Artists, conservationists discuss proposed wilderness act at Art on a Whim Gallery |

Artists, conservationists discuss proposed wilderness act at Art on a Whim Gallery

Daily staff report
"Starting the Trail" 24 inches by 54 inches, by Lelija Roy.
Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: “Fine Art and Wild Lands,” a reception and talks with artists Lelija Roy, Ellen Woodbury and Kristof Kosmowski and representatives from the Continental Divide Coalition.

When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19.

Where: The Art on a Whim Gallery, 227 Bridge St., Vail Village.

Cost: Admission is free.

More information: Call 970-476-4883, or visit

If you go …

What: Spraddle Creek hike with members of the Continental Divide Coalition.

When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

Where: Vail; contact Josh Kuhn at for meeting spot.

Cost: Free.

More information: Visit for more information or to register.

VAIL — Since the beginning of time, humans have been trying to capture nature through art. Whether it’s rock drawings, oil paintings or photography, we have been perpetually in awe of our natural surroundings. Today’s artists are no different, and on Friday, Aug. 19, Art on a Whim Gallery in Vail Village will host “Fine Art and Wild Lands,” an open house to highlight how wilderness influences the work of local artists.

Colorado is known internationally for the great outdoors, and people come to here to hike, bike, ski, camp and paddle, all while taking in the mountain views. Artists come here, too, to capture and share with others a sunrise, wildflower-filled meadow or elusive wildlife. The slice of the Continental Divide in Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains is an artist’s dream, with scenic vistas, reflective lakes and wildlife habitat.

Recently, Congressman Jared Polis introduced the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, which would safeguard roughly 58,000 acres of this landscape as wilderness and other forms of permanent protections for future generations to experience.

Specifically, the proposal would add wilderness to the Holy Cross, Eagles Nest and Ptarmigan Ridge wilderness areas. It would create new wilderness areas for the Williams Fork Mountains, Hoosier Ridge and the Tenmile Range, and it would establish a special management area for the Tenmile Range for mountain bikers and other recreational users.

Sen. Michael Bennet has announced that he intends to introduce a Senate version of the bill that would also preserve Camp Hale — former military site and home of the 10th Mountain Division — as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape.

Artists for conservation

The Continental Divide Coalition — a group of hunters and anglers, military veterans, small-business owners, outdoor recreationists and conservation groups — supports the effort to protect this portion of Colorado’s Continental Divide. Several of these folks will be on hand Friday to talk about this proposal and why it’s important to them.

“Every day, we are seeing more and more of our natural landscapes disappear to unchecked development,” said Brian Raitman, owner of Art on a Whim Gallery. “A recent study found that Colorado lost 525 square miles (or 254,259 football fields) to development between 2001 and 2011 alone. Nobody wants an oil derrick or shopping mall photo-bombing their landscape.”

Artists Lelija Roy, Ellen Woodbury and Kristof Kosmowski will also discuss how the landscape influences and informs their work, from Roy’s mixed-media aspen paintings to Woodbury’s stone wildlife sculptures to Kosmowski’s modern, expressionistic landscapes. Together, artists and advocates will discuss why these lands need legislative protection.

“For many people, we experience nature through art,” Raitman said. “Whether it is going to galleries, looking at photos online or scrolling through Instagram, nature is seen through someone else’s lens. And while this is my livelihood, nature cannot exist solely on a canvas — it must be enjoyed and experienced up close and personal for generations to come. But in order to ensure that, we need to conserve these incredible wild lands.”

Take a hike

On Saturday, Aug. 20, the conversation continues when members of the Continental Divide Coalition host a hike to Spraddle Creek. Covering half of Bald Mountain, the Spraddle Creek area serves as an important buffer between the town of Vail and the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

The moderate, 7-mile hike begins in an aspen forest and climbs up to a meadow with views of Vail Mountain. Upon leaving the meadow, hikers will enter a heavily forested hillside containing Engelemann spruce and sub-alpine fir before beginning the decent through another aspen forest, crossing Middle Creek and then completing the loop.

“Come out on Friday and Saturday and learn more about how nature stimulates art and what we are doing to support our local artists and the places that inspire them,” Raitman said.

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