Anderson Ranch: Mentoring Artistic Excellence
By Doug Casebeer
The Aspen area has been a hub of creative thinking for over 70 years. That feeling of artistic vitality nurtured a community need that helped establish the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in the late 1960s. Two important Aspen organizations, The Center of the Eye and The Center of the Hand merged to form the Anderson Ranch. The humble beginnings of the Ranch were rooted in photography and ceramics. The two pivotal artists were Cheri Hiser and Paul Soldner. After several years of bringing his graduate students here for the summers, Paul invited his close friend Sam Maloof to set up the wood shop. In 1971, David Ellsworth became the first artist in resident; working in the wood shop.
Our special exhibit celebrates artists that have been participates in developing artistic excellence and artistic merit at Anderson Ranch. They embody the creative community and spirit that is the roots of Anderson Ranch.
As anyone can imagine, the Ranch was loose and free in the late 1960s and early 70s. Paul Soldner was chosen by community planners to pick one of the seven working Ranches in the Brush Creek Valley of Pitkin County, Colorado, where arts activities could happen. When I asked Paul about the choice, he would refer to the remarkable views and studio potential from the old Anderson Ranch log buildings. Artists moved in and never departed.
Scandinavian farmers and ranchers settled the original homesteads in the late 1880s. These hearty settlers were brought here to support the mining industry. Since the beginning and to this day, creative problem solvers have been raising families and making a life on the Ranch in its old log structures.
Anderson Ranch moved in and out of several operating models in the 1970s before landing on the current model of summer workshops, artist residencies and visiting artist projects. In 1984, with a very active and involved board of directors, Brad Miller, the Executive Director, set in motion a direction for operation that supported year-round studio activities and staffing. The early team of Artist Directors was Jim Baker, Peter Korn and Doug Casebeer. As the studios were renovated and spaces were added, programs were developed in printmaking, painting, sculpture, photography, furniture design, critical studies and children’s programs. Architect Harry Teague designed an intentional creative environment where artists of different media could move freely from studio to studio.