Colorado Art Ranch plans stop in Durango

by Jules Masterjohn

Nomadic. The term calls up images of temporary tent villages erected in a sand-strewn desert, camels sipping from a small watering hole underneath a lone palm tree. Not exactly a concept that is familiar to most of us. This is, however, the lifestyle of Colorado Art Ranch. A nonprofit organization, the Colorado Art Ranch sets up camp in art oases in rural Colorado twice each year, hosting artists and writers from across the country for a month-long residency program. As part of the event, there will be a weekend arts-based symposium of writers, scientists and artists exploring “the confluence of art, writing and land/human issues.”

According to the organization’s co-founder and executive director, Grant Pound, the theme for the Artposium, as it is creatively termed, must reflect each area’s “heritage, natural resources, topography and people.” The first-ever Colorado Art Ranch Artposium will be held on the banks of the Arkansas River in Salida on May 26 & 27, and not surprisingly, the theme for the two-day event is “A River Runs Through Us.”

The most famous of presenters for the Salida Artposium will be contemporary artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, creators of the “Over the River,” art project, which will be installed over sections of the Arkansas River in July/August of 2010. The artists will derive no income from their appearance at the event: their presentation is a gift to Colorado Art Ranch. They, along with 16 other presenters, will explore the impact of rivers and water in our lives.

A humanities approach, one that embraces the interconnectedness in all disciplines, has informed the selection of presentation topics, which include biology, history, and visual and literary arts. Artposium presenter David Goldes, molecular geneticist-turned-artist, offers “Art and Science of Water.” Goldes, faculty member at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and recent recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, has produced “photographic still lives from scenes of scientific experiments that explore water, electricity, air movement, wind and breath.”

Smaller breakout sessions will explore topics such as Sherrie York’s “River Journals,” Ed Quillen’s “How Salida Shaped the River,” and Dan Downing’s “Capturing Colorado in Film.” Of course, no celebration of rivers would be complete without a presentation on “The Art of Fly Fishing,” which is being offered by Fred Rasmussen and Stuart Andrews.

One breakout session focuses on meeting the Colorado Art Ranch residents, who will be creating in Salida during the month of May. This is an opportunity to hear and see how a residency program supports artists and writers and, from the point of view of Pound and Art Ranch co-founder Peggy Lawless, how art can change the world. According to them, by inspiring dialogue and giving voice, visual and verbal, to the issues of the day, and through collaboration with experts in other disciplines, artists and writers

can be catalysts for positive change in the world. “I would like to see groups composed of poets, engineers, planners, painters, writers and scientists work on problems like: wind energy – does it have to be ugly? – housing, land use, mine reclamation and world water issues,” Pound said.

In September, Colorado Art Ranch will be caravanning to Durango, which has been chosen to host the next Residency and Artposium. The event, which will be attended by yours truly, will be focused around the theme of mapping. Pound explained, “The Durango Artposium is in development. Peter Turchi, author of Maps of the Imagination, will be one speaker. Local artist Mary Ellen Long is collaborating with poet Grace Cavalieri, of Washington D.C., on a mapping project that will explore their 50-year friendship.” He said the result of the collaboration will involve an installation, written word and performance. Durango artist Shan Wells also will be working on a collaborative project.

Pound said he is still taking suggestions, as well. “We are seeking input and help from the community to help round out the program. We hope ideas come from artists, writers, poets, community planners, politicians, land use planners, archeologists, recreationists, developers, students, biologists, architects and other thinkers.” He said while they won’t be able use every idea, it is important to have the Durango community shape its Artposium. He also said help was needed in housing the resident artists and writers.

Pound said he didn’t originally intend for the organization to hop around the state, working within smaller communities, bringing artists, writers and the public together to explore art and relevant issues. He and wife, Lawless, originally conceived the Art Ranch as having a permanent home with local programming. However, they explained, “We did not have enough money to buy a ranch. No one has given us one yet. So, we regrouped, rethought and decided the ranch would be nomadic.”

No stranger to juxtaposition, Pound said he ended up liking this vision better than the original. “It gives us broader appeal, we get to know more communities, and it helps tie arts in Colorado together. I don’t know of any other nomadic residencies.” •

Information about Colorado Art Ranch and the Salida Artposium can be found at To offer suggestions for the Durango Artposium, email