Friday, March 18, 2011

Art in Telluride, CO


The morning brought a beautiful day to us with clear blue skies and a few white clouds hovering over Telluride.  A. Paul & I started our morning off with a  stroll along the river trail to the free mountain gondola which whisked us away to the Mountain Village at the base of Telluride's ski area.  As the gondola ascended, it afforded wonderful vistas of the 14,000 feet elevation of San Juan Mountains and the canyon valley where the town of Telluride resides.

The San Juan Mountains, part of the Rocky Mountain range, boasts a complex tapestry of ski runs, which we hope to take advantage of tomorrow.  These same mountains are the source of the founding of Telluride, when in the mid 1870s, the first gold and silver mines created the basis of the Sheridan Mining town, now known as Telluride.  With the arrival of the train and electricity, the town continued to boom up until  WWI and the Great Depression , which bankrupt many mining towns  and left them to become ghost towns.  Such was the fate of Telluride until 1970 when miner Billy Mahoney and Joe Zoline combined forces to cash in on Telluride's other natural resource--snow, creating the first ski access in Telluride and establishing a basis for its survival.

With the quaint historic Victorian mining town at its base, where supposedly Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan orated his "Cross of Gold" speech,  and newly cut ski runs on the surrounding mountains, Telluride has grown to become one of America's favorite playgrounds for year round activities.  It is home to some of the most attended festivals in the country-- the Bluegrass Festival, Blues & Brews Festival, Wine, Festival, Yoga Festival, Jazz Festival , Film and Arts Festivals--the list goes on. 

Aa Haa School for the Arts
When A. Paul & my feet touched ground again in town, we set out to explore the many arts venues housed in historic buildings throughout Telluride.  First on our list was the Ah Haa School for the Arts where we met up with Executive Director Rachel Loomis-Lee.  Immediately we felt at home when Rachel not only knew about Provincetown but shared that she has substantial memories of her visit to  "Ptown" as it is where she became engaged. 
Aa Haa Director Rachel Loomis-Lee & Kerry
in front of artwork by Rachel

During our visit at the school, Rachel provided a wealth of information on the art scene occuring in Telluride and about the role the School fulfills in the community.  The Ah Haa School was founded in 1990 by bookmaker and teacher Daniel Tucker as a means for fostering creativity that exists in every individual, regardless of age.  To this end the Ah Haa School offers a host of workshops in a wide range of mediums  including ceramics, film, welding, painting, jewelry, and photography, as well as adult and youth programs.  Housed in a historic train depot, the top level of the school offers two gallery exhibit areas for featured artists' works, with the lower level designated for workshops, a ceramic room,  and soon to be printmaking shop.

 Ceramist Nichole Waichunas at
Ah Haa School
As its executive director, Rachel has created innovative and creative means for collaborating with the community, bringing residents and visitors alike into the Ah Haa family fold through auctions, social & technological networking, special events and course offerings.  Rachel's energy and enthusiasm for the School and towards the interconnectedness of the community and its arts is infectious to say the least.   Thank you, Rachel, for your time and passion. We hope to see you in Ptown soon. 

If you are planning a visit to the Telluride area, the Aa Haa School for the Arts is a definite must see.  You can also visit the Aa Haa Scool for the Arts website for information on upcoming exhibits, events, and classes at  and at the following YouTube links

L-R: Sasha Cuccicinello, Kerry, & Kate Jones
 Upon Rachel's recommendations, A. Paul & I set out to visit the Stronghouse Studios & Gallery where we met Program Director Sasha Cucciniello, who also directs the Squidshow Theatre,  and Executive Director  Kate Jones of TCAH , Telluride Council for the Arts & Humanities.

TCAH, like Aa Haa, is a community based arts organization  developed to foster the arts in and around the Telluride area.  Its mission is to assist artists and visual & performing  groups discover venues and support for their growth and sustainability within and outside the community.  The Stronghouse Studios & Gallery was created and funded by the TCAH to offer work spaces for artists, regardless the medium.  Housed in an historic dry good storage along the historic Rio Grande train tracks,  the Stronghouse offers a music room, a dark room and several art work spaces. Occupancy is based upon availability with the majority of top floor artists as established tenants.  The lower level offers a variety of spaces to artists as they beccome available. 
Thank you, Sasha & Kate, for your hospitality.

Around the corner from the Stronghouse are two addtional galleries that we visited.  The Schilling Studio Gallery owned/operated by artist Amy Schilling who offers cutting edge contemporary works in addition to her encaustic artwork and handmade jewelry.   The neighboring Lustre Gallery offers historic jewelry, art glass works, and a large collection of reversed painted ceiling chandeliers

As the day began to wane, we headed off to Smugglers for a bite to eat before heading back to our lodging along the river.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, we hope to race down a few of Telluride's slopes then in the evening take in a music venue held in the historic  1913 Sheridan Opera House.    Sunday morning we head out to Vail, CO.


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