Centered on art
Gayle Mortell has had an affair of the heart with the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts for five years now.After boosting the center’s faltering membership, stabilizing its shaky finances and infusing excitement in to its classes, Mortell is as jazzed as ever about her work.”I still have the same idealistic views about it,” she said. “I still get a thrill seeing a little girl in a pink tutu looking up at a piece of art.”For Mortell, art is life. She has made it her mission to bring that philosophy alive for everyone who walks through the doors of the art center. The center, which now sports a classy earth-tone paint job, is in a historic building that was constructed in 1886 as the city’s hydroelectric plant between the Hot Springs Pool and the Vapor Caves.On a sunny Wednesday morning, the lofty hall of the center was momentarily quiet. An older couple walked around the current Wild Women exhibit with its, colorful, whimsical pieces, such as the suit of mail Wewer Keohane made out of tea bags. Most afternoons, the hall reverberates with the pulsing throb of hip-hop music or the restrained chords of classical ballet.Above, in the building’s loft, is Mortell’s office and workspace, with a view of Interstate 70, the Colorado River, the train depot and the Hotel Denver. Her space reflects her own take on art, with mustard yellow walls hung with her collection of funny, funky paintings and sculpture.On any given day, “I can listen to beautiful ballet music and know there are children down there trying to find their balance in the world,” she said.Mortell’s achieved her own sense of balance when she left the business world and found her place in art. After running Flying Color, an advertising and marketing company in Aspen for many years, she called it quits in 1997.”My first week home I was so excited to clean my house and get all the dust out of my mind and my house,” she said with a laugh. Mortell, who lives at Ranch at Roaring Fork in Carbondale with husband Mike and daughter Alyssa, stopped in at the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities a few days later to chat with director Thomas Lawley.She pitched in to help with a mailing, “And by the end of the week I had a to-do list that lasted two years,” she said.Mortell credited Lawley, the longtime director of CCAH, with keeping her on the right path. As a mentor and teacher, “He told me that in going from business to a nonprofit, the most important lesson (to learn) is sharing your knowledge. In business, you didn’t do that because knowledge is money. It was an important lesson for me. I still carry it, that it’s more important to share knowledge, to educate and nurture. That’s why this place is so special.”Under Mortell’s direction, Glenwood’s arts center has become a place where artists can not only share their work, but be inspired by fellow artists. It’s also a place where everyone, children as well as adults, can experience art for themselves through classes. Classes are the heart and soul of the center. Whether it’s dance, painting, sculpture, silversmithing, acting or instrumental music, anyone can find something to do there.”Our key is accessibility,” Mortell said. “The arts are for everyone. We’re not a hoity-toity place.”Mortell is also especially proud of the extensive renovation of the building that’s gone on during her tenure. Besides an exterior face-lift and new stucco and paint, the building has also had some badly needed structural and foundation work. Mortell said the renovation should be complete by the end of this year.”It’s been five years in the making,” she said. “We’re close to finishing, but we still have a lot of money to raise.” She looks to the community to support the work with donations. “We need everyone’s support to keep it alive. It all goes back to the kids.”Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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