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CMC virtual photo exhibit displays art created by 2020 graduates during Covid pandemic

"Saguaro cactus with bud," is the photograph artist Deborah Shannan presented for CMC's virtual portfolio exhibit.

The lack of a final gallery exhibit back in April 2020 of their capstone projects didn’t just leave them without a tangible celebration for the work they’d put into their degrees; the exhibit usually works as a good networking site for recent graduates seeking out their next steps and applying for jobs.

“It was very emotional for this program because it’s like us, our artistic everything, all of our work was just building up to this day, you know. And that day creates a lot of opportunities for jobs or just getting the word out about this is who I am, this is how I make my work,” Hannah Johnson, Professional Photo Program graduate, said.

CMC still wanted to give credit to its graduates so for the last few weeks photographs from the capstone students were, and still are, on display in a virtual gallery. The online exhibit was a long time coming for Johnson and Deborah Shannan, another graduate from the Professional Photography program. Johnson said when her coursework came to a close and she received her diploma it was all very emotional. At that point in time when the COVID-19 outbreak was still fairly new, subbing in a virtual option for the real thing wasn’t something people were accustomed to yet.

“We were supposed to have our portfolio exhibit April 29 or something, and really Covid was totally new and people didn’t know…we didn’t have any alternatives…we did the best we could given the situation. Nobody felt like okay could we swing it together to make an online version, you know, people just weren’t working that way at that point,” Shannan said.

The title of Johnson’s photograph that can be seen on display here is “Auggie” and part of a portraiture series. Johnson said she always had a passion for writing poetry so the work she did for her capstone was accompanied by different poems.

"Auggie" Photo by Hannah Johnson

“My work is kind of based on my background in creative writing. So the first part of it is fine art portraiture…the goal of it was to show them through my style of seeing people in a more subconscious way. So my portraits are kind of ethereal, delicate and sometimes melancholy…and then the second part of my portfolio is fine art self-portraiture…each of those photos is based on a stanza in my final manuscript,” Johnson said.

Shannan, a former Biology teacher, gathers most of the inspiration for her work from nature. Her photographs tend to be close up shots that focus on the lines, textures and patterns found in the wild on various plant specimens.

“My personal photography is really about what can be referred to as intimate landscapes…for me it’s the intersection between art and science for me,” Shannan said.

Shannan uses an alternate processing method to develop her photographs. This means she uses an emulsifying process, her preferred medium is with liquid forms of Palladium and Platinum, on a photographic negative to create what she described as “handmade photographs.” She is the first student to graduate from CMC’s photo program who completed an entire portfolio solely of emulsified photos.

“As a consequence the prints that you produce have a gorgeous quality to them…that was what I chose to do which was I’m going to say a lot more work than actually just printing on the inkjet printer. Because each print had to be made into a negative and then printed in the darkroom,” Shannan said.

What’s next?

Johnson said COVID-19 posed a real challenge to her creative process since subjects became less comfortable meeting in person. It also was an end to the program that felt empty, Johnson said, without the feedback of other students in the classroom.

“I think my only thoughts on going through it during COVID is…it challenges you in a way that, you know, normal things get in the way of being creative, but this has really shown just how social creation is,” Johnson said.

Johnson is currently working as a Public Information Assistant at CMC. She says she wants to continue to expand her website and online store where she sells prints of fine art. Another element she hopes to cultivate in her web presence is an interactive patreon community where artists can come together for a sense of community in a virtual setting.

“I’ve launched my fine art print store which I wanted to create because I was kind of tired of an elitist view over fine art. I wanted to create just a space to access fine art without having to go anywhere. Kind of just a modern view of being engaged with your customers or your fans,” Johnson said.

Shannan on the other hand is following a more traditional path for a photographer. She plans to head out to Highlands, North Carolina in mid-February for a 3-month artist residency program at The Bascom Center for the Arts. CMC had a 2019 graduate from the professional photography program, Ben Bookout, in the same residency during 2020.

“The Bascom is an art center that is not unlike Anderson Ranch, it’s been around for a good while. It has visiting artists come and stay, and help out by doing some teaching as well as I will be having my first solo show at the center opening mid-April through the end of May…That’s very exciting to be part of that,” Shannah said.

To view the photographs from Johnson and Shannan’s portfolios visit the online gallery here. If you’d like to purchase pieces from the individual artists or learn more about their process, Johnson’s website and online shop is here, and Shannan’s can be found at this link.


Valley Visual Art Show brings local artists together for community exhibit

Carbondale Arts Launchpad Gallery Manager Brian Colley is shown in the R3 Gallery with some of the works in this year’s 42nd annual Valley Visual Art Show.
John Stroud/Post Independent


The 42nd annual Carbondale Visual Valley Art Show (VVAS) will kick off this Friday, Jan. 22, and run through Feb. 25, at the Launchpad, 76 S. Fourth St. Carbondale. The show will feature unique work from 50 different artists, the majority of them being local to the area.

Brian Colley, gallery manager at the Launchpad, said this show is one of the few venues artists in the area can have their pieces exhibited.

“So this is a great chance to see artists that you don’t know but they’re here. There are so many creative people here and you think you know everyone in the valley but you really don’t. There’s always about a third of the entrants who come in here and I don’t know who they are but their work is amazing,” Colley said.

The show also marks the 50th year of Carbondale Arts, however the gallery will not host an opening ceremony as usual due to restrictions from COVID-19.

“We won’t have an opening but we will be open later on Friday. In the past we would have a big hoopla with food and drink, and all that stuff, but we won’t have that this year,” artist Staci Dickerson said.

Dickerson is a member of Carbondale Creative District and a local painter. She said all the artwork featured in the VVAS are pieces that were created within the last 12 months. The painting she’ll have on display is titled “Blue Notes,” an abstract painting, and one of the few pieces she’s painted throughout the pandemic.

“I have to say I have not been really productive over the last three to four months. I’ve hardly painted at all,” Dickerson said.

Liz Caris, a tile muralist who moved to the valley around 2018, described the art she creates as “painting with glass.” It is the first time Caris will have work in the VVAS and she said she’s ecstatic to attend the gallery and see all the work on display from other local neighboring artists as well. She said it has been hard to find an “immersive community” during COVID-19 and echoed Dickerson’s sentiment about struggling to create over the past months of lockdown and isolation.

“At the beginning I just couldn’t focus…I had a hard time focusing, I just couldn’t think. Everything was shutting down one thing after another…it was very hard for me,” Caris said.

There will be a way to view the gallery online if individuals don’t feel comfortable attending the show in person. Per safety precautions, the gallery will only allow eight people at a time so guests can keep their distance from each other while enjoying the art. VVAS will have the option for visitors to vote on pieces in the People’s Choice Award for the one they enjoy the most. The top three artists will receive a cash prize courtesy of Carbondale Arts.

“A Man Who Sees a Forest, and a Man Who Sees Lumber” by Joy Joseph and William Laemmel is one of the many works in the 42nd Annual Valley Visual Art Show in Carbondale.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“We keep the numbers limited to eight people inside the rooms here. That’s what we did throughout our whole holiday show and it worked really well. There might be a little line but people know that other people are behind them so they usually move through really well,” Colley said.

To further the celebration of Carbondale Arts’ 50th year, there will be 10 golden tickets hidden randomly behind art pieces on display. Colley said they did this to encourage visitors to purchase local art.

“If you purchase (a piece with a golden ticket behind it) you’ll get a ticket and a chance to draw out of a jar for a raffle. We’re (giving away) gift cards to our gift shop here,” Colley said.

VVAS also teamed up with the Carbondale Chamber and First Bank to host a coloring contest for children who visit the gallery. Colley said he’ll put together some line drawings that families can pick up when visiting the Launchpad and then drop off at First Bank.

“A fun coloring page full of … four different pieces that people can color in. Those will be able to pick up on First Friday in February. People can color them in and put their name on it and enter in a raffle at First Bank,” Colley said.

The artwork featured will also be available for purchase at the online store on the Launchpad’s website. Colley and Caris both have pieces that will be featured — Colley will have a watercolor self-portrait on display and Caris has a piece titled “Cone Flowers.”

Caris’ piece is the unique assembly of Italian tile to illustrate an element from the natural landscape of Colorado. She said she is used to creating work from the perspective of the outdoor setting around her, but since moving from Tucson, Arizona, the subjects of her work have changed quite a bit.

“Of course in the desert my medium was desert animals, cactus, flowers that grow there, landscapes. When I came here everything changed, you know? Now I have files of moose, deer, coneflowers and columbine…mountains and stuff like that. It’s good for me because it’s a whole new thing for me to draw,” Caris said.

For folks who would like to attend the art show in person, the gallery will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery will have a catalog of artist bios which will also be available online so those interested can view their works and learn more about the people behind the art pieces.

“To me, it makes me feel better, physically better to see art … it’s just something that will give your soul some love, a different thing to go do,” Caris said.


All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer

Preview photos of a scenic Glenwood Springs landscape in autumn and the interior of the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train coming soon to come to Glenwood Springs in August this year.

This August, the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train will begin its debut season for the first American route. The vacation experience is called “Rockies to the Red Rocks,” and passengers can choose to board either in Denver or Moab, Utah for their two day voyage, with an overnight in Glenwood Springs.

“This journey will appeal to people looking for a comfortable, enjoyable way to experience the unique landscapes of Colorado and Utah,” Tessa Day, Communications Manager for Rocky Mountaineer, said.

The train will be stopping in Glenwood four nights a week. If passengers boarded in Denver, they’ll arrive around 5 p.m. but if they got on in Moab, it would be closer to 7 p.m. when they get to Glenwood. Lisa Langer, Director of Tourism Promotion, said she is thrilled to welcome the Rocky Mountaineer and its passengers to Glenwood Springs and hopefully make a good impression on them so they’ll want to return.

“You’ll have people with expendable income, walking around town trying to experience a place and whether they eat and drink, or whether they soak or whatever they do, they’re going to be those extra bodies on nights when there might not otherwise be people just walking around,” Langer said.

Plans for the train’s stop in Glenwood Springs started back in 2019 when the company reached out to the board of tourism to see if they’d be interested in being a part of the vacation experience. Initially the route was going to launch in 2022 or 2023, but because of COVID-19 the plans were able to be accelerated to the end of summer and fall of 2021. Langer said she was told The addition of a route through Colorado and Utah was meant to be what would “bring back tourism,” according to the Rocky Mountaineer team. The closest route to this new one is in Canada and due to the stricter COVID-19 restrictions there, train journeys as well as other attractions are currently closed.

Preview photos of a scenic Glenwood Springs landscape in autumn and the interior of the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train coming soon to come to Glenwood Springs in August this year.

“We have extensive health screening and disinfecting protocols in place, so guests can be confident and comfortable during their journey. This includes health screening prior to boarding each day and use of electrostatic disinfecting of the train. Our trains are also equipped with high-end air filtration systems that ensure a steady intake and circulation of fresh air and have filters that capture 99.9% of airborne particles,” Day said.

The train will only have observation cars for passengers to sit back and take in the scenic beauty of the route. While the drive up Interestate 70 from Denver into Glenwood offers breathtaking, natural views, the train will showcase parts of Glenwood Canyon and the mountains that can’t be seen by car. There will be gourmet cuisine served for breakfast and lunch, and tour guides telling stories about the history of the area so passengers can learn more about the sights they’re experiencing.

“More money will come into the community by way of taxes that will help improve other areas of the town… and think about the environment. It’s people not traveling on the highway, not using their vehicles…they’re going to see amazing scenery and they’re not going to be in their vehicle,” Langer said.

Langer also said she has plans to speak with business owners downtown and within walking distance of the train station so that when passengers arrive they can eat and shop locally in downtown Glenwood.

“We believe our guests will benefit the local tourism industry as they will be looking to experience local shops and restaurants during their stay,” Day said.

Tickets for the experience went on sale Nov. 19, 2020 andmany already have been purchased. Due to the one-way nature of the train route, individuals will not be able to board in Glenwood Springs, however it’s still expected to benefit the local tourist economy greatly.

“We’re hoping they end up coming back to Glenwood Springs and whether they do it right after this trip or right before this trip, at least they have seen Glenwood Springs, they have a taste for Glenwood Springs and they go, ‘wow this is a community that is really neat I want to come back here and spend more time.’”



Mountain Music — Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears discuss making their new record

Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears’ “Just Over the Ridge” will be released Friday.
Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears
Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears
Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears
Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears will perform a virtual “Streamin’ Steve’s” show on Friday night from Carbondale to celebrate the release of their new EP.

Who: Natalie Spears & Lizzy Plotkin

What: ‘Just Over the Ridge’ EP Release Party

Where: Streamin’ Steves, grassrootstv.org

When: Friday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m.

More info: stevesguitars.net

Inspired by our mountains and the creatures we share it with, the half-dozen songs on Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears’ “Just Over the Ridge” are steeped in American musical traditions and powered by angelic vocal harmonies.

The album opener, “Seasons Change,” is an original they’ve been playing at shows since they began performing together four years ago. Spears wrote this poetic chronicle of a sleepless night spent contemplating the natural life of a mountain valley about six years ago during one such night in an old farmhouse off Highway 133 in Carbondale.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and started writing that song,” she recalled recently. “I was just looking at (Mount) Sopris. It captures a lot of the love I have for this valley and he beauty that’s in this valley.”

The duo is releasing the six-song EP on Friday. They will celebrate with a virtual concert hosted by Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale as part of the “Streamin’ Steve’s” series that’s kept the small venue’s years-long streak of Friday night live music going through the pandemic.

While the new record sticks to the sounds of traditional Americana and the combination of vocals, banjo and fiddle, it ranges across styles of the folk idiom. There are moments of smirking sweetness in the John Hartford tradition, there’s old-time, country and bluegrass and acoustic blues.

These original compositions will fit in with the covers and classics that make up the bulk of Plotkin and Spears’ live set lists.

Their “Carry Me With You” is a fiddle tune that that hits like a secular hymn written centuries ago. In the up-tempo “Sweet Song in the Tall Grass” they sing of “workin’ and singin’ and prayin’ and dancin’ and whoopin’ and hollerin’ all around,” with the energy of a campfire boot-stomper passed down by generations of cowboys.

Both were drawn to Colorado by the land and came in hopes of deepening their relationships with the natural world.

Plotkin first came here during a college summer for work as a bird researcher at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic.

“My songwriting started in Gothic,” she said.

The humbling perspective of being a human in mountains allowed her to write meaningful songs. She found landscapes and animals frequently made it into her lyrics but they’re also an active part of her creative process.

“When I’m writing a song, I always like to take it out on a walk with me,” she explained. “That rhythm is now just in me and I can muse on words and ideas while out in the land.”

Spears ended up in the Roaring Fork Valley through the natural building movement, working in cob and adobe home construction and coming to Carbondale for an apprenticeship in straw bale houses.

“I thought I would just come and spend a little bit of time in Carbondale and then move on,” she said. “The people here are what captured my heart and convinced me to stay.”

Her work in natural building fed her songwriting in unexpected ways. Studying land with an architect’s eyes, it turns out, is not so different from doing so as a poet.

“To learn how water moves on a landscape or where the winds come from or where the sun’s going to rise, I learned the value of connecting on a deep spiritual level,” she said. “It just became a big part of my life.”

She went on to run a nature-based summer camp for girls, which gave Spears new ways of looking at the world around her here. These days, Plotkin and Spears teach music.

They write lyrics separately, but arrange songs and write music together. And though this EP is their first release together, they have more in the works.

“We bring a song to the table and we know that it might not be exactly what we want for a few years,” said Plotkin. “That’s part of the process and of our partnership.”

Both also trained – separately – at Victor Wooten Center for Music and Nature, and both are the daughters of musicians (Plotkin’s dad a fiddle player, Spears’ a jazz pianist).

The creative fit was evident from their first times playing together.

“We have these overlapping musical interests and histories and life interests,” Spears said. “It’s special to find a music a partner with whom you share those things.”

The new EP was recorded in the fall of 2019 in Fort Collins. The duo had planned to release it in the spring of 2020 but the pandemic changed those plans. The pair played a handful of outdoor shows last summer at venues like the I Bar Ranch in Gunnison, and did a few virtual ones, and they’re hopeful they’ll be able to play to audiences again this summer.

But Plotkin and Spears are at ease putting the record out at a moment when they can’t tour to support it, not knowing when they might.

Though the pandemic delayed the release of “Just Over the Ridge” and, as much grief and stress and fear as the public health crisis has brought, it has also given the pair a creative freedom for which they’re grateful.

“It’s been nice to have this space to write music without the pressure of performance,” Spears explained.

And they’re trying to go easy on themselves, accepting that the all this at-home time during the pandemic may not be all that productive. Plotkin, noting that she lost a close friend early in the pandemic, said: “A lot of artists, everyone expected us to just be creating. It’s like, ‘We’re going through this, too. There was a lot going on that I think at some point will come out in song, but hasn’t quite emerged yet.”


Glenwood’s Strawberry Days canceled for second straight year due to COVID uncertainty

Park goers enjoy free strawberries and ice cream at the park after the 2019 Strawberry Days Parade. The Strawberry Days Festival for 2021 has been canceled for the second year in a row.

The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association board has decided to cancel its Strawberry Days Festival for the second year in a row, due to continued uncertainty over coronavirus risk come June.

“We understand the disappointment the community may feel about this decision, especially when it seems like June is so far away,” Chamber President and CEO Angie Anderson said. “However, an event of this magnitude with so many moving parts requires a lot of advance planning and resources, and we had to make the call now.”

Strawberry Days is typically held the third full weekend of June.

Normally, by now, the chamber would be well into the process of getting contracts in place for vendors, music acts and lining up permits. But, due to an inability to plan ahead for large-scale events given the unknowns of the pandemic over the next few months, the festival will remain on hold until 2022, Anderson said.

Anderson said consideration was given to the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus, timing of vaccine administration and possible continued restrictions for large gatherings. Ultimately, it was determined that canceling the event was a “responsible and necessary decision for the health and safety of the community,” she said.

Currently, Glenwood Springs is open and operating in the Orange level on Colorado’s COVID-19 Dial framework. But, that still does not allow for large crowds to safely gather indoors or outdoors.

“While continuous reduction in the spread of the coronavirus is anticipated, especially as vaccinations are administered, the GSCRA Board believes June is too soon to safely move forward considering Strawberry Days is Glenwood Springs’ largest event, drawing thousands of visitors over its three-day operation,” according to a statement issued by the Chamber on Wednesday.

“While this decision was difficult, we believe it is prudent at this time,” said Eric Brotherson, who chairs the GSCRA Board of Directors. “We are excited to focus our efforts on making the return of Strawberry Days in 2022 a huge celebration for the entire community.”

Anderson added that various alternatives to the larger festival were discussed.

“Ultimately, it was decided to keep the Strawberry Days experience and brand fully intact and focus on making next year’s festival exceptional,” she said.

“We are also keeping options open of possibly hosting a community celebration in the late summer or fall, but it will be something of its own and not Strawberry Days,” Anderson said. “Individually and collectively, the community has overcome many challenges over the last year, and when the time is right we want to gather together to celebrate that in some way.”

Cancellation of the festival doesn’t mean some of the auxiliary events that are organized separately couldn’t still take place, she added.

Those might include the Strawberry Shortcut foot race, and various service club fundraisers that typically take place in conjunction with Strawberry Days weekend.

Updated information on the planning for that event can be found at the Strawberry Days website, www.strawberrydays.com.

Strawberry Days celebrated its 122nd year in 2019, although the cancellations these past two years doesn’t disrupt a continuous streak. The festival was also canceled during the World War II years in the 1940s.


5PointVoices presents safe space for student self-expression through filmmaking

Ten senior students at Bridges High School in Carbondale created a short film documenting their lives for a capstone project. Adam Carballeira, an English teacher at Bridges, taught the class along with teaching artist Cassidy Wiley in-person when COVID-19 precautions allowed.

“We’re creating person-to-person, not screen-to-screen. …I think the filmmaking project could be accomplished online, but the fact that we were able to all get together I think strengthened it,” Wiley said.

The film is just under 10 minutes and a compilation of videos shot by the ten students and interviews where they share details about themselves and their lives one wouldn’t know just by looking at them.

“My goal was … to show the world that teenagers are amazing and have rich thoughts. For me I think, and adults, it gives us hope for the future, you know, because there are these young people out there who are just so powerful and passionate about creating a good world,” Carballeira said.

The capstone course was made possible by 5PointVoices – a collaborative effort between two local nonprofit organizations that wanted to use their goals of celebrating art and enriching communities to give underrepresented students a platform.

Regna Jones, executive director of 5Point, said she thinks young people are frequently underestimated or perceived inaccurately. She said the short film gives anyone who chooses to watch it a chance to gain a better sense of who these students are.

“I think by having it be so student-centric and for them understanding that from the beginning really helped them to open up in ways maybe they wouldn’t have if they felt like they didn’t have a say in how it was going to be presented,” Jones said.

She also said that while the main idea for the course was planned out, most of it wasn’t structured with a binding format to begin with. The educational aspect of the course that focused on technical elements of shooting video wasn’t the only lesson that students or coordinators walked away with after the six weeks.

“There was so much learning within the group as a whole and I think being open to that idea that education is something that comes from within, it’s not like this top down experience. Great mentors and educators are the ones who also see students as teachers,” Jones said.

Renee Prince, the executive director at Voices, said the idea behind the project was to allow it to evolve as time went on. While the course had dedicated teaching artists, in-person and virtually, the intention was for it to be a student-led course; something adaptable depending on who the students are and what would serve them best.

“The creative process demands that we are all learning and taking real risks and putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone; the adults and students in the room. We’re all doing that because we’re creating something new that wasn’t there before,” Prince said.

Opening up a space for new connections to be made was also a goal behind the program. Closer relationships formed between students and with the teachers based on classroom activities and conversations where vulnerability became the norm. Prince said she didn’t realize how soon a sense of community could be formed, especially with a large part of the course happening virtually in the beginning stages.

“I think everyone was surprised by how quickly you can create community within a group of people through the creative process,” Prince said.

The film “premiered” on Dec. 14 in a virtual screening for students, teachers and program coordinators. In a conversation after watching for the first time, student Matt McComb commented on his emotional reaction to seeing all the footage put together in one final product.

“The last scene of the whole entire film made me start crying … What Angie said was so powerful … about how you can never just be satisfied with doing something and you should always go for more,” McComb said.

The consensus of the students was that everything was edited in a way where they all were able to present themselves. Student Angie Ramirez said she was thankful to all the teaching artists and coordinators who made the project possible. The combination of the students’ points of view in one autobiographical film layered perspective in a unique yet harmonious way.

“I feel like seeing and hearing what everyone else wanted to say, it gives you a different point of view in life and makes you see things in other ways. I saw the way Grace thought, Bailey and Parker and everybody … you can apply that to your own life. If it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t have that chance or opportunity to see it,” Ramirez said.

The film can be viewed by anyone at this YouTube link and Jones said 5Point plans to incorporate it into the student program section of the nonprofit’s annual film festival. The teamwork between 5Point, Voices and Bridges High School will continue this spring and ideally in the years to follow to keep creating a space for self-expression amongst students about to leave high school and forge new paths for themselves.

“I felt so invigorated and so inspired by being with these kids. They are hopeful, they’re not jaded, they’re kind to one another, they’re curious, and I think just to see the world for ten minutes from their perspective, especially in these times that feel so dark and heavy so often, I think it’s going to be really refreshing … I think they’ll gain a new sense of what makes kids so special,” Wiley said.


Vaudeville Revue reboot — ‘Christmas in January’ after December COVID shutdown

Glenwood Vaudeville Revue cast members Tom Erickson, left, and John Goss perform a COVID comedy skit during the current show.

It’ll be Christmas in January, with a lot of coronavirus-related humor still on tap, as the Glenwood Vaudeville reboots its Holiday/COVID Revue show this weekend following an untimely December shutdown.

The Vaudeville cast was settling in for its popular holiday dinner-theater run when the state placed Garfield County under level-red restrictions due to heightened concerns about the COVID-19 situation locally — effectively suspending indoor events.

That meant thousands of reservation cancelations during one of the busiest times of the year for the seasonal comedy and variety show.

So, as we wave goodbye to 2020 (or maybe flip it off), the Vaudeville Revue is inviting folks to laugh it as far off as possible.

With the move back to orange-level restrictions this week, the Revue announced it will resume the show for a Friday-Saturday night run through the winter and spring months, beginning Jan. 8.

“Since we didn’t really get to celebrate Christmas, we’ll keep some of those skits going, but maybe transition them out in February,” said Vaudeville founder and Artistic/Managing Director John Goss.

“We’re keeping all of our COVID funny bits in there,” he said. “It’s been one of our favorites, and we’ve put so much time and energy into it.”

Due to continued restrictions on event gathering sizes, advance reservations are needed and mask-wearing is required while not actively eating or drinking.

“Because our performers take their masks off during the show, for your safety as well as theirs, we kindly ask you to keep your mask on during the show or any time you leave your table,” the Vaudeville advises on its website.

Glenwood Vaudeville Revue cast members Aviad Bernstein and Bailey Barnum perform during the Holiday COVID Revue Show.

Depending on the restrictions come spring, Goss said they’re also working on some “Thursnights” events to fill in the Thursday night slate.

“We really want to push the Thursday evenings and have something happening at the Vaudeville, as soon as we can get things opened up a little more,” he said.

The Holiday/COVID Revue show cast features Goss, along with vaudevillians Baily Barnum, Aviad Bernstein, Tom Erickson, Eva Kosmos and pianist Vid Weatherwax.


Carbondale Clay Center’s ‘Parts and pieces coming together’

A woman makes a bowl during a February 2020 event at Carbondale Clay Center. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Local favorite artist couple Wewer and Steve Keohane’s existential mixed media, painted and ceramic pieces will be exhibited today at the Carbondale Clay Center.

The exhibit is open from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and runs until Jan. 30

One major piece from Wewer, a European-raised artist whose work can be found in iconic museums all over the U.S. and the world, includes a six-piece series called “Breakfast in Japan.” The collages exemplify the artist’s exploration into the human psyche.

“Shew studies dreams, and through her own dreams and journals she explores the subconscious of divine intervention,” Carbondale Clay Center Marketing and Communications Director Savanna LaBauve said. “There’s a lot of parts and pieces coming together in some of these three-dimensional works.”

Steve, who wields a lifelong fascination with the perception of reality according to his bio, will exhibit a fascinating piece that uses elements extracted straight from the Roaring Fork Valley. Using a piece of wood salvaged from the 2018 Lake Christine Fire, Steve has created a multi-element depiction of nature.

What: Mixed Media Marriage exhibit

When: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday. Exhibit runs until Jan. 30

Where: Carbondale Clay Center, 135 Main St.

How much: Free

“He took the piece of wood and it’s mounted on the wall and on top of that he has a ceramic sculpture that is in the form of a nest,” LaBauve said.

Friday’s exhibition marks one of many since September, said LaBauve.

“I feel like a lot of people are popping in,” she said. “They’re excited to see the exhibits.”

Carbondale Clay Center is located at 135 Main St. Reservations are not necessary and the event is free.


CORE wants 200 community selfies and climate stories for mural project

The energy nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) is creating a mural project that will span three local Colorado Mountain College campuses to tell the story of climate change.

They’re looking for help from community members to put a face on climate action.

Titled “Stories of Climate Change/Historias del Cambio Climático,” the multicultural project will debut in spring as the centerpiece of CORE’s third annual “Imagine Climate” project using art to inspire climate action.

The mural project is the result of a partnership with the Inside Out Project, the French artist JR’s global portrait initiative that included an Aspen project in 2015, and with Colorado Mountain College.

They are asking for locals to upload a self-portrait and a 90-second story to be eligible to be featured in murals that will wrap three college buildings. Submissions open Wednesday at aspencore.org/participate.

CORE expects the slots to fill fast; the first 200 submissions that meet guidelines will be eligible for inclusion in the murals.

“Climate change knows no boundaries,” CORE executive director Mona Newton said in an announcement. “We want to show the human diversity of this phenomenon, representing a breadth we don’t usually see in the media or in the environmental movement. We hope our portraits and personal stories will demonstrate that we are all in this together.”

“Stories/Historias” aims to include the Spanish- and English-speaking local communities and is supported by a multicultural advisory council with leaders from Anglo, Latino, Indigenous and other communities to ensure spread the word about the call for submissions.

Climate action programs will accompany the installation, led by CORE in Pitkin and Eagle counties and by CLEER in Garfield County, and slated for March 1 at CMC Aspen, CMC Carbondale and its central services building in downtown Glenwood Springs. Along with the public art exhibition, the photos and stories will be archived by the Aspen Historical Society and Carbondale Historical Society.

“Stories/Historias” is open to anyone with a connection to the Roaring Fork Valley who self-identifies with the project and uploads their selfie and story. Submissions must meet photo and story guidelines and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.


Submissions for “Stories of Climate Change / Historias del Cambio Climático” open Wednesday, Jan. 6. Interested participants can upload selfies and record their climate stories at aspencore.org/participate.

Missouri Heights sculptor transforms wildfire wreckage into art

Courtesy photo

Sculptor Wally Graham has found creative life in the devastation of the Lake Christine Fire.

His “Wildfire Spirits” series of wood sculptures, made from trees burned in the 12,500-acre 2018 forest fire on Basalt Mountain, is now on view at the Gonzo Gallery in a charity exhibition.

Graham is best known as a local trash guru who was among the Roaring Fork Valley’s early recycling leaders. After settling here in 1989, he founded a small recycling business that grew into Waste Solutions and which he sold in 2009. Since then, Graham has focused on the nonprofit Addy Foundation — which he and his wife, Kristen, use to fund arts education and nonprofits — and on his budding art practice (as an artist, he goes simply by “Wally”).

He built an art studio four years ago in his Missouri Heights home and in recent years has experimented with sculpture, drawing and other media, beginning by looking at work by favorite artists and attempting to figure out how they did it. Spending so much time at home this year during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Wally found himself at work on refining these wildfire pieces and felt compelled to do more with them.

“I decided to try and make art with impact and to open up a conversation and to give back to the community,” he said during installation at the gallery this past week. “That is the main goal.”

Wally Graham’s sculptures from wildfire burned wood in the Gonzo Gallery on Dec. 24, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Proceeds from the show, which includes 10 “Wildfire Spirits” sculptures, will be split between the Addy Foundation and wildfire education programs.

“I wanted to give back to the people who steward the land,” he said, “like the forest service and firefighters.”

Flames from the Lake Christine Fire came within about a mile of the Grahams’ home. In the two years since, Wally has been transfixed by the beauty and awe of hiking through the burn area’s devastation.

“I get lost in those fields,” he said. “It’s a powerful feeling when you’re up there.”

His artistic breakthrough, however, came as he began to see the face-like shapes that flames often sculpt into trees as they tear through the forest. He began taking trees and trunks and branches into his studio to create characters out of those faces.

“When you’re out there, you can see the faces in the trees,” he said. “It’s very ominous.”

Once he finds a face, he adds a layer of epoxy to accentuate its features and then begins experimenting with other, mostly natural, materials like stone and bone.

Wally Graham’s sculpture from wildfire burned wood in the Gonzo Gallery on Dec. 24, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Like the burn zones themselves, these sculptures elicit complicated reactions. They can be overwhelming and overpowering — some stand more than 10 feet tall — while their charred exteriors give way to sometimes-playful expressions on their “faces.”

“Myka,” standing more than 6 feet tall, is a proud figure that appears to be pulling its red cotton shroud close around its body. “Big Chief,” among the tallest works here, has what appears to be a feather protruding from its head.

The sculpture “Anselmo,” made with burnt wood from the Ranch at Roaring Fork fire of 2009 rather than Lake Christine, has a cocked head and a smirk (and features made from animal bones found in the fire area). Wally has placed a metal cowboy hat on its head.

Wally plans to expand the scope of “Wildfire Spirits” to include works with wood from fires in California, Oregon and Washington.

A few other works are squat and more abstract, like “Open Secret,” in which charred bark stands in a semi-circle.

But the pieces are more Rorschach test than statement. One of the main reasons Wally wanted to exhibit them publicly was that he wanted to hear what people saw in them.

“It’s a way to open a dialogue,” he said. “I’m excited to hear what people have to say about these.”

The show is the first in the expanded Gonzo Gallery space, now operating on short-term leases in two vacant storefronts on the 600 block of Hyman Avenue beside the Aspen Art Museum.

“I love art with a story and I love Wally’s story,” Gonzo Gallery director D.J. Watkins said. “This guy is a genius.”

After “Wildfire Spirits,” the gallery is slated to open an exhibition by Aspen-based artist Laura Betti on Feb. 12. The adjacent space is hosting political artwork by printmaker Tom Benton, a tie-in with Watkins’ recently released documentary film “Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb,” about Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 campaign for Pitkin County Sheriff.



Courtesy photo

What: ‘Wildfire Spirits’ by Wally

Where: The Gonzo Gallery

When: Through Feb. 7; socially distanced opening reception Wednesday Dec. 30, 5-10 p.m.

More info: wallystudio.com