Steamboat Springs Going incognito in Routt County seems a challenging task. If you put on a mask, however, you become anyone you want.
Enter "Beyond the Face," an artistic exploration of the concept of the mask that is also a benefit for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Northwest Colorado.
About 50 locals both artists and non-artists will receive a plaster mask that they can transform into any kind of face or piece they wish. The masks will be on display at the Steamboat Pilot, which is sponsoring the event, for about a month. While there, they will be available for bids and then will be auctioned off at an event on Aug. 4.
May 15-29 Masks will be distributed June 7 Workshops at the Depot June 30 Completed masks are due July 10-Aug. 4 Exhibit and silent auction at the Steamboat Pilot building Aug. 4 Finale; 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Fifty masks were made, although many have been spoken for and only about 10 are still available.
The idea started when Mixed Media Painting School of Steamboat Springs board member Eileen Braziel wanted the school to do a fund raiser. She was discussing the idea at a restaurant and was showing the catalog of the successful Denver Mask Project to some friends. One of the organizers of the project, Joyce Rasaur, happened to be in Steamboat at the same restaurant and overheard the conversation.
She encouraged them to pursue a similar project, Braziel said. Hospice was the school's first choice, she said.
"We're a nonprofit organization and we want to help the community in a creative way," Braziel said.
The project hopes to tap the creative and philosophical energies of the locals, she said, as well as mobilizing the community in a creative way.
Although there is a theme "Beyond the Face" Braziel said is it not meant to be limiting.
"'Beyond the Face' is really very open. It isn't a specific," she said. "You can interpret what a mask is. It could be a surface for painting or a sculpture. It could be transforming a face into an animal."
Masks have a long historical and religious tradition and originated to transform the individual. They were used in prehistory to give an individual the power to become a pantheon of God, using animals, forces in nature and cosmic images. Death masks were also used to protect the individual.
Masks were used to transform individuals publicly, whether it was to entertain, to demonstrate what our shadow self is or our fears, to veil, to reflect or assimilate common-ground feelings and emotions.
Masks were also one of the first archeological findings. The mask can reflect different characters of individuals, like satirical, serious, emotional, saddened, happy, creative or destructive.
"We all wear them. It's part of who you are, but it is a mask,"mask-maker Georgia Taylor said. "It utilizes protection."
Four of Braziel's art students, Melissa Rogers, Tucker Greene, Tawny Randolph and Samantha Pal, were the gracious models for the masks, enduring a plastic hair cap and a quick facial to make the molds for the unbreakable specimens.
"The students are really thrilled their faces are going to be all over town," Braziel said. "They are aware they are going to be transformed into things they don't understand."
The students will receive a credit for the Steamboat Springs Middle School community service requirement for volunteering their mugs.
The group of people slated to make masks is diverse, although it is not all artists. That's OK, because this medium mixed media is open and forgiving.
"Our school believes that everyone is an artist. We encourage mixed media because we feel that mixed media opens up a whole different possibility of creating," Braziel said. "It's not as intimidating."
Mixed media is anything, Braziel said. It's organic or inorganic, it's found objects, discarded objects, your fancies, your passions. She also said that Steamboat is a diverse community with art, skiing, agriculture all represented and hoped that people will be inspired by their loves.
"Be spontaneous," artist Peggy Warren, who will be making a mask, said. "Follow your heart and your spirit and come up with something totally you and totally unique to your personality."
Taylor, who is co-chairwomen of the event, used a duster to create her masks, which look more like traditional Mardi Gras masks than works of art, she said.
"The sky's the limit," Taylor said.
Local realtor Karen Beauvais joked that she is not artistic, but is ready to get to work.
"It's going to get my juices flowing," she said. "I'm definitely pleased they're doing this, especially for people like me who don't always get the chance to do something creative."
If some local notables are not feeling creative on demand, there is a workshop scheduled for June 7 at the Depot with local artists to assist those who need some inspiration.
Taylor got involved not because of the artistic aspect, but because of the benefit.
"My baby brother died of AIDS and hospice allowed him to die at home," she said. "I feel very strongly about hospice."
Hospice, which merged with the VNA in 1995, provides a variety of services, including prenatal, child health, communicable disease control, home health and hospice services. Twenty percent of deaths in the Yampa Valley involve the Hospice team and VNA/Hospice services reach out to over 50 percent of the residents in the Yampa Valley, according to VNA Executive Director Sue Birch. Funding has significantly diminished since 1997, however, and Birch said that diminishes the quality of life in the Yampa Valley. This benefit not only helps financially, but taps the Hospice spirit.
"Hospice relies on community involvement," Director of Home Care and Hospice Jan Fritz said. "It surpassed the minimum criteria for volunteer involvement from 5 to 15 percent from the support and commitment of hospice volunteers."
Former city councilwoman Paula Cooper Black, who has been approached about making a mask, said she is going to do her best, because, after all, it's a dog-eat-dog town here in Steamboat.
"This is a competitive community, whether it's athletics or money," she said. "I'm going to hone my skills and get something together, because it's a fun way to raise money."