The transformative power of art
May 19, 2011
The plaque on the outside of the building says “hydroelectric plant.” It was built in 1888 by the Glenwood Light and Water Co. at a time when electricity was transforming the American way of life.
The plant is one of only a few surviving Colorado buildings associated with the early use of hydroelectric power, and the current occupants, the Glenwood Center for the Arts, are still in the transformation business.
The arts center transformed the building. The center’s website challenges the artist within each of us to “Change the universe through art.”
The Glenwood Arts Council started in 1982 by a group of local citizens who wanted to develop the human, artistic and cultural potential of Glenwood Springs. In 1989, the city’s abandoned hydroelectric plant building was vacant and slated for demolition.
The Arts Council arranged to lease the building for $10 a year. Fundraising, grants and volunteer labor have provided ongoing building renovation.
The Art Center is located near the Hotel Colorado, next to the Hot Springs Lodge on East 6th Street in North Glenwood Springs.
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Enter and delight your senses with a cornucopia of light and color. Immediately your eyes try to take it all in. Scan the surroundings and become visually intoxicated by paintings, sculpture, jewelry, dance mirrors, pottery and stage sets. Take a walk through this cavernous space and its room after room of children’s and adult artwork in progress and on exhibit.
“Art is for everyone,” explains executive director Gayle Mortell. “It is our motto. It is what we live and breathe and try to bring to our community in a way that will appeal to everyone, on every level, male, female, people of different ethnicities and ages.”
Mortell became executive director for the Center for the Arts in 2000. With a business and advertising background, she has grown the program from 30 classes for 60 students in 2000 to more than 100 classes serving 1,868 students in 2010.
The center earns 60 percent of its revenue from class tuition, fundraisers and special events.
“It’s amazing how much we can do with only two full-time employees,” said Mortell.
She and Christina Brusig, assistant program director, work with instructors to present classes for the beginner to the advanced student in dance, fine arts, pottery, piano, guitar, voice, silversmithing, theater, a variety of workshops and more.
Instructors travel to Glenwood Springs from as far as Aspen and Battlement Mesa. In addition, the center offers classes for home-schooled children, and awards scholarships and discounts to ensure that music and art are available to all.
New art exhibits are on display every two months. However, the center is not the only venue for exhibits hosted by the center.
In collaboration with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, the arts center participates in the Two Rivers Art Project, inviting artists to submit sculptures for public display in Glenwood Springs.
The center’s activities, classes, workshops, exhibits, performances and events surround Garfield County residents. Dance is the center’s legacy.
“Our dance program is the crowning jewel of the Center for the Arts” says Mortell. The founders of the center were dancers. Performances now feature junior and senior dance companies.
The arts center’s Summer of Music Committee is also carrying forward the tradition of free outdoor music concerts begun by the Glenwood Springs Summer of Jazz.
The 2011 Glenwood Springs Summer of Music starts June 29 with weekly concerts at Two Rivers Park, featuring Maraca, a 14-piece band from Cuba.
The concert embodies the center’s vision: “Art transcends barriers caused by differences in language, lifestyles, and culture.”