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Carbondale’s Day of the Dead honors lives lost, lives lived

Female dancers with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklórico practice a dance for this Friday's performance at the Carbondale Dia de los Muertos celebration.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Dia de los Muertos is an opportunity to bring the Carbondale community together in festive fashion Friday, honoring those who’ve died and recognizing those they left behind, organizers say.

“Carbondale, in general, has a lot of gatherings that connect people, but I think there is something special about this one — there’s really not anything quite like it throughout the valley,” said Amy Kimberly, the Carbondale Arts executive director. “Whether or not we agree on everything, we really come together to celebrate.”

On Nov. 1 — the traditional day to observe Dia de los Muertos — Maria “Judith” Alvarez set up an ofrenda, the altar where celebrants honor their relatives, outside The Launchpad at 76 S. Fourth St.

“For me, this is a way to teach to my son the ways of my home, Mexico,” Alvarez explained. “He was born here and doesn’t know the way I was raised. This is a connection for him to our culture.”

Gently repositioning a plate of meat and mole sauce beneath an opulent image of the Virgin Mary, Alvarez explained the food was for her husband, whose photo on the ofrenda was propped up by an empty bottle of tequila.

“This is a celebration of life, and mole was his favorite food,” Alvarez explained with a smile. “I love this event. It brings the Anglo and Latino communities together.”

Above the altar, strings of marigold flowers direct the spirits of the dead, creating a pathway to the living realm, Alvarez explained. Candles also light the way, ensuring the spirits do not get lost on the Day of the Dead.

“The altar brings humans and spirits together,” she said. “We celebrate the dead children on Monday and the adults on Tuesday.”

Kimberly said Carbondale’s Dia de los Muertos celebration is hosted during November’s First Friday event, a community-wide get together on the first Friday of each month.

“We’ve been doing Dia de los Muertos for about eight years now,” she said. “Because of COVID-19, we moved the ofrenda outside last year, and we’re keeping it outside this year out of an abundance of precaution.”

The event officially kicked off with establishment of the ofrenda Monday, and Kimberly said participants are encouraged to use the ofrenda to honor their loved ones throughout the week, but the celebration starts in earnest Friday with the unveiling and signing of a 56-foot-long mural painted with the help of the community on the CenturyLink building at the corner of Fourth and Main streets.

Gayle Embrey, the mural’s lead artist, said two Latina artists were among the painters as well as about 90 community members who are invited to sign the painting Friday.

“Diversity is an important part of our community, enriching it tremendously, and it’s amazing to be able to highlight that on a day we celebrate that diversity,” Embrey said. “It was great that we all came together to create this mural.”

The mural is a combination of several panels, each representing a section of Carbondale’s history and culture.

“We do represent farmers, hippies, dogs, cats and all sorts of people in our community,” Embrey said. “But we chose to celebrate those that came before us through the lens of Dia de los Muertos. The imagery of the skeletons and marigolds is especially vibrant.”

One of the mural’s artists is scheduled to paint a dandelion, Carbondale’s official town flower, on the final panel Friday, and community members who assisted with the project are invited to sign each of the dandelion’s petals, she said.

Kicking off at 4 p.m., Mexican hot chocolate and other treats will be served during the event, which is free to attend.

At 5:30 p.m., a procession featuring giant skeletons in the style of La Catrina — the Dame of the Dead — fire dancers and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklorico dancers will leave the Third Street Center at 520 S. Third St. and head toward the Fourth and Main streets intersection.

The term Folklorico is used in performance circles to describe all traditional Mexican dances, said Francisco “Paco” Nevarez, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklorico director.

“When I was a little kid, my mom worked, and she enrolled me in a Folklorico afterschool program in Chihuahua, Mexico,” Nevarez said. “I spent most of my life with a Folklorico dance group in Chihuahua, before I moved to New York.”

Nevarez was offered a job as the Folklorico dance director in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2002, and he’s been in the area ever since.

“Dia de los Muertos is a very traditional, holy ceremony in Mexico,” he said. “In Mexico, we used to go to the cemetery, clean the tombs and they would even put carnival rides and food outside the cemetery. It’s a celebration of life.”

On Friday, his dancers, a group of kids ages 10-17, will perform a number of traditional dances including the Maypole Dance, which signifies the circle of life. The dancers will wear ancestral costumes and La Catrina masks during their performance, he said.

“The celebration helps me fulfill my life here in the United States,” Nevarez said. “We are a special community here in Carbondale. We embrace and celebrate cultures and holidays from all around the world.”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.

Weed calendar opens window to Garfield County agriculture, vegetation management efforts

“Fall Gathering” is a painting by artist Lanny Grant that’s featured in the 2022 Weeds of Garfield County calendar.
Garfield County Vegetation Management/Courtesy

Though “weed” has taken on a different meaning in Colorado over the past decade or so, most rural counties have whole departments dedicated to educating landowners about the noxious varieties and how to control them.

If you want to get to know your Colorado weeds a bit better — complete with a gorgeous scenic photo of the month from the Garfield County countryside — just pick up a copy of the annual Weeds of Garfield County calendar.

The 2022 version is now available for free at all Garfield County Public Library District branches and the county administration buildings in Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

Steve Anthony has been Garfield County’s vegetation manager since 1999. For several years, he worked with the nonprofit Colorado Big Country Resource Conservation and Development Council to produce a statewide weed calendar.

That project was eventually turned over to the Colorado Weed Management Association, but after a few years of not doing it, Anthony said he missed it.

So about eight years ago he got permission from the county commissioners to produce Garfield County’s very own weed calendar. His department had a budget set aside for community outreach, education and awareness, and the calendar seemed like a good way to accomplish that.

“It’s a pretty good tool to, in a subtle way, get weeds out there in the vocabulary of people and increase awareness,” he said.

Each month features an image taken by a local photographer or painted by a local artist of scenic landscapes, residents, wildlife and livestock.

Accompanying each photo and monthly calendar is information about various noxious weeds, how to prevent them from spreading, best agricultural practices, wildfire recovery, what’s edible — if that’s your thing — and how to be careful to avoid dangerous look-alikes when out foraging.

For instance, the February entry tells of Queen Anne’s Lace, or wild carrot, which is popular with foragers. Beware its relative, poison hemlock, though.

There’s also a bit of Garfield County agriculture history featured in the calendar, including a January tribute to the Coffman family of Carbondale, who recently sold their ranch to the Aspen Valley Land Trust in order to maintain its ranching heritage.

The Grizzly Creek Fire behind the Spring Valley Schoolhouse by photographer Ann Driggers is featured in the 2022 Weeds of Garfield County calendar.
Garfield County Vegetation Management/Courtesy

Garfield County Vegetation Management Program Coordinator Sarah LaRose is in charge of lining up the artistic content for the calendar each year.

“In the past, we’ve hired photographers to go out and take pictures that we wanted to feature, but two years ago we started doing it as a photo contest and asked people to submit their photos,” LaRose said.

Featured photographers for 2022 are Todd Patrick, Tommy Sands, Chalana Wilson, Shania McCain, Ann Driggers, LaRose and the Glenwood Springs Post Independent’s own Chelsea Self.

The project has also expanded in recent years to include several paintings by local artist Lanny Grant.

“A lot of the photos illustrate the different vectors for weed-seed spreading throughout the county, like hay and cattle operations, and what they do to control weed spread,” LaRose said.

“I absolutely love it,” she said. “It’s probably the most favorite part of my job. It’s great education for landowners, because many people don’t realize how noxious weeds affect their lives and how they might be spreading weeds without even realizing it.”

A Garfield County hay operation by photographer Sarah LaRose is featured in the 2022 Weeds of Garfield County calendar.
Garfield County Vegetation Management/Courtesy

Anthony said Garfield County is constantly seeing new, non-native plants coming into the region and discovering ones that have been here for awhile but are just now propagating.

Colorado has a noxious weed list including about 100 plants with varying degrees of concern for spread. Garfield County has about 40 of them present, he said.

The Colorado Weed Management Association continues to produce an annual weed calendar, but not many other counties have their own, so Garfield County is unique in that sense, Anthony said.

“A lot of counties have gone more to social media for their education and outreach, and others do a brochure,” he said. “Every county’s approach is a little different.”

Garfield County this year printed 2,000 weed calendars — double that produced during the pandemic last year — and they’re going fast, Anthony said.

For more information, contact the Garfield County Vegetation Management Department at 970-945-1377, ext. 4305 or 4315.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Carbondale Clay Center welcomes new exhibit this Saturday through end of March

Photos of artwork from Carbondale Clay's Center February and March exhibit, "Complexities: From Surface to Form."

“Complexities: From Surface to Form” will open this Saturday, Feb. 6 at Carbondale Clay Center featuring artists from across the nation, according to a Jan. 29 news release. The celebration of modern art through the clay medium is meant to bring the subtleties of function and form together through various pieces of ceramic art, the release states.

Matthew Eames, the Gallery and Studio manager at the clay center, said all selected pieces on display were chosen intentionally to highlight the theme of the exhibit.

Photos of artwork from Carbondale Clay's Center February and March exhibit, "Complexities: From Surface to Form."

“Each and every step along the way of creating this exhibit has posed a wonderful set of questions about the ability to decorate and its continuing influence on contemporary pottery,” Eames said.

The exhibit will run through March 27 and those interested can view the artwork on the clay center’s online store and website, or in-person at the center from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. during the week from Tuesday through Saturday. The release also said the exhibit will feature everyday items guests will be able to recognize along with dishes designed with elevated surfaces. The artists who will be on display are Mark Arnold, Ashley Bevington, Naomi Clement, Matt Mitros and Chris Pickett.

Photos of artwork from Carbondale Clay's Center February and March exhibit, "Complexities: From Surface to Form."

Carbondale Clay Center’s ‘Parts and pieces coming together’

A woman makes a bowl during a February 2020 event at Carbondale Clay Center. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Local favorite artist couple Wewer and Steve Keohane’s existential mixed media, painted and ceramic pieces will be exhibited today at the Carbondale Clay Center.

The exhibit is open from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and runs until Jan. 30

One major piece from Wewer, a European-raised artist whose work can be found in iconic museums all over the U.S. and the world, includes a six-piece series called “Breakfast in Japan.” The collages exemplify the artist’s exploration into the human psyche.

“Shew studies dreams, and through her own dreams and journals she explores the subconscious of divine intervention,” Carbondale Clay Center Marketing and Communications Director Savanna LaBauve said. “There’s a lot of parts and pieces coming together in some of these three-dimensional works.”

Steve, who wields a lifelong fascination with the perception of reality according to his bio, will exhibit a fascinating piece that uses elements extracted straight from the Roaring Fork Valley. Using a piece of wood salvaged from the 2018 Lake Christine Fire, Steve has created a multi-element depiction of nature.

What: Mixed Media Marriage exhibit

When: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday. Exhibit runs until Jan. 30

Where: Carbondale Clay Center, 135 Main St.

How much: Free

“He took the piece of wood and it’s mounted on the wall and on top of that he has a ceramic sculpture that is in the form of a nest,” LaBauve said.

Friday’s exhibition marks one of many since September, said LaBauve.

“I feel like a lot of people are popping in,” she said. “They’re excited to see the exhibits.”

Carbondale Clay Center is located at 135 Main St. Reservations are not necessary and the event is free.