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Peak at the artist’s process

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photoSculptor Bob Will, seen through a mixed-media piece at his studio in Red Cliff. The sculpture combines exotic woods with copper, bronze and aluminum and will be shown during the Red Cliff Studio Tour this weekend.
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RED CLIFF, Colorado ” A painting hanging in David Bernstein’s Cordillera home reminds him of a family day spent biking through Red Cliff last year. David, his wife Kim and their three daughters were in town for the enclave’s annual Studio Tour.

They spent the day biking the handful of streets in town, stopping at each artist’s studio.

“We were absolutely charmed,” Bernstein said. “Red Cliff is itself such a charming spot, but to see these artists and what they do in that setting, and see such beautiful art that reflects the area, that was really great.”

He purchased an oil painting of a barn that’s down the highway, toward Leadville. Mount Massive towers in the background. Barb Bomier, one of the founders of the tour, painted the piece, which “captured it beautifully,” Bernstein said.

“Every time we see it it reminds us of that great weekend,” he said.

Over the years the small mountain community has become a haven for artists. This year, 11 artists will open their creative spaces to the public.

“I think artists in general are drawn towards natural beauty rather than, say, I-70,” said Scott Burgess, a woodworker and Red Cliff resident taking part in the tour. “(Red Cliff) is serene and beautiful, and very quiet, so it’s a good place to do your art. That, coupled with the fact that the town rents studios, cheaply, in the community center.”

The peaceful, beautiful setting drew Joan Norris and her husband, Jim Lamont, to the town many years ago. Norris, an oil painter, and Lamont, a photographer, share a studio on Spruce Street. Norris helped start the tour 11 years ago, and though the timeline is a little fuzzy now, she said the first version of the tour was called “Art on the Fence.”

“We literally hung stuff on the fence down on the corner of Eagle and Water Street,” Norris said. Not long after, a valleywide studio tour got going, but that didn’t last long, either.

“It was just too much ” too many people, too spread out,” she said.

Norris and two other Red Cliff artists ” Bomier and Sydney Summers ” teamed up and decided to host a Red Cliff tour. The goal was to give local artists a chance to show their work.

“I believe in the art of the people,” Norris said. “I have paintings for $35. The people can have real art and not have to buy posters and other kinds of replications; they can have something real, that was done with love.”

Red Cliff is a “cute little town that people don’t often visit,” said Leslie Fordham, the art director for the town of Vail.

“There’s an awful lot of creativity going on in the county,” she said, adding that she’s attended the tour three or four times in the past and plans on attending this weekend.

“For the visitor to get the opportunity to see a lot of art in one place, it gives you a good idea of the breadth of the work being done.”

After taking a year off from the tour, woodworker Scott Burgess is returning and will his hand-crafted furniture at his home at 596 Eagle Street.

Lamont will exhibit landscape photographs taken in the area, as well as photos taken during his extensive travels in China, Russia, Turkey and Greece, to name a few countries.

Norris is a plein-air artist whose brightly-colored oil paintings depict local gardens, aspen trees and fall foliage. Norris and Lamont’s studio is located at 654 Spruce Street.

Contemporary sculpturist Bob Will combines exotic hardwoods, like zebra wood, with mentals like brass, copper and stainless steel. His wife, Lin Janson-Will, uses thin layers of combination resin/oil paint to create her mostly-Colorado landscape paintings. Their work will be displayed at 524 Water Street.

Bomier often paints old, rusty trucks. Her work will be on display at 159 Monument Street.

Five of the artists will show their work at the Community Center located at 444 Pine Street. Paul Bahn, who is new to the studio tour this year, will be showing original watercolors, original inks and prints.

Dustin Zentz, a painter and woodworker who refurbishes antique furniture, joins the tour for the first time.

Oil painter Nathalie Roy will show wildlife pieces, including a series on roosters, as well as landscape paintings.

Caroline Blaker, who lives in New Mexico, will return to the tour to show her oil paintings, prints and drawings, as well as interior latex paintings.

Summers, now a Denver resident, will exhibit her watercolor paintings, many of which depict snow scenes.

Historically, only artists who work or rent studio space in Red Cliff can take part in the tour, but next year Norris envisions more of an art festival, open to all county artists.

With a burgeoning art scene downvalley, and many new, young artists in the county, Norris feels like it might be time to “put new life into” the tour.

“I was a teacher at CMC (Colorado Mountain College) for 18 years, so I’ve always had the philosophy of letting people create what they want and become who they are,” she said. “I believe in that artistic and creative impulse and from children on, I think it should be nurtured. We can’t all be real estate developers, thank God.”

High Life editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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