Exhibit featuring local artists opens at Art Depot

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— When the new exhibit at the Art Depot opens on Friday, locals will see 30 years of art in Steamboat Springs hanging on the walls and displayed on the museum floor.

"Of Our Valley" will showcase about 40 local and one-time local artists of the Yampa Valley with more than 120 pieces. The show is meant to honor and celebrate the 30 years the Steamboat Springs Arts Council has been in the community by featuring artists that have supported the council through the years.

"All the pieces in the show are supposed to follow a theme what their reflections are of living in Routt County," exhibit curator Susan Oehme said.

Through paint, sculpture, fiber and ceramics, the artists chose, or in some cases created, pieces that reflected that theme. Work includes landscape paintings of the valley, abstract sculptures, photographs of old structures and even fabrics work.

"It's not just an art show, it's the history of the Arts Council," Oehme said.

A local group who wanted to save the condemned railroad depot and use it as an art resource in the community created the Arts Council in 1972.

Local art matriarch Eleanor Bliss was the force behind that group, which managed to rehabilitate the building.

The role of the Arts Council as a nonprofit agency is to produce, support and facilitate art and culture in the Yampa Valley. Its ability to fulfill that role greatly improved in 1990 when the National Endowment for the Arts awarded the council with a local incentive grant, which was completed in 1994.

"When the grant was awarded, and the city matched it, that was when people started to take the Arts Council seriously," Arts Council Executive Director Nancy Kramer said.

Kramer has been involved with the Arts Council since 1975 and said through the years it has reached higher plateaus of providing its service to the community.

"I think we are really positioned that in the next five years we could be bumped up to the next plateau," Kramer said.

Having the council provide better art education, "from the cradle to the grave," would be part of the next step, she said. That means more involvement in schools, as well as more opportunities for adults to be introduced to all forms of art. A new visual and performing arts center also would be a key element of the Arts Council expanding in the community.

Art, Kramer said, can be the centerpiece in the community. Friday's opening reception, when most of the artists who have work on display will mingle with the public in somewhat of a homecoming for many, will be an example of that.

"It will be more of the essence of a community gathering than we've seen in a while," Kramer said.

The opening reception for the public is from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Art Depot on 13th Street. Andy Pratt will play piano.

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