The locomotive of arts and culture

The Depot is the portal of diversity in the Yampa Valley

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Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Nancy Kramer stands outside the Depot Art Center.

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This photo of Eleanor Bliss first appeared in the 1976 edition of the Steamboat Pilot.

At the Depot

Snapshots from Life

  • Oct. 20- Nov. 17
  • Opening Reception: Friday, Oct. 20, 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Gallery Talk: Saturday, Oct. 21, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
  • Join the Steamboat Springs Arts Council in a gallery located in the historic Steamboat Depot and explore a new exhibit featuring 4 Steamboat artists.

Repetitive Gestures: Seeking Solace in the Process of Making

  • Dec. 1- Jan. 17, 2007
  • Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 1, 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Gallery Talk: Saturday, Dec. 2, 9 to 10:30 am
  • Join the Steamboat Springs Arts Council in a gallery located in the historic Steamboat Depot and explore a new exhibit featuring artists from all over the nation exploring the rhythm of simple repetitive gestures. Also new work by exhibit judge Jane Moffitt.

Call 879-9008 for more information about exhibits at the Depot Art Center.

Both exhibits are free.

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African dance instructor Nicole Idzahl leads a class at The Eleanor Bliss Center for the Arts.

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An exhibit at the Depot Art Center.

Coal trains pass by the Depot Art Center five or six times a day. Phone conversations have to be put on hold, and the building shakes.

When the trains go by, the one thing you need to watch for is the re-shifting of the artwork in the galleries, said Nancy Kramer, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

The first train arrived in Steamboat on Dec. 19, 1908, and the first passenger train came through less than three weeks later.

"The passenger part brought people to the valley," Kramer said. "That's when people started falling in love with the valley, and it just kind of connected Steamboat Springs with the rest of the world."

The Depot building was abandoned in 1968 when regular passenger service came to an end. In 1978, The Eleanor Bliss Center for the Arts building was put on the National Register of Historic Places, which is the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Two years later, the building was condemned.

Eleanor Bliss, who helped build the foundation of the arts in the Yampa Valley, led a "Save the Depot" group in 1980. Various renovation projects have since transpired, and the building was rehabilitated for use as a community arts center. It is now home to two visual arts galleries and the "baggage room," which serves as a community auditorium. It also houses the administrative offices of the Arts Council.

"There's something really cool about the building having so much history and changing the direction of the community," Kramer said. "You can just sense the history when you work in a place like this."

The Steamboat Springs Arts Council, which was founded in 1972, acts as a leader, resource and advocate for the arts and humanities in the valley. Its mission encompasses planning, producing and promoting programs and initiatives in that realm.

The Arts Council has 36 art and cultural affiliate programs that it supports through use of the Depot facility, advocacy and participation in community initiatives.

The Arts Council is one of the largest per capita community arts councils in the state with more than 500 members and 50 active volunteers. It hosts about 12 gallery shows a year, and the Depot is available for affiliate, community, artist and private functions.

The Arts Council also runs the Steamboat Springs Community Committee for the Arts through the Depot. The Community Committee allocates public and private funds in the area of art in education, public art, individual and organizational projects, individual fellowships and technical support.

Many community initiatives are fostered through the Arts Council such as the Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival. The event incorporated a significant public art exhibit and hosted a regional Mexican Independence Day celebration and the Mexican Consulate General for a reception and community meetings.

"It focused on bridging cultural diversity and learning," Kramer said. "And it addressed social justice and tolerance through the arts."

The Arts Council's docent program is a key component to helping the Arts Council enact its mission. The program consists of trained volunteers who staff the Depot's galleries to encourage visitor interaction with the exhibits. They also attend ongoing art education seminars, go on field trips, help hang art and host receptions, and coordinate and facilitate the annual Studio Tour and "Art for Seniors" program.

The building itself will be 100 years old in 2008, and its current tenants will celebrate their 35th anniversary next year.

Rumors over the years have included the possible presence of some supernatural activity in the Depot Art Center, as well.

"If there's a ghost, it has been a friendly ghost," Kramer said. "Because this is a place where good things happen."

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