New gallery gets going |

New gallery gets going

Stew Mosberg

If you collect art, or just appreciate it from afar, you may have wondered what it would be like to start your own, or direct an art gallery. Simone Fodde-Crotzer recently found out, firsthand.

Now living in Vail, she grew up in Rome and Milan, Italy, surrounded by art and parents that lived and breathed it. So it was serendipitous when she saw an ad placed last year by Tim Benedickt for a gallery director position. Benedickt, a successful metal sculptor living and working in Eagle-Vail, believed the Vail Valley needed an art gallery that didn’t exhibit the typical bronze wildlife sculptures or the decorative landscape art that proliferate in the High Country.

When Benedickt and Fodde-Crotzer met for the interview there was an instant simpatico and an immediate understanding of what each was looking for in a new gallery venture.

Benedickt wanted assurances that the new undertaking would bring more “out of the visual box art” to the valley, and Fodde-Crotzer set out to find artists that fit the bill.

According to Fodde-Crotzer, Benedickt is the “voice of reason” for the gallery and keeps her in check when her ideas seem to go too far. As Simone puts it, “… one thing we invariably agree on, is that there won’t be any buffalos, bears or deer … no pink, or the slightest inkling of teal (in the gallery). The work must be provocative (and) visually engaging.”

Searching for artists through people she knew in Boulder and other places, she pulled together a group of young, lesser-known but talented artists whose work, though different from each other, exhibited a spiritual connection and common thread.

Everything from sculpture and pottery, to photography and painting line the gallery walls and stand on pedestals in this tiny location off the beaten path.

Asked why they didn’t open in a more visible locale, or at least one that was known for its art, Fodde-Crotzer said the gallery space already existed at the front of Benedickt’s studio, and that the rent was far more agreeable than high-end Vail or Beaver Creek.

The number 12 figures greatly in the formation of The Collaborative. Opening on December 12 last year, beginning with 12 artists – nine women and three men – it took just 12 weeks to get from concept to opening night.

Since then, in order to offset the lack of walk-in trade typical to Vail Village galleries, and to attract an audience to the lesser-known venue on U.S. Highway 6 in Eagle-Vail, The Collaborative invests what it saves in rent into advertising and promotion. “Product awareness,” is how Fodde-Crotzer describes the effort to build traffic and a customer base. In fact, the gallery has applied for a special events license to enable them to combine shows with wine tastings and other planned happenings.

To keep things fresh the gallery will continue to rotate shows every month, and draw upon existing, as well as new talent coming on board.

Fodde-Crotzer said the gallery’s first season was very encouraging, with clientele coming from many of the second homes in the valley.

Four new artists are being added to the mix this summer: Mark Dixon, Aaron Karp, Donald Mitchell and Scott Reuman. They will join some of the more prolific and interesting artists in the group, such as Laurel Swab, one of the best of the gallery’s portfolio. Swab is a gifted artist who works in a variety of media. Some visitors consider her nudes controversial, but there is no denying their skillful handling. Her sculptures are equally fascinating, and are unlike anything you will see elsewhere. Her wall pieces, hung as if they were sconces, contain symbolism and iconic messages that provoke the viewer and stimulate thought.

Given the differences in painting styles, multi-media work, and sculpture on display in this unique showcase, it isn’t too difficult to understand why art lovers travel that extra exit to visit The Collaborative.

Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of two books on design and can be reached at

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