Carbondale loses arts maven Ro Mead

Ro Mead in 2012.
Kelley Cox / Post Independent |

Ro Mead, a major figure in the Carbondale arts scene for more than three decades, succumbed to pancreatic cancer Saturday at the age of 78.

Perhaps best known for her role as executive director of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities from 2004 to 2011, Mead was also an accomplished ceramic artist, admired gardener and cook, crack bridge player and lover of outdoor adventure.

“She had so many interests, and was just a lover of life. A phoenix rising from the ashes, she just kept reinventing herself,” longtime friend Candace Resnick observed. “Everybody’s got their own story of Ro.”

The middle child of three, Ruchille Rosenbloom grew up in Denver a family of orthodox Jews, but turned out anything but orthodox.

“She was pretty rebellious even in her early high school days,” Resnick observed.

With her first husband, Bob Meer, she had three children: Lauren, Jonathan and Douglas, who in turn gave her grandchildren, Emily, Holly, Taylor, Jordy and Ryan.

After the divorce, Ro worked for the Democratic Party for a while before finding a passion in potting.

She met potter Henry Mead while taking a class. The pair moved to the Roaring Fork Valley together in the 1970s and were later married.

They lived in Redstone for a while before building a house up Cattle Creek. When she met Resnick at a full moon cross country ski event, she was beginning to branch out to hand building instead of wheel throwing. She soon developed a distinctive, colorful style.

“They were very happy pots,” Resnick said.

“We kind of traded craft secrets and became very close friends,” she added. “We really had a very wonderful close core group. We partied together and helped each other build our houses. It was a really pioneer kind of a time.”

Their adventures ranged from canning tomatoes to windsurfing in Mexico. When, in the early 90s, Resnick was commissioned to do a wall mural, she called in Ro and the two went into the art business.

“We managed to do some amazing pieces together,” she said. “We had so much fun.”

When the Meads divorced, Ro moved into town. She endured some hard times, including the death of her new partner and of her son Douglas and the loss of her pinky fingers to arthritis. She continued to expand her art and taught at Yampah Mountain High School.

Mead’s ascension to CCAH director marked a shift both for her and for the organization.

“Ro really brought the visual arts to the forefront,” said Amy Kimberly, who worked with Mead and succeeded her at CCAH. “She always had a sense of where the fun was, and if it wasn’t there she knew how to create it.”

Mead is credited with bringing First Friday to Carbondale, and spearheaded numerous other events. She also took the opportunity to highlight arts in the schools.

“She rose the occasion and drew the community back in,” local potter Diane Kenny recalled.

“She was a mentor in arts, education and just living,” Kenny added. “She didn’t mind being the center of attention and you never had to guess what her opinion was about anything. I think when all is said and done, nobody that knows her well is going to canonize her.”

In 2009, she fulfilled a dream of going to Africa, where she did volunteer work in orphanages.

Throughout her time at CCAH and beyond, she exhibited boundless energy in the outdoors, the garden and on walks with her dog, George.

“Age really didn’t stop her,” Kimberly said. “Her health did start to decline, and that was hard for her, because she was really active.”

As the end neared, her many friends and acquaintances held a candlelight vigil outside her house.

“It was unbelievable,” Resnick said. “People just surrounded her room with light and song. She got deep pleasure out of it.”

Her last words, Resnick said, were “I love you all so much,” and “I’ve just gotta go home.”

Numerous memorial projects are planned in her honor.

Sue Drinker, of Drinker-Durrance Graphics, is compiling a video about Mead, and anyone with pictures to contribute can drop them off at The Launchpad or emailed to CCAH is planning a mobile arts classroom named Rosybelle, and a scholarship fund is also in the works. Resnick is working on an art chair using artifacts of special meaning.

A celebration of life will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Carbondale Rec Center.

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