| AspenTimes.com

Eden Gallery’s Monopoly Man makes a stop in Aspen

The street artist known as Alex Monopoly visited Aspen’s Eden Gallery over the weekend, seeing for the first time in-person the new gallery that has made Monopoly’s wealth-centered artwork a centerpiece of its two-story showroom and more than 7,000 square feet of exhibition space.

“I’m blown away,” he said Friday at Eden, sporting sneakers tagged with his name and dollar signs and wearing a black face mask (as a street artist, he was well-prepared for face covering mandates amid the novel coronavirus pandemic: Until recently, he wore a mask at all times in public to hide his identity from authorities who might arrest him for vandalism).

A New York native, Monopoly began as a street artist creating tags and broke through during the Great Recession, around 2008 and 2009 when he began spray-painting the face of investment scammer Bernie Madoff on the body of the Monopoly Man from the classic board game.

It fit with the iconography of the Occupy Wall Street movement of the moment and was embraced by those in the camp of the 99%.

“It was a negative connotation back then, and I ran with that,” Monopoly said.

The distinct Monopoly Man tag got attention in New York and served as a launching pad to a studio art practice, international fame and some art world infamy as he found success without the usual trajectory of a contemporary artist. These days he is represented by Eden Gallery – which also has locations in New York, London, Miami and the Greek Isles – and has more than 1.2 million Instagram followers keeping tabs on his art and his jet-setting lifestyle.

As his practice has expanded, the artist has continued to use the Monopoly Man and other familiar illustrated characters – Richie Rich, Scrooge McDuck, Jessica Rabbit – to depict cartoonish conspicuous consumption.

Whether he is seeking to condemn or celebrate this frivolous wealth culture is in the eye of the beholder.

“For a lot of these works, it’s kind of like a celebration of life and wealth and success,” he said. “It’s a token of good luck. I have a lot of Wall Street guys who keep my art in their offices like a good luck charm.”

Recently he has made a series of Aspen-centric pieces for the local gallery that play up the extreme wealth here: Scrooge McDuck, Richie Rich and the Monopoly Man throwing cash out of the Silver Queen Gondola, for instance, or skiing down Aspen Mountain.

“When I do gallery shows in specific places, it’s nice to make a piece that relates to what’s going on here,” he said. “And it’s kind of like a souvenir from when you’re here with your family and you’re having great memories of your vacation.”

His evolution as a studio artist continues, years after his move from the street into the gallery. At first, Monopoly recalled, he made simple canvases with the Monopoly Man on them, and gradually they grew more ornate with detail and setting-specific detail.

Among the newer pieces on display at Eden is a multi-layered mixed media piece depicting Richie Rich and the Monopoly Man heli-skiing – it’s made from the pages of vintage “Richie Rich” comic books, spray paint and acrylic paint.

“I’ve gotten so much better as an artist throughout, because I’ve spent so much time in the studio rethinking ideas, learning different techniques,” he said.

Monopoly had visited Aspen for fun and for snowboarding a few times before, he said, but last weekend’s visit was his first time seeing Eden’s space. His sales at Eden have been strong, he said, although owner Cathia Klimovsky opened the gallery — in the remodeled building previously home to Boogie’s Diner — in October amid the pandemic and economic crisis.

“We’re very fortunate that the gallery has been doing amazing,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people were at home looking at their empty walls or redesigning their houses. So we were selling great during all of this.”

Before his weekend visit to Aspen, which included a small private reception in the gallery, the artist designed a series of ice sculptures for display on the sidewalk outside of Eden which include his tag, Richie Rich and the Monopoly Man. During his visit, Monopoly said, he checked out other galleries and took note of some of the commercial core’s street art, including Shepard Fairey’s mural off Hunter Street just half-a-block from Eden.

“We’ve got to find a wall for me to do one,” he said, later adding: “I want to spend more time here. It’s such an amazing place and such a good art town.”


Wheeler Opera House announces new director

Lisa Rigsby Peterson will begin her tenure as executive director of the Wheeler Opera House on March 1. Courtesy photo

Lisa Rigsby Peterson has been hired as the new executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, the city of Aspen announced Tuesday afternoon.

Rigsby Peterson touts a career in performing arts leadership in Denver and the Front Range, most recently as the founding executive director of the Lone Tree Arts Center, where she served for more than 10 years.

Her first day on the job at the city-owned Wheeler will be Monday.

“Joining the city of Aspen to lead the team at the Wheeler Opera House ties together so many threads that have been important to me: leading a dedicated team to create exceptional arts experiences in a memorable setting, working in a community that is passionate about the arts and the impact they can make,” Rigsby Peterson said in the announcement. “And living in a place that most people only dream about. What an opportunity!”

Rigsby Peterson takes the reins one year after the resignation of executive director Gena Buhler, who oversaw a transformative period of growth for the historic theater’s programming and festivals from 2015 to 2020.

Nancy Lesley, the city’s director of special events and marketing, has served as interim executive director since Buhler’s departure. The theater has been dark since March 2020 and the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Six people, representing 50% of the Wheeler team, left their positions at the historic theater between February and November 2020.

A consultant’s taxpayer-funded analysis of internal operations at the Wheeler concluded last year that its staff is underpaid and overworked, recommending more positions be added and salaries be increased. But a second study, commissioned after Buhler’s departure, cast doubt on those conclusions. Buhler had pushed for better compensation for herself and her staff.

Rigsby Peterson’s starting salary will be $138,000. Buhler’s starting salary, in 2015, was $97,500.

Rigsby Peterson’s hire comes after a national search conducted by Arts Consulting Group, including over 140 candidates, with input from the Wheeler Advisory Board, city of Aspen staff, and members of Aspen’s arts community.

“Lisa differentiated herself from a strong pool of candidates with her depth of experience with a similar venue and a strong educational background in the arts,” said Diane Foster, assistant city manager. “At a time when we are navigating the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on programming opportunities and repair work to the facility, Lisa brings a wealth of arts management leadership to help us restore Wheeler as the community treasure we know it to be.”

Rigsby Peterson will be responsible for reopening the Wheeler when public health restrictions allow, along with staffing, programming and capital improvements. The historic theater has a roughly $30 million endowment, funded by a real estate transfer tax.

The city announcement touted Rigsby Peterson’s innovative approach to strategic artistic partnerships and programs in Lone Tree, where she helped identify unmet needs in the community. These programs include sensory-friendly performances to engage those with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities, programs for those with Alzheimer’s or early memory loss, and extensive youth, school, and family programs.

Before the Lone Tree post, Rigsby Peterson worked at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado, Curious Theatre Company, the Colorado Children’s Chorale, and Phamaly Theatre Company.

She attended the University of Colorado-Boulder and grew up in Evergreen. Since the 1970s, Rigsby Peterson has regularly made camping visits to Maroon Lake and attended Aspen Music Festival performances, according to the announcement.

She holds a Master of Fine Arts from Yale School of Drama in Theatre Management.

“The idea of bringing my work experience and passion to a new community, and particularly one which has had a special place in my family’s history over three generations, is exciting to me,” added Rigsby Peterson. “I relish the opportunity to be a part of the great legacy of the Wheeler.”

Jazz Aspen announces virtual ‘house party’ benefit

Jazz Aspen Snowmass will host a virtual 30th anniversary celebration on March 20, the nonprofit announced this week.

The JAS “House Party,” scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Zoom with Denver-based comedian Adam Cayton-Holland hosting, will be virtual experience including performances from many artists who have appeared at JAS’ June Experience & JAS Café series through the years and are scheduled to return to in summer of 2021.

Attendees can customize their experience by moving from room to room (in Zoom terms, “break-out groups”) for a variety of activities.

In the kitchen will be cooking demos including appetizers by Denver-based Chef Bijou Thomas and dessert from Pastry Chef Stephanie Maratia of Sweets by Stephanie. In the wine cellar viewers can join a DAOU Family Vineyards sommelier for a tasting of three of their most exclusive wines. At the bar a representative from Woody Creek Distillers will offer a mixology experience; and in the game room, JAS trivia.

Cayton-Holland, who will be the emcee-ing from the living room, is a national touring comic who has appeared on Conan, Comedy Central Presents, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and more. He has been named one of Esquire magazine’s “25 Comics to Watch” and one of “10 Comics to Watch” by Variety.

Multiple ticket options are available for the event, including a VIP Experience, which includes home delivery of the prepped ingredients for the food demos provided by Clark’s Market, three bottles of DAOU Family Vineyards wines for the wine tasting, a Woody Creek Distillers cocktail kit for the mixology session and a two aprons for the cooks in the kitchen. A VIP Beverage Experience ticket includes all of the same above benefits minus the food and a basic House Party Ticket includes access to the event with the option to add-on the food, wines and/or cocktail kit.

Special guest appearances will include testimonials and performances from some of JAS’ favorite artists of years past. Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, Take 6, DeeDee Bridgewater, the Delvon LaMarr Trio, JAS Academy students and JAS local In-Schools students will all be showcased throughout the evening.

The night will close-out with a dance party with to a mix of JAS’ favorites, including classics from Sly & The Family Stone, who have a scheduled performance at JAS in June. Guests will vote on the best dancers with the winner receiving two VIP tickets to the upcoming JAS Labor Day Experience.

All proceeds from the evening and a silent auction taking place online in the weeks leading into the event, will benefit JAS Music Education Programming. The Silent Auction will open on OneCause on Feb. 23 with items including private concerts and events, hotel stays, health and fitness passes.

More information at jazzaspensnowmass.org.


Time Travelers: Retro film series showcases fascinating, newly digitized Aspen film footage


What: Time Travel Tuesdays Retro Film Series (virtual)

Where: Vimeo, register at aspenhistory.org

When: Tuesdays through March 9, 7 p.m.

How much: Suggested donation $10/stream or $60 for the 8-part series

More info: Streams are available on-demand for 36 hours following the 7 p.m. start

With a new initiative to digitize vintage footage of old Aspen and a new streaming version of its popular Retro Film Series online, the Aspen Historical Society is taking viewers into a time machine this winter.

The eight-part weekly series runs through mid-March on Vimeo through March 9, buffeted by many newly digitzed and long unseen films.

In addition to the unearthed footage screening at the series, the archival team at the Historical Society is working to digitize much more for future viewing. The nonprofit recently earned grants from the Fred and Elli Iselin Foundation and the Colorado Historical Records Advisory Board.

That money is funding the digitization of some 8,000 feet of old 8- and 16-milimeter film in the vault, according to archivist Anna Scott.

“Once they are digitized we will be creating a film library with many of the films or film clips for people to watch,” Scott said.

The 2021 iteration of the Retro Film Series showcases the history of skiing and the evolution of the local resort from the 1940s through the 1970s.

Each showcase includes multiple short films. Among them are local classics like “Little Skier’s Big Day” (1955) and “Highlands Fling” (1975) and film from the 1950 FIS World Championships on Aspen Mountain, showcasing the insanity of early downhill ski racers as they bomb Spar Gulch, fly off of the Niagra cliff down Little Nell.

But the big draw for 2021 is the newly digitized films and unseen footage.

Next week’s presentation includes the fascinating 1964 travelogue “Big Week at Aspen,” narrated by star TV host of the day Jack Douglas for an “armchair vacation” series.

Filmed in color and professionally edited and directed, it’s an eye-opening survey of the town’s locals and resort amenities in the mid-‘60s before the hippie incursion, with glimpses of “Mad Men” style, a budding arts scene and old-school ski culture. It includes appearances by the legendary folk singer and activist Katie Lee and the novelist Leon Uris.


FEB. 23

‘Big Week at Aspen’ (1964) and ‘Aspen Glow ‘(1969)


‘10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale’ (1940s), ‘1950 FIS World Championships’ (1950) and ‘Wintersköl’ (1955)


‘The Outrageous Ski School Movie’ (1975), ‘Aspen Dream’ (1975), ‘Many Faces of Aspen (1955) and ‘Aspen Summer Mood’ (1963)


Running 23 minutes, the film boasts vivid footage of Wintersköl shenanigans, early snowmobile (“skidoo”) trips up Smuggler Mountain, dog-sledding at Ashcroft, a ski-up bank teller window downtown and the original Lift One in action at its original configuration to Dean Street.

Its footage of Uris, whose Aspen exploits are scantly chronicled, shows the writer working at his typewriter at home and in an interview about why he moved his family here.

“I think the very name Aspen conjures an image of a mountain paradise,” Uris, the “Exodus” author who was among the most popular novelists in the U.S. at the time, says in the film. “My whole family are avid skiers. We have been coming here for four winters. And then we go back to the back to the big city and see the freeways grow a little more cancerous each year, the shopping centers a little gaudier, and somehow or another they always seem to be building a high-rise apartment in my backyard.”

The Uris clan tried Aspen for a winter, he explains, and then stuck around.

“It’s a wonderful place to raise a family and I think a better place to do my writing,” Uris says, later adding: “For a town its size, nowhere in the world today is so inhabited by people who love her as Aspen. Besides that, I think at heart I am a ski bum.”

There are glimpses of the Aspen Institute campus and a seminar in the Boettcher Building, the Hotel Jerome during its midcentury period painted all white and shots of West End Victorians (“treasured heirlooms that rarely go up for sale”). The miner John Herron (as in Herron Park), who had lived in Aspen since the 1894, spins a few yearns on-camera about Aspen’s mining heyday.

And the film captures Wintersköl in its wild mid-‘60s heyday, when the winter carnival was a boozy affair that seemingly enlivened all of town’s residents and visitors. As Douglas puts it, “New Year’s Eve is merely a warm-up for Winterskol,” in between scenes capturing the torchlight procession on Aspen Mountain, the parade of 40-plus floats (“the wackiest and most delightful parade we’ve seen”) and a brass band-led dance featuring oldsters doing the Charleston.

Katie Lee pops up singing a novelty tune about her first ski lesson for an attentive crowd at the Aspen Inn.

The film captures events like a “para-skiing” competition challenging skydivers to land on Little Nell and ski down the mountain along with a “Saloon Slalom” that pits costumed bar staff from the Red Onion versus the Golden Horn.

“These fun-loving ski bugs don’t know whether it’s Sunday, Tuesday or next week,” Douglas says of the boozy event. “They’ve averaged less than two hours of sleep for the last three nights.”

“Big Week at Aspen” also detours to profile a local chef at the Copper Kettle and artisans in downtown shops selling handmade bells and decorative glass (“imaginative but not far out,” Douglas assures viewers).

The travelogue lives up to the Time Travel Tuesdays moniker of the Historical Society series, placing you in some familiar local spaces among an earlier generation of locals who knew how to have a good time.

“Even people who never touch a ski come here for a winter vacation they’ll not soon forget,” Douglas says in the narration, “and some people become so enamored of Aspen that even when the vacation ends they stay on and decide to live here.”

The Retro Film series has been a popular staple of the Aspen Historical Society’s public programming in recent winters. In its most recent in-person form, screenings were held in the bar at the Limelight. For this season amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the series went to streaming online and the Historical Society partnered with Aspen Film to make it happen.

“The series is the perfect collaboration for the two organizations,” said Aspen Film executive and artistic director Susan Wrubel, “who have been looking for ways to work together to showcase onscreen Aspen history.”

Each screening begins at 7 p.m. and is available for 36 hours. Registration is required, with a suggested donation of $10 per screening or $60 for all eight.

“Historical ski footage stands out as some of Aspen Historical Society’s most treasured artifacts,” Kelly Murphy, president and CEO of the Aspen Historical Society, said when the 2021 series was announced. “We’ve prioritized efforts to digitize many priceless and often delicate film reels that have been donated to the AHS Collection and we’re excited to continue sharing this beloved part of local history with the public. Further, we’re honored to partner with Aspen Film to bring the past to life from the comfort of your home.”


Room with a View

From Louise Deroualle’s new series “Coberta de Nuvens.” Courtesy Anderson Ranch Arts Center
From Louise Deroualle’s new series “Coberta de Nuvens.” Courtesy Anderson Ranch Arts Center
From Louise Deroualle’s new series “Coberta de Nuvens.” Courtesy Anderson Ranch Arts Center

In the early days of the novel coronavirus stay-home period in spring 2020, the artist Louise Deroualle revisited an early work of hers titled “In solitude there is consolation.”

She’d made these ceramic landscapes in graduate school, inspired by views of the flatlands of Lincoln, Nebraska. Now in lockdown in her apartment on the campus of Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, where Deroualle is ceramic studio coordinator, she found comfort in looking out of her window, across the Roaring Fork Valley to the forest above Woody Creek, and especially in the clouds and moving overhead. She has photographed the view almost daily, capturing it in all seasons and all weather in hundreds of images since 2018.

Spending so much time alone through the pandemic, she sought to make new ceramic landscapes that might capture that view and speak to the comfort it provided through the grief and uncertainty of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

She had aimed to complete this new body of work by September 2020, when she was among the featured artists in the Red Brick Center for the Arts “Resilience” group show.

But Deroualle didn’t get the conceptual and physical pieces of the project together before then. That experience taught Deroualle a valuable lesson so many Americans have learned in the past year about letting go of pre-pandemic notions of productivity and achievement, going easy on herself and letting the work take its time to ripen.

“I feel pressure, like I need to be producing all the time,” said Deroualle, who balances her artistic practice with her administrative role at the Ranch, which has called on her to lead through the pandemic’s multitude of new protocols and program changes. “It took me a few months until I was just like, ‘It’s not time yet. It will come and things will evolve.’ Sometimes things have to be on hold.”

The original body of “In solitude” work was born out of Deroualle’s jarring move to Nebraska from her native Sao Paolo, Brazil. This follow-up would instead be about a journey inward during the public health crisis.

As she made tiles for the new work, she found it needed to be physically more rigid in form than the earlier iteration. She pressed them into frames to shape them, and made them very thick – about an inch – shaping bulky forms. They’re literally substantive and weighty works, matching their emotional heft of their subject and, Deroualle suggested, the resilience this historical moment has demanded.

“It has something to do with COVID, too, like how we’re feeling so constrained and how we’re being pushed to adapt to this new thing,” Deroualle explained. “It was not a freeing thing, it was very contained.”

It took much exploration to figure out how to finish them. The original “In solitude” pieces had used slips and glazes, but that wasn’t working for Deroualle anymore.

“I did a lot of trials with glazes and I was just very unhappy because they were not communications what I wanted,” she explained.

Frustrated over the summer, she put it on hold for awhile and turned to other projects, in hopes that some new creative solutions would germinate in her mind during the time away.

Eventually, in December – nine months after she’d begun – Deroualle tried using watercolor. The paint, with all its gauzy impressionistic properties, turned out to be just the right way for Deroualle to represent her perspective and the view from her room and the dreamy sense of calm it provided.

On top of the paint she put a layer of encaustic, further fogging up the view.

“The work is personal to me,” she said. “Looking at the view of the sky was my way of finding peace, a way to reconnect with myself. … It was my way of coping with COVID.”

In the end, the title of the work changed to “Coberta de Nuvens,” Portuguese for “Cloud Covered,” inspired by the blanket-like emotional warmth that the view has provided the artist. And the public will get to see it soon. Deroualle recently landed the new work an April exhibition at the Carbondale Clay Center in a dual show with the ceramicist Molly Peacock titled “Nas Nuvens – Perspectives of Two.”

“I find connection and a sense of belonging by looking out and up to these ever-changing formations,” she wrote in an artist statement. “Touched by light, they constantly change colors; touched by wind they are always moving and transforming. These clouds give me peace and perspective. They make the uncertain more bearable.”


Aspen Ideas to host free two-day event on economy next week

The Aspen Institute will host two days of online programming on the current state and future of the American economy next week.

Dubbed “Aspen Ideas: RE$ET,” the free participatory event will run Monday and Tuesday, featuring leading economists, business leaders, entrepreneurs and voices from main streets across the U.S.

In the wake of a pandemic-induced recession that has disproportionately impacted people of color, small businesses, front-line workers and women, “RE$ET” will explore proposals to offer more robust and equitable opportunity in the job market, in business growth and in growing America’s resilience to future setbacks.

Participants can register and view the schedule at aspenideas.org.

“This pandemic has been devastating, particularly on those who were more economically vulnerable and less financially secure to begin with” said Kitty Boone, executive director of the Aspen Ideas Festival. “We should be under no illusions about the scale of the challenge ahead of us, nor can we neglect the power of this moment to address it. Urgent times require urgent action. But there is also opportunity — Aspen Ideas: RE$ET asks if we have an opening to create a fair, inclusive and sustainable economy, and brings forward some of the best minds to explore how we might get there.”

RE$ET will be co-hosted by Joanna Smith Ramani, managing director of the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, and Scarlet Fu, chief markets correspondent for Bloomberg News, which is co-producing the events.

Confirmed speakers include Nicholas Burns (Aspen Strategy Group), Bill Bynum (Hope Credit Union Enterprise Corporation), Jean Case (National Geographic Society & Case Foundation), Rep. James Clyburn (U.S. House Majority Whip), Mariana Mazzucato (“Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism”), Gina McCarthy (White House National Climate Advisor), Amanda Renteria (Code for America), Reshma Saujani (Girls Who Code) and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (Minnesota).

A full speakers list and more program details are available online.

Finalists announced for Aspen Words Literary Prize

Three novels and two short story collections are in the final running for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize, the nonprofit announced Wednesday.

The $35,000 annual award, now in its fourth year, goes to a work of fiction that “illuminates vital contemporary issues.”

The finalists are “Against the Loveless World” by Susan Abulhawa, “Leave the World Behind” by Rumaan Alam, “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdrich, “The Office of Historical Corrections” by Danielle Evans and “If I Had Two Wings” by the late Randall Kenan.

The shortlisted titles address a broad range of important contemporary social issues, from the dissolution of indigenous lands to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the intersectionality of being Black and queer, as well as racism in America. They were culled from a previously announced long list of 15 titles.

“These books demonstrate the power of fiction to transform the way we see the world around us,” Aspen Words executive director Adrienne Brodeur said in an announcement. “They deal with serious topics, but among these novels and story collections are also stunning love stories and characters who will make you laugh out loud.”

The finalists were selected by a five-member jury, including Emily Bernard, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Daniel Shaw and Luis Alberto Urrea.

“This utterly compelling novel of love, passion and politics is also a story of personal and revolutionary awakening,” Viet Thanh Nguyen wrote in the jury’s citation for “Against the Loveless World.” “Susan Abulhawa weaves a thrilling account of Nahr and her life — from young girl to independent woman — into the larger tapestry of Palestinian dispossession and resistance.”

Shaw called “Leave the World Behind” “a completely original, utterly mysterious, gripping page-turner” in its citation, adding: “The story is precisely of the moment in how it tackles race, class and the fragility of our planet, yet is absolutely timeless. And terrifying. Good luck putting it down.”

Of Erdrich’s “The Night Watchman,” Urrea wrote: “It can move from comedic visions of eccentric boxers to terrifying stories of the disappearances of Native women, hints of ghost stories and a prophetic explosion of violence inside the nation’s capital city. It is a wise and transformative masterwork.”

Manyika’s jury citation for “The Office of Historical Corrections,” a novella and story collection, reads, “The weight of history — especially that which has been hidden, ignored or whitewashed — lies at the core of this brilliant collection of stories.”

Kenan, who died in August at age 57, was a featured author at the 2010 Summer Words Writers Conference and Literary Festival. Of his story collection “If I Had Two Wings,” published weeks before his death, juror Emily Bernard wrote “these stories attend lovingly to the rich complexity of Black and queer identity in the author’s signature shining, subtle prose. We were greatly saddened by Randall Kenan’s premature passing, and this final published work stands as a fitting and enduring legacy.”

The $35,000 winner will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony April 21. The event will feature a conversation with the finalists, moderated by Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

For local readers, Aspen Words also will partner with the Pitkin County Library for its third annual Community Read featuring the prize-winning book. Past iterations have included free books, author talks and book club-style community discussions.

Pitkin County Library invites community to ‘Read Wider’

The Pitkin County Library launched its new Read Wider program this month, aiming to build empathy through curated books, movies and music that might help local readers walk some miles in other peoples’ shoes.

Building from the “own voices” movement, the monthly program will focus on stories told about the experiences of diverse communities by their members. February’s Read Wider is inspired by Black History Month. The library recently released voluminous resource lists online for reading, listening and viewing as well as interactive tools and virtual discussions on Zoom.

The library has Read Wider programs planned through November, which will honor Native American Heritage Month. In between, the series will highlight women’s history, Arab Americans, Jewish Americans, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, LGBTQ stories, immigrants and refugees, Hispanic heritage and people with disabilities.

The wide scope, considerable depth of the programming and curation of Read Wider marks a new approach for the library.

“Quite often, what we have done is just say, ‘It’s Black History Month, look at our display,’” said program coordinator Martha Durgy, referring to the prominent bookshelf displays inside building.

Both the pandemic’s closure of the library building and the political imperatives of our moment meant Durgy and her team needed to do it differently.

Along with lists of books, movies, music and online resources, each month’s Read Wider program will include virtual presentations by authors and book club-style discussions with library staff and local readers. The first is this week, a free online talk on wrongful convictions with the exonerated prisoner Ndume Olatushani and Anne-Marie Moyes, director of the Korey Wise Innocence Project at the University of Colorado-Boulder School of Law.

Read Wider is part of a growing ecosystem of Aspen-area initiatives using books to broaden perspectives, an education movement that’s gained steam here since the Roaring Fork Valley’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations of summer 2020.


What: ‘Wrongful Convictions: Presentation & Personal Story’

Who: Ndume Olatushani and Anne-Marie Moyes

Where: Zoom via pitcolib.org

When: Thursday, Feb. 18, 5:30 p.m.

How Much: Free

* * *

What: Virtual Discussion

Where: Zoom via pitcolib.org

When: Tuesday, Feb. 23, noon; Friday, Feb. 26, 5 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: Participants will be entered to win a gift card from Mawa’s Kitchen.

* * *

* Download the monthly series of curated resource lists for adults, teens, and children. Or stop by the library’s Mill Street foyer to pick up one.

* Download or pick up a resource tracker to record what you read, watch, listen to and explore.

Colorado Mountain College recently launched its annual Common Reader program, encouraging valley residents to read the exonerated death row inmate Anthony Ray Hunton’s memoir of “The Sun Does Shine.” Collaborating with Roaring Fork Show Up and the Aspen Skiing Co., they’re stocking it in the Little Free Libraries at four locations. That book is the first recommended by Moyes in her list of recommended reading for the Pitkin County Library program.

And the Garfield County Library recently announced a Feb. 26 virtual program titled “What’s Race Have to Do with It” on systemic racism with Rosemarie Allen, head of the nonprofit Institute for Racial Equity & Excellence and professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The Read Wider initiative was the brainchild of Pitkin County Library assistant Sierra Fransen, who suggested building community engagement through an ongoing curated “own voices” program. Momentum built for the idea as the institution sought ways to assist with awareness-building following the Black Lives Matter demonstrations here and around the United States.

Collection managers at the library have since set out to craft enlightening and eclectic resource lists following the precepts of “own voices,” which itself has grown in prominence since the fierce national debate over Jeanine Cummins’ 2020 novel “American Dirt,” a Mexican immigration story that drew acclaim but also allegations of cultural appropriation against its white author, and who can or should tell whose stories.

“I was sort of averse to this initially,” Durgy said, “because I thought, ‘Hey, great literature can be written by anyone about anything.’”

But raising awareness of storytelling from a community’s own is a valuable service, she concluded.

Read Wider provides easy-to-navigate resource guides that cover an immense amount of titles and creators, as well as downloadable PDFs with expanded lists.

It’s like a syllabus from the best professor on campus for a course that can run for the month or for the rest of your life of continued discovery. The fiction resource list, for instance, for February includes more than 60 titles — classics like Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” to recent works like the Marlon James fantasy title “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ debut novel “The Water Dancer.”

Nonfiction titles go from classics like W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk” to recent studies like Jabari Asim’s “We Can’t Breathe” and Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns.”

The lists include entry-points for adults as well as teens and kids, encompassing movies, music and art alongside books of fiction and nonfiction. The online lists include links to check out any of the items from the library or in online holdings.

Children’s titles and picture books range from “A is for Activist” and the kids’ biography “Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X,” to chapter books like Kwame Alexander’s “Crossover” and Jerry Craft’s “New Kid,” up to young adult books like Nic Stone’s “Dear Martin.”

The library also is providing downloadable resource trackers, so participants can track what they read, watch and listen to, sharing their impressions with the Read Wider community online.

“We want to invite people to share and talk about what they feel enthusiastic about or what disturbs them, what they loved, what they learned,” Durgy said.


Carbondale event Light the Night with Love unites community members, local artists

A farolito designed for the Light the Night with Love event this weekend in Carbondale.

This Valentine’s Day weekend, Carbondale Arts is teaming up with over 20 different artists to provide an interactive experience for community members that doubles as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

Light the Night with Love will feature a multitude of sights and performances, Carbondale Arts Executive Director Amy Kimberly said. Kimberly, who is in her 10th year in the leadership position, said the artistic elements will await walkers as they follow the Rio Grande Trail from Derail Park to the Latino Folk Art Garden.

“As you walk along, it’s a lot of delight, curiosity, awe…you either bring your heart glasses if you have already gotten to them or we’ll give them to you there, so whenever you look at any lights or fire or the moon, anything with light, a heart will be around it,” Kimberly said.

The event is sold out, but those who were able to snag tickets signed up for time slots. Kimberly said the plan is to space out groups 5 minutes apart from one another so they follow COVID-19 guidelines. There is snow in the forecast, but Kimberly said seeing the flakes falling will only add to the atmosphere of the event.

“We have some projections, really beautiful projections. Two are more on the artistic side and then we have 5Point Film Festival that will be showing the project they just did with Voices and Bridges High School students,” Kimberly said.

There will also be live performances during the walk. Choreographers from the Dance Initiative, Lilly Bright and Alyson Boell-Marchand, will be dancing within a group in intervals. They prepared a modern dance performance that focuses on the heart and the multiple ways we relate to it.

“We will explore the theme of the relationship to our own heart, our relational heart, you know the heart that is in relationship with others, and the universal heart, Bright said “What it is to connect collectively…The heart is a body organ, but it’s also a source of great power and energy. It’s quite the paradox really, a seed of joy and pain, expansion and contraction.”

Boell-Marchand said that while the movement is choreographed into phrases, the dancers are able to perform with their own interpretation on it. They will play around with the movement and expressions in a collaborative way for the audience to observe. She is a newer member of the Dance Initiative and said she is grateful to be able to take part in Light the Night with Love, especially after the isolated lifestyle that accompanied the pandemic.

“Carbondale is so rich in creativity and to have an opportunity to come out and not only watch but also kind of participate in the outdoor space would be uniting, a sense of uniting the community together again, especially when we’ve all been boxed up in our houses for so long,” Boell-Marchand said.

There will also be performances from The Claim Jumpers, a jump rope team from Denver, the Bonedale Flashmob from Carbondale and a drum circle. Multiple art installations will line the path including different light designs, two fire sculptures, one that says “love” and the other that is in the shape of a heart, ice lanterns, and farolitos that attendees decorated with personalized designs ahead of time.

Kimberly said there will be over 20 volunteers helping to coordinate the event each night, and it was encouraging to see community members step up to help out with this event.

“It’s really been a team effort to put this on…it’s just been a long time since we’ve been able to do something with so many volunteers. It’s really exciting to see people…wanting to be outside, and wanting to see people, and wanting to enjoy something really fun and beautiful and uplifting…I think for us the real value is bringing community together in a meaningful way as we just navigate these final few months of winter.”



Art openings around Aspen this week include Chapel Gallery and House of Hart

The Aspen Chapel Gallery has partnered with nonprofit Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) to open the watercolor and sculpture exhibition “Happy Trails.”

The show will open on Wednesday, Feb. 17 with artists in attendance, from 4-7 p.m. for a limited number of viewers following COVID-19 protocols. It will run through April 11.

Participating artists are Larry Day, John Doyle, Jennifer Jones, Axel Livingston, Julia Marshall, Gregg McFadden, Nika Myers, Missy Prudden, Jane Seglem, Katy VanNostrand and Amy Beidleman, who also curated. Ten percent of sales will go to RFOV.

Gallery co-director Michael Bonds said Beidlemn “has put together an eclectic and diverse show featuring watercolors and sculpture. Please stop by for our safe opening and greet the artists and learn how to get involved with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers.”

The gallery is now open daily from 1-5 p.m. and the exhibition is viewable online at aspenchapelgallery.org.

House of Hart opens ‘Unity’

The House of Hart art gallery on Main Street opened the Hallie Hart exhibition “Unity” on Friday. The show, centered around interpretations of American flags, will run through March 12.

Hart, an abstract expressionist, has shown in eight countries and recently moved from her native New York to Aspen, where she operates her studio and gallery.

“The twist is that I stain unprimed canvases with only the use of my hands, leaving each piece with a common thread, that of a three-dimensional feel,” Hart said in an announcement. “I have been painting with just the use of my hands since my youth after I learned about a famous painter by the name of Jackson Pollock and I was amazed by his technique of working around the canvas on the floor.”

Painting flags began in 2013 when Hart was commissioned to create one. Hart

initially wasn’t interested, but took the offer as a challenge. Years later, in 2019, while painting live at Art Basel Miami, Hart took a hard turn away from her intended plan and made a nearly 20-foot U.S. flag, now on display in Aspen.

Hart is working on a national exhibition tour for the “Unity” exhibition. More info at houseofhart.com.

‘Visceral and Vulnerable’ at Pitkin Projects

On Thursday, Lévy Gorvy opened the new installation “Visceral and Vulnerable” at Pitkin Projects at 516 E. Hyman.

Inspired by the deep solace Aspen’s natural landscape offers in an historic period of upheaval and change, “Visceral and Vulnerable” will remain on view through Feb. 22. It includes art by Diane Arbus, Francesco Clemente, Dan Colen, Lucio Fontana, Seung-Taek Lee, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Carol Rama, Peter Regli, Joel Shapiro and Pat Steir.