The Creative Journey Has Just Begun

As we drove north of Mancos through Dolores, Rico, Telluride, and Ridgeway I kept asking myself why I ever left this beautiful place. But when I remember how I felt while I was here before, I fully understood why I had to leave, why I had to go to DC. When you have a burning desire to do more than what’s right in front of you, you can’t possibly get there by continuing to do the same thing, you have to find another way. DC was my way of seeing if I could make it as a full-time visual practitioner, work in a big city, and be part of a team of like-minded people working passionately with a shared vision. As a result, the Visioneering team is the model team that I will base every team I form or contribute to in the future. To be high-performing, continually innovating, and growing individually as well as together as team has been the most fulfilling career experience I have had to date. I can’t thank my colleagues enough for creating a space for me to be successful and for supporting me during this big life transition. I am forever grateful for their creative partnership and friendship.

Now it’s time to carry all of the goodness I have learned and share it with the next community I am part of. My hope is that Ray and I will find our place in SWCO. We have been looking into places to live, housesit, work, and contribute to creative, community projects. And the options are far more abundant than I ever realized. Over the last few months I kept hearing myself say I wasn’t sure what I would do in SWCO and I was afraid it was too small for me to be satisfied. However, in the past few days I have discovered that the Mancos community has become so rich in the arts that I drool just thinking about the chance to be part of it again.

Creative District
When Ray and I founded the “Sharing the 81328 Perspective” and Arts Perspective magazine, we felt Mancos had the potential to be a rich art town. I often reminded people inside and outside of Mancos that “we didn’t have a ski resort, hot springs, or train. We had an abundance of artists.” And the arts are the richest resource when it comes to culture. Sure it’s not oil or technology, but it’s something we all need and come back to in great times of need.

Left to right bottom: Designed by T.J. Zark, I had tears in my eyes as I saw this billboard-sized sign on Main Street in Mancos. Thanks to generous contributions of the Ballantine Family, the Common Press is uniquely positioned on Grand to display this gorgeous mural by Brad Goodell. Dolores (aka, Gawkie) and Ray greet visitors to the MASA dinner during Mancos Days. This annual dinner the host of many who return to Mancos in hopes to reconnect with old classmates and friends. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting with Tom and Sandy Vaughan and recapitulating our travels since our last visit together in DC.

When I read that Mancos’ own Tami Graham and Susan Lander from Durango have recently been named council members of the Colorado Creative Industries, I was thrilled to see the representation. These women have dedicated countless years of their lives to support and enrich music and the arts in Southwest Colorado. And to see the large sign hung downtown marking Mancos as a creative district, my heart is full knowing that despite the current administration’s cuts to the arts artists are still making in SWCO.

Willowtail Springs
Surprisingly, we never met Peggy and Lee when we lived in Mancos. It was much later as we were selling the magazine and getting ready to get married that I did some work for them to help with marketing that we traded a room for Ray and I to get away and plan for our future together. Nestled in the mountains just Northwest of Mancos, our family stayed at Willowtail during our wedding celebration, and I’ve spent many nights in trade and pay to be on the land. The view of the LaPlatas over the lake from the Lakehouse is one of the best I’ve witnessed in the valley. And the view from the other side of the lake looking back is surreal as the surroundings. HIgh mountain desert is where my heart belongs.

Willowtail has been the birthplace and home for many creative ideas. From riparian center to artist residency and of course the many who have stayed over the years as guests, you can read about the impact on guests in the guestbooks in each cabin. My favorite is the Bungalow. Who wouldn’t love to soak in an antique clawfoot tub with the Willowtail salt scrub after a long day’s hike? Or to lie under an abandoned beehive that has been archived by being encased in Lexan? Of course the Garden Cottage and Lakehouse are wonderful too. But it was in the Bungalow where I first stayed and made many memories with family and friends.

I can’t say enough about the property and the magic that Peggy and Lee bring. If you ever visit, and I hope you will, only then can you understand. You have to experience it.

I look forward to visiting with my artist friends and the community that supports them at this upcoming fundraiser.

Common Press
Just as I was leaving SWCO the publishing landscape was changing, magazines were folding across the country and newspapers were going through changes too. The Ballantine family now owners of The Durango Herald, The Cortez Journal, Pine River Times, Dolores Star and Mancos Times have been dedicated to publishing and community since purchasing the Durango Herald (previously the Herald Democrat and News) in 1952. Three generations of publishing and generous community support, especially in the arts, have helped shaped the culture in SWCO.

When it was time to move the Mancos Times office to Cortez, the doors closed like a time capsule preserving the remaining treasures from over 120 years of publishing inside. I had the distinct pleasure to spend a day in the space and research the history years ago and again this past week in our short visit before hitting the road again.

Betsy Harrison and Matt Neff, Director of the Common Press at the University of Pennsylvania, were kind enough to fill me in on the current status, the future vision and the immediate needs of what is now known as the Mancos Common Press. While standing in the space, I had flashbacks of my explorations from years earlier while recollecting all of my visits to vanity and boutique presses in DC. This place is special and with Matt’s help, I can clearly see the vision of the organization and space, it’s connection with the region on an educational level, the contribution it will make on the local arts community, and the bookmark it was and continues to be in Mancos’ historical continuum.

Heading off to the next art residency, I’m itching to get back and get involved in some way. Meanwhile, I’m putting the pieces together for myself and reading articles to catch up on all that’s going on. Here’s a story from the beginning of the restoration project and great photo of the Cranston press.

Paonia…a creative surprise
Going back to the beginning of this week’s post, driving through the mountains and high desert to Paonia was a journey in itself. Not because of the stops we made along the way, we pretty much drove straight through, but the memories and stories we shared during the drive. Ray described the view of the Fourteeners he has climbed in this area, our past visits to and through Rico and Telluride before and while we owned the magazine, what life may be like if we moved back, and how out of all of the beautiful places we have seen over the past 5 months, nothing compares to this landscape and the people on the Western Slope.

On first glance, Paonia is a small town surrounded by orchards and farmland, and filled with earthy people. But with just 2 days into our residency—along with making art—Daniel’s tour of the town revealed a local public radio station, High Country News (a nationally known and reputable news organization), several tasty eateries, Revolation Brewery, and a thriving arts community rich in music, visual and performing arts.

In addition to the strong social media presence, Paonia continues to communicate it’s rich cultural offerings through flyers posted all over town. Here is a small sampling we found on our tour.

Thursday night we attended Pickin’ in the Park, a free weekly community music gathering, where over 500 people from this ~1,500 person town gathered to listen to Bluegrass icon Peter Rowan. And on Friday Ray and I shared our work, alongside of four other artists to a larger than expected and incredibly engaged crowd in the main studio at Elsewhere.

Michelle Mercer, writer and NPR commentator shared her coming to story and her first NPR story about Regina Carter the first non-classical violinist to be asked to play “The Cannon.” You can hear t story here.

While we all have an opportunity to enjoy Michelle’s collection of rich musical commentary, here at Elsewhere we also get to enjoy the company of her expressive 5-year-old son and husband, symphony bassist Marc who delighted us by playing a classical piece at first, then guided us on a jazz journey. It was in this moment that I looked around the room and realized how lucky we all are to have access to this level of talent, what an asset Elsewhere is to Paonia, and how lucky Ray and I are to be here.

Many of you know how much Ray does not like to draw attention to himself, talk about himself, and does not like speaking in front of others. But his storytelling came out and he generously shared the stories of his time documenting protests in DC and the people he has met along our journey. I was blown away at how he can recollect the stories of everyone he met.

Sarah in her ribbon factory, an interactive piece from our residency at Arts Letters and Numbers. A 36″ print of this  images was displayed while Ray shared his portraits: digital images over 5′ tall on the wall during the Meet & Greet at Elsewhere Friday night.

Maya Rendon, an 18-year-old painter and mixed-media artist, has a stoic presence while sharing hints of passion around both the musical and visual works of Kurt Cobain. She shared her visual response to a job application and invited us to her studio where she is experimenting with texture and color in an abstract way.

While recent MFA Fiction Writing graduate Charlie Schneider will be out for two weeks spending time at Bread Loaf and missing our final Open Studio presentation, we had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a recent first draft that he wrote the day before. From the vantage point of a 17-year-old girl who’s family may have been responsible for the lynching of 34 coal-miners, Charlie’s ability to empathically become the character whose point of view he is writing from reminds us how important history plays into our modern culture and the impact it has on self-identification.

And I concluded the evening by sharing how I plan to build a bridge between my fine and commercial work by continuing my studies in Flow, Panarchy, and combining it with the transpersonal work I’m doing with the upcoming Eclipse. All works on paper, I’m planning a series of small books, starting by working out ideas and concepts using traditional art materials and then translating those onto black and kraft papers with acrylic inks by Neuland. And since we are in the Disseminating Phase of the Waning Moon, this is the perfect time to share out what I have learned and the goodness culminated from this inspirational place.

And now as I push send, we are on our way to the annual Olathe Sweet Corn Festival before heading to a community dinner at a local farm. Hopefully Ray will get some good photos while I hold a space of creative tension: trying to have fun in the moment with a sketchbook in hand in case I need to capture the fleeting idea as it passes by.

One thought on “The Creative Journey Has Just Begun

  1. It was great to see you both in Mancos and have some time to catch up with you! We both follow the Flo avidly and, of course, your descriptions of our old mutual stomping grounds are warmly received. I did notice the link to the Mancos Common Press goes to Willowtail; it should (I assume) go to


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