Printers Theo Dexter, left, and Mitch Uttech make limited edition prints celebrating the Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Strawberry Park.

Photo by John F. Russell

Printers Theo Dexter, left, and Mitch Uttech make limited edition prints celebrating the Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Strawberry Park.

Steamboat artists’ passion, patience bring Perry-Mansfield art to life

Limited edition prints to benefit arts school’s centennial celebration

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— Buried deep in the archives of Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp are hidden works of art that might never have been seen again if not for the efforts of several local artists in bringing the historic work back into the limelight.

It started with Pat Walsh, a Perry-Mansfield board member and local artist, who was struck with the thought of Andy Warhol’s work as she discovered old photos and pieces of Perry-Mansfield art history in the school’s archives.

She thought, “wouldn’t it be beautiful if it was turned into a more contemporaneous look and still be very historical and vintage at the same time?”

She hoped to re-create four works of nearly 100-year-old art and photography and print them as limited edition pieces to sell as a fundraiser.

Walsh said the board OK’d the idea, and the collaborators started pouring in.

Her business partner Susan Schiesser, Lone Oak Studio owner Theo Dexter, printmaker Susan Oehme, Joel Schulman, Maggie Smith, as well as family and friends all pitched in on the project, which involved restoring, transforming, altering then ultimately printing the works.

“There was some discussion about whether we should try to use them and make individual new painting, and I thought, ‘The history of the camp, you just can’t replicate it with a current painting.’” Walsh said. “I wanted to go with the history of the camp and reveal what was in their archives.”

She chose two vintage photographs and two pieces of artwork by Perry-Mansfield co-founder Charlotte Perry. The progressive young woman had created a charcoal work and a woodcut piece that were used as program covers in the late 1920s.

The team plans to print 60 editions of each piece as a fundraiser for Perry-Mansfield’s centennial celebration events next summer. A set of four also will be on display at RED Contemporary Gallery and downtown at the Steamboat Art Museum.

Although the editions haven’t been printed yet, a team of about 10 artists worked almost the entire week on completing the artist proofs to perfection. The editions will be printed in about two weeks.

“It’s amazing; everybody jumped in,” Walsh said. “You don’t always find a community where people are so generous and willing to take on a very challenging project like this just for the love of being a part of it and for the love of helping Perry- Mansfield.”

Labor of love

It was no elementary process to restore the works.

The photographs, Walsh said, first had to be colorized and transformed.

“We’ve added color, background, we’ve added design elements. Some images we had to hand alter … we used cloning, cropping,” Walsh said.

One of the images — the charcoal work by Perry — needed some extra tender loving care.

“In order to reproduce the charcoal and give it a rich visual appearance and texture, I went to Sue Oehme at Oehme Graphics,” Walsh said. “We just had to do something to make it sing.”

Oehme made a solar plate of the image, which then was transferred to an etching before it was silk-screened.

And the silk screenings themselves were four to five layers of ink each.

But Theo Dexter, who essentially shut down his sign-making business at Lone Oak Studios for a week to help with the process, didn’t mind.

“This is what I was trained to do in college,” he said. “Basically, I got sidetracked with signs for 20 years.

“It’s a chance to get back into the thing I went to school for, what I am passionate about,” he said. “It’s a challenge to do proofs of four different designs all in a short order from concept to final art.”

Schulman, a local printmaker, said he was asked to join the process as Walsh and Schiesser began to restore each work. He helped digitally manipulate the work and separate the colors for the printing process. It was a welcome challenge, he said, and all for a good cause.

“My vision of them is that they’re truly limited edition,” he said. “Each print is somewhat unique. We basically started with some old photos, and the final product is really amazing.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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