and Haugen’s “Greek Shards” series of adaptations of Greek tragedies, begun in 2001, brought the pair to Dartmouth University for two summers, where they staged excerpts and lectured Classics students.

The artistic mission of the company remained consistent through the years.

“It took educating our audience, not changing our mission,” said Winston. “I’m proud of that.”

Winston has directed the majority of shows for Thunder River, and he designed all of them until last year, along with acting in roles ranging from George Burns in the Thunder River original “Passionate Collaborators” to Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” King Henry in “The Lion in Winter” and Teach in “American Buffalo.” His hands-on approach also had him hammering nails to build sets and manning the concessions stand during intermissions.

When directing plays, Winston encourages actors to work with what he calls “informed vagueness,” an approach rooted in dramaturgy and research but with openness to differing opinions and interpretations. On the business side of leading the nonprofit — fundraising, working with board members and the like — he tried to use the same strategy.

“I run the theater that way, too,” he said. “So that anyone who gets involved with us feels like they are a contributor, not a puppet. And that’s a huge reason, I think, for our success.”

Winston moved to the valley in 1975 with his wife, Debra, a school administrator with tenures at the Aspen and Carbondale Community schools. Early on, they lived above Thomasville on the north fork of the Fryingpan River, where Winston served for a time as a reserve deputy for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The Winstons left in 1980, when Lon took a post as a theater professor at Villanova University. They returned in 1992. Soon after, Winston began working on the idea for Thunder River.

In retirement, Winston plans to travel, beginning with a series of road trips around the west this summer and fall.

But he’ll be back in Carbondale for the first Thunder River opening under Simpson’s leadership — “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in September. Simpson, 44, comes to Thunder River from a job as digital marketing director for Timbers Resorts. A graduate of the theater program at the University of Colorado, Simpson has been performing in the company since the 2012 production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” and last year made his Thunder River directorial debut in “Bakersfield Mist.” Simpson’s enthusiasm, his collaborative nature, and his business experience, Winston said, made him an ideal successor.

“I think of leadership on a horizontal model, not a vertical model,” he said. “That’s one of the things I want to instill in Corey.”

Winston will stay involved with Thunder River as a consultant and a board member. He is also slated to design and direct the spring 2017 production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” As he put it: “I keep telling everyone, ‘I want to be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.’”

atravers@aspentimes.com

Rona’s garden in full bloom at Glenwood’s Downtown Market

Rona’s memorial garden is in full bloom at Centennial Park, where the fun takes place every Tuesday evening from 4-8 p.m. at Glenwood’s Downtown Market. I am thinking of the pie baking contest next week and how I can incorporate the gorgeous ripe currants hanging from the bushes among the blooms in Rona’s garden. This year’s annual pie contest is next week, Aug. 2. It is the event of the summer with the tension and excitement it creates in the contestants, judges and samplers. Judging from last year’s entries, competition is tough.

There are plenty of fresh fruits to choose from at the market already, but you are not limited to fruit for your pie. Categories are fruit, cream, and exotic/specialty. We are asking contestants to preregister by email at glenwoodmarket@gmail.com. Your pie will not be turned away if you don’t preregister, however.

Pappardelle Pasta is available at the Market Manager’s Booth, as well as specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegar. We have just received a nice selection of oilcloth table cloths and tote bags.

Every week the produce vendors are bringing something new to the market. Kendra at Z’s saved some of the few okra plants she harvested this week. She said it is supposed to be one of the healthiest foods you can give your body, so I looked it up in Jonny Bowden’s book “150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.” Jonny says, “Okra contains a unique combination of valuable nutrients. It is one of a select group of foods that include naturally occurring glutathione, arguably the most important antioxidant in the body.” I hope it’s still counted as healthy if I bread and fry it.

The squash at Early Morning Orchards is beautiful and downright cute. I’m talking about the patty-pan squash, which is absolutely scrumptious sautéed in the Lemon Infused Olive Oil available at the Market Manager’s Booth. You can also grill it, which is an excellent way to enjoy getting your vegetables. And Bowden tells us “summer squash is high in the heart-healthy mineral potassium.”

This week in the Cooking Booth Natalia Franz from Trattoria Dionisia will dazzle marketgoers with a fabulous presentation of her chef’s skills. Tratoria Dionisia is that chic underground Italian restaurant at 809 Grand Ave. that is both sophisticated and quaint. The Cooking Booth is sponsored by the Pullman and Town restaurants.

In the Music Tent, the Logan Brothers return to the Downtown Market, sponsored by Carpet One. It is always a pleasure to welcome the delightfully entertaining Logan Brothers to our little market where I must say we have the most appreciative and attentive audience in the world. I know the musicians enjoy playing at the market because of the special audience members who show up faithfully each week and show their appreciation for the musical talent.

The Logan Brothers are a Glenwood Springs-based band that plays classic and folk rock, focusing on acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica and exceptional singing. The group has been playing together off and on since 1977. They are like brothers with a friendship that has lasted over 25 years. Next week Vid Weatherwax will perform in the music tent, sponsored by Valley View Hospital.

Come join in all the fun with your neighbors, local producers, artisans, musicians and chefs from 4-8 p.m. every Tuesday through the summer at Ninth and Grand Avenue.

We continue to double the value of EBT and WIC benefits up to $20 each week.

Cradle to Career Initiative helping quell ‘quiet crisis’

In 2011, when the Aspen Community Foundation started digging into education issues affecting an estimated 20,000 kids from Aspen to Parachute, officials became convinced a “quiet crisis” was unfolding.

Substantial gaps had appeared in the education achievement of low-income children and more affluent peers. In addition, there was a rapidly growing number of English Language Learners that strained school district resources. Educators realized that a growing number of high school students either dropped out or were ill prepared for college or career.

The foundation convened 100 community leaders from school, civic groups and nonprofits in late 2012 to study how to improve education, particularly for students at risk of performing poorly and dropping out of school. They came up with an action plan about 18 months later.

The Cradle to Career Initiative was launched in May 2014 to prepare kids for success from preschool to college. The Aspen Community Foundation released a comprehensive report this month measuring results from the first two years.

John Bennett, director of the Cradle to Career initiative, said two results jumped out of the report for him. First, a variety of programs designed to get kids prepared for kindergarten appear to be working.

Cradle to Career’s first of four goals is to help prepare all children for kindergarten.

“The younger the child is, the greater the leverage,” Bennett said. In other words, programs can be particularly effective with younger students.

One of the programs is Jumpstart, which provides full-day, five-week, five-days-per-week summer programs for kids in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs who are about to enter kindergarten with little or no early education.

“Jumpstart reduces the kindergarten gap among low-income, primarily Latino children,” the Cradle to Career Initiative’s 2016 report says.

Another program, Preschool on Wheels, enlisted Gus the Bus and the Sunshine Bus, to fire up preschoolers about education. The program provides high-quality, licensed preschool to low-income children from Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

The report says that students enlisted in Preschool on Wheels demonstrated significant growth during kindergarten in using language to express thoughts and needs, demonstrating knowledge of the alphabet and demonstrating emergent writing skills.

The preschool participation in the region increased from 76 percent in 2014 to 89 percent in 2015, according to the report. “In 2011, most of our region’s children were not attending preschool,” the report said.

Bennett said another example of success is dedicating college-career counselors to high schools. Aspen Community Foundation funded the addition of a counselor at Basalt High School in 2012-13 under a five-year agreement with the school district. The foundation covers a decreasing amount of the cost each year while the school district picks up more of the expense.

Basalt’s graduation rate has improved from 77 percent in 2013 to 82 percent the following year and 87 percent in 2015. College enrollment also increased.

The community foundation is extending the partnership for a college-career counselor to the other high schools in the region. Aspen already had such a position.

The report has some less promising results. The Aspen Community Foundation and school districts in the region hired the national pollster Gallup to help with surveys of children in grades five through 12.

It showed 45 percent of students overall were “strongly hopeful” while 36 percent were “stuck” and 19 percent were “discouraged.”

Bennett said Cradle to Career Initiative wants to do what it can to raise the hopes of all students.