Artist, businesswoman has firm belief in Rifle

Heidi RiceWestern Garfield County Staff
Post Independent/Kelley CoxArtist and photographer Jennifer Firmin owns and operates Sanborn Studios in Rifle.

RIFLE – Sometimes she has a wrench in her hand, sometimes a paintbrush, sometimes a garden hose and sometimes a camera.Jennifer Firmin wears a lot of different hats – the latest of which will be as the newest face on the Rifle City Council.Firmin, 38, is the owner of Sanborn Studio in the Midland Building on Third Street. She came to Rifle in 1993 while passing through the area on Interstate 70 as a college student majoring in fine arts in Tucson, Ariz.”I saw the Bookcliffs and the Colorado River for the first time while driving from Denver back to Arizona,” Firmin said. “I thought they looked like something out of a John Wayne movie.” She ended up moving to Rifle and worked as an art teacher at Rifle High School from 1996-2001.During that time, she also fell in love with the Midland Building, formerly the old Midland Hotel, which was being renovated by developer Israel Shapira.”I love the building. I used to take photographs of it, and I kept my eye on the renovation,” Firmin said. “And then (Shapira) was charging so little for rent I couldn’t not have a studio there.”So she moved her home studio to the building and began offering photographic and portrait services.”It started as a black-and-white portrait studio, but because of the limited demand, it turned into a lot of commercial and freelance work,” Firmin said. “It also allowed me time for painting, although photography is the money-maker.”Her favorite painting medium is oil, and lately she’s been working on a series of original oil paintings of old downtown buildings with skyscapes.Other recent projects have included the Rifle Centennial calendar, which she put together with councilman Alan Lambert, and photography for the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce’s Web site.She also became Shapira’s “right hand gal,” helping him with the final touches on the Midland Building and designing his latest project – the Rifle Mercantile Building across the street, which he started in November 2004. Shapira is reconstructing on the site a replica of the old building, which was first built in 1906 by C.M. “Pike” Donell.”My goal was that I wanted to have a hand in every phase of the construction,” Firmin said. Which she did. One of Firmin’s first jobs was to help dig 8-foot underground footings for the foundation.”Hey, I can tie rebar with the best of ’em, and I now know everything about concrete,” she said with a laugh.The top floor of the building is being rented out for professional office and commercial space, and already there are leases for attorney’s offices, a yoga/dance studio, a tutor, an interior designer and an art studio.Downstairs will feature several different retailers.”We’re entertaining several different possibilities, but we’re looking for a good fit,” Firmin said.Her paintings will also be on display in the building and for sale.When she’s not playing construction worker, Firmin can often be seen watering the flowers and plants in the downtown area. As a member of the Downtown Development Authority, which sought to spruce up the downtown area with the foliage, she has been in charge of watering and keeping the plants alive – a chore she sometimes shares with her teenaged son.”The goal for the summer is to have the freeze kill the plants and not my son,” she said with a smile.On top of her current busy schedule, the wife and mother of three will also serve for the first time on the Rifle City Council beginning this fall. There are four council seats open and four candidates for the September municipal election, so a seat is guaranteed.”My aspirations for city council boil down to that I’m a little daunted by the amount of growth and development that is coming to Rifle,” Firmin said. “I want to make sure that development goes on to a high standard. I want to take the best of what Rifle is – the history and the community — and let growth come in a way that enhances that and doesn’t take over.”Firmin will begin her four-year term on the Rifle City Council in late September.But whatever she does – be it construction, painting, gardening, photography or public service – Jen Firmin is committed to the projects at hand.

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