Fine art and flying elbows
GraffittiBy Ryan GraffOne time, at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, I got suckered by some artists. During the summer of 2003 I was the GSPI’s first-ever intern. I started exactly one year after I graduated from college with a psychology degree and after living in Steamboat for a year. Though a psychology degree didn’t prepare me for a job in journalism, a year in Steamboat did. During that year, I spent a lot of time skiing, dressing up like a cowboy for tourists and filling tepees with smoke instead of the warmth of a crackling fire.I also spent some time calling manufacturers, picking up mail and getting bit by the office dog at Paddler Magazine. Once, Paddler invited me and 20 outdoor industry bigwigs on a two-day raft and kayak trip down Westwater Canyon. We took 16 cases of beer and nine handles (that’s 15.75 liters) of tequila. The sum of my experiences, we decided, qualified as an “editorial internship.” And it was this internship that got me the real internship at the GSPI.A few weeks after I started at the GSPI, I went to write a story on the Glenwood Springs Art Guild painting in Centennial Park to kick off Strawberry Days. The nice ladies of the guild – not being intimidated by my degree, my reporting experience or my experience as a pretend cowboy – took the opportunity not to talk about painting in the park, but to plug their Fall Art Festival, and in particular, Purchase Patron Night. So I, suckered, went back to the paper and wrote a story about the conversations I had with the ladies from the art guild. I filed my story and waited patiently while my editor read it over. She finished, and looking discouraged and frustrated, said: “Ryan, OK. Nicely written. The only thing is, Purchase Patron Night is not news. In fact, Purchase Patron Night is still months and months and months away. Write this over.”Anyway, the point of all this is that I didn’t know what I was doing and wrote my first story about Purchase Patron Night when I should have been writing about painting in the park. But not this year. Now I am a full-time staff writer at the GSPI, and I know what I am doing, mostly. And I do arts and entertainment, which means that I can now cover Purchase Patron Night and no one will tell me not to. (I might, however, cover Purchase Patron Night when it happens in September and not during Strawberry Days in June.) So a year after first hearing of Purchase Patron Night, I finally got to see what it was all about last Tuesday. Before I went to Purchase Patron Night I talked to actual purchase patrons, who get to go to the Arts Guild’s Fall Art Festival the night before anyone else, eat hors d’oeuvres, drink wine, and buy art. The catch, however, is that the only way Purchase Patrons get to buy the pieces of art they want is if they put their ribbon on the art they want before anyone else during something called the “mad dash.” I talked to Don Vanderhoof, who has been a purchase patron for as long as there have been purchase patrons – since the ’60s. “There’s been some very good art that we’ve purchased over the years at some very good prices,” Vanderhoof said. But I wasn’t too interested in the art or the prices, though I am sure both are very good. What I was really interested in was the “mad dash.””It’s kind of like the start of a mile relay,” Vanderhoof said. “There are some people that are very serious about it. There are some sharp elbows.”When I got to the Ramada Inn on Tuesday evening, I wandered through the rows and rows of art, looking for some folks to talk to about Purchase Patron Night.I eventually met up with Kathleen and Larry Kostel of Thornton, who were in Glenwood for their fourth Fall Art Festival.They explained to me the dilemma of choosing just a few pieces of art. Larry walked me to each of the pieces the couple was thinking about and at each piece said, under his breath, “try not to make a big deal, don’t let anybody know who you’re with.” He was trying, of course, to keep his selections under wraps, and safe from the eyes of other purchase patrons. That was before the mad dash, though, and soon Mary Gould, who helps the Art Guild with purchase patrons, came through the gallery hollering, “It’s time to start clearing the gallery. Get in line or head to the bar.”After the gallery was clear, Mary turned to me with advice for staying safe during the mad dash. “You just really have to stay out of the way. They will push you,” she said. “I am 6 foot 4 inches tall and 25 years old,” I thought, “most of these folks are at least 40 years old and have been drinking. I think I can handle it.” Then another woman, concerned for my safety, said, “You’d better stand in the corner.” Then Mary went to one of the entrances the Purchase Patrons would run through, and thanked them for coming before saying: “When I blow the whistle, charge!”The Purchase Patrons answered with hoots, hollers, and calls of “whoo-hoo.” And when Mary did blow the whistle, the Patrons came. Not necessarily charging, but walking pretty fast. I was standing in the corner of the pottery section, which many patrons swarmed, hoping to get their first pick. After all was said and done one had fallen to its death during the commotion (a pot, not a patron).I didn’t see too many of the sharp elbows I was looking for, but I did see a bunch of people having a good time and buying good art, the proceeds of which go to help art and artists in the valley. In the end, I think I have the breadth of my training at Paddler to thank for my interest in Purchase Patron Night. After all, if I’d known what I was doing a year ago, I may never have been “suckered” by those painters from the Art Guild. Though Purchase Patron Night is over for the year, The Glenwood Springs Art Guild’s Fall Art Festival continues this weekend from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Though Purchase Patron Night is over for the year, The Glenwood Springs Art Guild’s Fall Art Festival continues this weekend from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
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