Discovering Steamboat: The arts are alive and well

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— The arts are alive and well in Steamboat Springs, in part, because of the existence of groups like the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. I was introduced to this organization during my research into the old railroad depot on 13th Street. As I have previously written, I stepped through the doors of the historic depot and was immediately surrounded by art.

Exploring Steamboat

Lisa Schlichtman's "Exploring Steamboat" column appears weekly in the Steamboat Today.

Find more columns by Schlichtman here.

The main room of the depot is used as a large gallery for art shows featuring the work of local artists who are members of the Arts Council. Shows change monthly, with a new visual arts show, “Art and Soul of Hospice,” set to open Dec. 6. The show features artwork donated by local artists to benefit the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s hospice and palliative care program.

The depot building’s back portion, known as the “Baggage Room,” is a large, theatrical space used by the Steamboat Dance Co., the local writers group, the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra and other art-focused organizations. The depot also can be rented for community gatherings.

The Depot Art Center is home to the local Arts Council, which was formed in 1972 by Eleanor Bliss, for whom the depot is named, Carol Finnoff and the community of Steamboat Springs, which rallied together to save the old structure.

According to the council’s website, the organization is “devoted to supporting and promoting arts and culture in the Yampa Valley, through the planning and production of arts and humanities programs and initiatives that have a positive educational and cultural impact on our community.”

That’s a broad and bold mission but one that new Arts Council Executive Director Lawrence Block is committed to fulfilling.

“Our mission is to support and promote the arts — I get it,” Block said. “I understand the importance of this organization and the artists to the whole community.”

The Arts Council currently partners with 25 affiliates, including such groups as Bud Werner Memorial Library, the Chief Theater, Circle 7 Fine Arts, Steamboat Art Museum, Emerald City Opera, Steamboat Stomp and Steamboat Swings to name just a few.

As Arts Council member and longtime Routt County resident Harriet Freiberger describes it, the affiliations with other arts groups have allowed the council to serve dancers, actors, singers, musicians, visual artists, sculptors, weavers, photographers, craftsmen and writers over the past 42 years.

“Many of its beginning artists have attained success and recognition far beyond the Yampa’s shores,” Freiberger wrote in a her history of the depot. “The arts speak to what a community stands for.”

The Arts Council is a nonprofit organization that is supported by annual memberships, local businesses, regional and national grants, and private donations. General membership dues are $75 per year, and artists memberships are $50 per year. The city of Steamboat Springs also provides support for the council through ongoing commitments to the maintenance of the depot building, which the city owns and leases to the Arts Council.

Block is optimistic about the Steamboat Springs arts scene and the role the Arts Council can play in its continued renaissance.

“There are so many passionate people here. And there is so much going on. Steamboat has over a dozen art galleries, and they’re full of work,” Block said.

“There are people who sing in operas, throw pottery, make jewelry. They’re everywhere. And they undoubtedly contribute to a friendly and authentic town. A lot of the authenticity of Steamboat has to do with the incredible number of artists that are part of this community. You can’t do art without exposing yourself. That is what authenticity is, and that’s the vibe that draws people to Steamboat.”

I invite readers to help me discover more about Steamboat and Routt County by suggesting places you’d like me to visit, people you want me to meet or activities you’d like me to try. You can reach me at lschlichtman@SteamboatToday.com or 970-871-4221.

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