Steamboat Springs Artposium: Plains, Frames & Land Use Ideals
A weekend for people who love art, writing, and the land
By Michael Mowry
I recently found myself happily returning to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for Colorado Art Ranch’s fourth Artposium, Plains, Frames and Land Use Ideals. Having been to the first three, I had some expectations about the weekend and was excited to say the least.
I checked into the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel at the east end of town and walked down to the Steamboat Art Museum, for the Friday night reception kicking off the weekend’s adventures. The event was packed, with locals, Nomads (Artposium attendees), the weekend’s presenters, and the Art Ranch artists-and-writers-in-residence. Lots of food, drink, and an introductory slide show to get us all acquainted.
The Artposium’s programming started on Saturday morning at the Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch on the Yampa River, a few miles west in Hayden, Colorado. We enjoyed a fantastic breakfast and settled in for some intellectual exploration. Arizona farmer and artist Matthew Moore talked to us about urban sprawl, farm-field art, loss of family farm land and memory, how long it takes to grow a carrot, where our food comes from, and our society’s responsibility for sustainable development practices. Local Colorado rancher Dean Visintainer talked with us about the history of his family’s vast ranch in northwestern Colorado, and his plans to keep it financially viable in the face of changing family demographics and economic upheaval. Apparently live, wild elk are worth a lot more than a whole herd of cows! During lunch, we heard from Mollie Fager, poet, dancer, and the Development Director for the Nature Conservancy, and in the early afternoon, we discussed rural town planning and character with Shelley Mastran, an urban planner who helps rural communities maintain their historical heritage while adapting to contemporary influences and needs.
By then, we were all itching to get outside and enjoy the brilliant spring sunshine. We attendees divided up into a writers group and an art group. I chose to head out with the art group behind the homestead into the field by the Yampa River for an afternoon of creative inspiration under the tutelage of local artist Joel Allen. We spent hours sculpting, playing, and designing all sorts of environmental artworks using found materials, decorating barbed-wire fences with dandelion buds, sculpting animal-like characters from branches and bark, building geometric branch circles in the field grasses, and building a funereal bed of pinecones.
After dinner in Steamboat with some new friends, we went up the road to Wayne Kakela’s ranch for a bonfire. The ranch, an old homestead and artist’s wonderland, had a few old barns and a veritable trove of found-object materiel Wayne collected over the years to design and build his eclectic art with. Wayne and a couple of the Art Ranch residents had built a ten-foot high bonfire, and by the inferno we kept warm for the rest of the night. A gorgeous full moon rose over the hills to the east as we talked, danced, told stories and laughed the evening away.
Sunday morning’s return to Carpenter Ranch came early enough, but it was well worth it. Under the bright blue Colorado skies, local cellist John Sant’Ambrogio led us through the landscape of music with his instrument and interesting stories of his experience in symphony halls across the country.
Plains, Frames & Land Use Ideals will long live in my memory as a weekend of amazing ideas, artistic exploration, incredible people, and new friends. I can’t wait to participate in the next Colorado Art Ranch Artposium!
Joel Allen is an artist and teaches a course called Art in the Environment. Joel lead a workshop in creating in-situ sculptures using natural materials.
Bruce Beckum is a writer, educator and fly fishing guide. Bruce lead a workshop on adding a sense of "place" to our writing
Mollie Fager is an associate director of development at the Nature Conservancy in Colorado and a poet. She is the former director of the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder.
Cathy Hankla is a Virginia poet and artist, Cathy has taught at the University of Virginia, at Washington & Lee University, and is currently Professor of English at Hollins University, where she received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Shelley Mastran is a preservation-planning consultant and co-director of the Your Town: Citizens' Institute on Rural Design program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Matthew Moore is a fourth-generation farmer and artist from Phoenix. His large projects explore the relation of urban sprawl and agriculture. Matt will be an artist in residence, creating a new work at Carpenter Ranch. Matt is a recent recipient of a Creative Capital Grant and his work is showing in Phoenix and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
John Sant'Ambrogio is a cellist who was first chair for the St. Louis Symphony for 37 years. John founded Arts for the Soul, an interdisciplinary arts retreat in Steamboat Springs. He now plays with the Generations Quartet.
Dean Visintainer is a longtime rancher in Moffat County and a participant in
Colorado's Ranching for Wildlife program.
Located in the Northwest section of Colorado these towns have a rich ranching heritage and now are known for recreation and wide open spaces.
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