In April 1962, when Mickey Mantle hit his 375th home run for the New York Yankees and Arnold Palmer won the Masters, local artists Arlene Law, Sally Thompson and Pat LeVan quietly got together in Glenwood Springs to paint. Maybe they listened to radio hits like “Duke of Earl,” “Johnny Angel” or “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as they formed what is now the oldest art group in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Glenwood Springs Art Guild (GSAG) turns 52 this month.
“Arlene said they ought to have an art show,” recalled Portia Griefenberg, GSAG member for more than four decades. “So they started the Fall Art Festival that year at Glenwood Springs High School.”
Most people associate GSAG with the fall festival because it’s the group’s one and only fundraiser. But, over the years, the 180-member guild has added scholarships and art supply donation programs to its list of community services.
The Nancy Piper Memorial Scholarship awards went to local high school seniors this year who submitted work to the Battle of the Walls exhibit at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts in March.
“Nancy Piper was a Glenwood Springs High School student who developed cancer,” Griefenberg said. “She was a very fine artist and joined the art guild.”
After Nancy lost her life in 1982 to the disease, GSAG created a scholarship in her name for graduating seniors interested in pursuing art studies.
First place gets $3,500, second place gets $1,500, and third place is an honorable mention award. Rebecca Rembold from Glenwood Springs High School took first place. Roaring Fork High School students Abriah Wofford and Isabel Mata won second and third place respectively. Alice Davenport, GSAG president and 12-year member, said that the scholarship gives younger students something to aim for.
Now, Nancy Piper’s brother Neil, who attended last year’s fall festival, wants to contribute to the scholarship fund. “He was delighted that we continued the scholarship in her name,” said Griefenberg.
But high school seniors are not the only students who benefit from GSAG. “We donate art supplies to all the schools between Aspen and Parachute,” said Cynthia Thomas, GSAG member for 23 years. GSAG also supports art-related activities at area nonprofits, including Youth Recovery Center, Advocate Safehouse Project, Mountain Valley Developmental Services and E. Dene Moore Care Center in Rifle.
“We’re not doing anything for profit, we’re giving of our time and effort to help the community,” said Thomas.
GSAG promotes the visual arts and art education and appreciation in the community. But Griefenberg, Thomas, and Davenport agree that the camaraderie among members is what keeps the guild exciting.
“There’s no jealousy,” said Portia Griefenberg, who settled in Glenwood Springs with her family in 1972.
With her children in school, she decided to resume painting. She enrolled in a CMC class with the late Bleu Stroud, an art guild member who ended up asking her to help with the Fall Art Festival.
“Everyone seemed to be supportive of each other,” said Griefenberg, who paints with oils. “We get together for Paint Day, and if you’re stuck, you can ask for a critique. It’s a very supportive group.”
Cynthia Thomas was a regionally known watercolor artist in Oklahoma when she moved to Glenwood Springs in 1991. “I didn’t know anybody,” she said, adding that she met an artist at church who told her about the art guild. “[GSAG] makes you feel so warm and welcome,” she explained. “You feel like you’re a part of it [from] the day you walk in the door.”
Davenport — also a watercolorist — claims her skills have improved since she’s been a GSAG member. “We learn from each other,” she said.
The guild also honors its own with the annual Jan Worden Memorial Scholarship that goes to GSAG’s most improved artist of the year. Worden, a guild member, was killed in a car crash in 1984.
The Fall Art Festival brings in about $100,000 over five days. Artists keep 70 percent of sales, and the rest goes back to the guild for festival expenses and projects. “We get just about enough to do our scholarships and giving every year,” said Thomas.
The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association chooses one painting from the festival to use as the annual community greeting card and to present to the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year.
But if you come to the festival, make sure you’re ready to buy art. GSAG does not accept donations.
“We want people to purchase art,” explained Griefenberg. “It gives the artist encouragement.”
The public is invited to join guild members for all or part of the annual painting retreat in Redstone from May 16-21, which includes a demonstration by local sculptor Greg Tonozzi. Call Portia Griefenberg at 970-945-0393 for details or visit www.glenwoodspringsartguild.com.