| AspenTimes.com

The Art Base names interim director, co-presents new Aspen show

Skye Skinner, the former head of Compass and the Aspen Community School, will serve as interim executive director of the Art Base in Basalt through early next year.

Skinner is stepping in while executive director Genna Moe is out on maternity leave.

Skinner will run the nonprofit arts center and serve as a liaison between Moe and her staff through early January. She spent 22 years at the helm of Compass, the local nonprofit that operates the Aspen and Carbondale Community Schools. Her tenure included leading a $10 million capital campaign and building the new campus of the Community School in Woody Creek.

"I love building relationships and having direct, authentic interactions with people — the key to successful fundraising," Skinner said in an announcement.

The Art Base also recently announced a collaboration with the Skye Gallery in Aspen (run by gallerist Skye Weinglass, not Skinner). Titled "Pink Highlights," the group exhibition is an exploration of gender roles and the color pink — themed to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"Pink Highlights" will open Friday, Sept. 28, with a reception running 5 to 7 p.m. The show runs through Nov. 18.

Theatre Aspen to host Fall Family Fun Fest

Theatre Aspen will host an afternoon of family-friendly entertainment, competition and a picnic with its first annual Fall Family Fun Fest on Saturday, Oct. 20.

The fundraiser, running from 3 to 5 p.m., will send participants on a photo treasure hunt through downtown Aspen.

Groups of two to six people, related or not, can enter as a "family" and compete to win various prizes. A "Best Costume" prize will be awarded to the family with the most impressive themed costume. The family with the most creative catchphrase will win "Best Slogan." The main event — a photo treasure hunt — will lead teams to iconic Aspen locations throughout the core. A "family" photo will mark the clue as solved, and the team with the most photos in 45 minutes will win the grand prize.

"The Family Fun Fest will be a great way for Theatre Aspen to celebrate our town even after our performance season has ended," Theatre Aspen producing director Jed Bernstein said in an announcement.

Registration is $500 per team and includes snacks, beverages, and goodie bags for each family. Theatre Aspen's show choir, The Miner Keys, also will perform. Funds raised at the event support Theatre Aspen's 2019 Summer Season and its year-round education programs.

Writer Catherine O’Connell releases new mystery book

Catherine O'Connell, the Aspen-based novelist behind the High Society Mystery series, will read and sign her new stand-alone mystery "The Last Night Out" on Sept. 27 at Bookbinders Basalt.

The novel, published Sept. 1, is written in the form of a memoir by the fictional Maggie Trueheart. It opens with a brief prologue set in the present day at the Benedict Music Tent here in Aspen, where Trueheart is watching an orchestral concert. A young, late-arriving cellist — presumably dooming a career in music by disrespecting the symphony and conductor — leads her to begin musing over her own youthful missteps a quarter century earlier and how they shaped her life.

From there, the action shifts to Chicago in 1988, where after Trueheart's wild bachelorette party she finds herself in bed with a stranger. She soon learns one of her friends was killed during the course of the night. In the next two weeks leading up to her wedding, as a detective looks for the murderer, she and five friends fall under suspicion. The book returns to the Roaring Fork Valley in an epilogue.

The small dose of local flavor in "The Last Night Out" is a preview of things to come from O'Connell, a longtime local and board member at Aspen Words and English in Action. Her next book, "First Tracks," centers on a female Aspen Mountain ski patroller attempting to solve a murder mystery on the mountain. It is scheduled to be published in late March.

The Bookbinders event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

A dog’s life lessons from Aspen children’s author Walker Jean Mills

Dog is man's best friend and, sometimes, a kid's best role model.

In her new children's book "The Good Dog," local author Walker Jean Mills offers a sweet and simple story aimed at young children about how dogs can teach us love, acceptance and compassion.

It features the young Daisy, who is with her dog, Charlie, as he gets stitched in a veterinarian's office and offers an outpouring of gratitude for his love and inspirational kindness.

The book aims to inspire readers to do good and simple things like comforting others, making people smile, being helpful and being inclusive.

"If a kid can take just one thing away, maybe to befriend somebody who doesn't have friends, to say a nice word to their parents, to listen to somebody who might be suffering ­— if it helps one kid be kinder, then I think it's a success as a book," Mills said.

Illustrated with Charlie and Daisy in vivid cartoon color against mostly gray scenes, the book places no more than two sentences on each of its 35 pages. The book was inspired by Mills' own dog, also named Charlie.

"I think dogs are miracle animals," she said. "My dog has gotten me through hard times. They exhibit a lot of traits that we should also try to adopt as humans. Dogs are amazing."

Mills — who once previously dabbled in publication with 2010's "Ski Bum Cookbook" — works as a pediatric occupational therapist with public school children on the Western Slope. Through that work, she often writes with kids to help them understand social situations and social norms.

The story of "The Good Dog" came to her in a burst last year.

"I wasn't even thinking of writing a book," Mills recalled. "I just started talking to my dog and all of a sudden the words just came to me."

She tapped out her sentiments on her iPhone and what she wrote became "The Good Dog."

"I wrote it in about 15 minutes," she said. "It was an a culmination of life events that were a catalyst to write the book. So maybe I was writing it my whole life and I just didn't know it until it came to me."

Though not overtly religious, the book concludes with a Bible quote and the text reflects Mills' Christian faith. "The Good Dog" is published by the South Carolina-based Christian imprint Covenant Books.

"To me, Jesus is just about love and acceptance and caring for others," she said. "So, God just put it on my heart to put that verse in."

Mills is donating 10 percent of profits from book sales to the nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability, which provides service dogs to children with disabilities.

The dog-friendly Roaring Fork Valley has embraced "The Good Dog." A recent reading at the Basalt Regional Library drew some 60 kids and grown-ups. Mills has another reading planned Sept. 29 at Explore Booksellers in Aspen.

The book is aimed at kids age 1 to 10. But Mills hopes its universal message will touch adults as well, in the way that classics like "The Giving Tree" — which she calls her favorite book — and Robert Munsch's "Love You Forever" resonate with grown-ups.

"I hope that an adult reading to a 3-year-old son or daughter can also pause and maybe say, 'Yes, this is applicable to my life and I can incorporate some of these things into my life, as well,'" Mills said.

Any progress toward a kinder society, especially in this tumultuous moment in American culture, is worth celebrating for Mills.

"Hopefully as a society we can just be kinder to each other, be more thoughtful and patient and show more compassion," she said. "I feel we're lacking that right now."


Lil Wayne, Chainsmokers, Kygo to headline X Games Aspen

X Games Aspen will host musical performances by Lil Wayne, Louis the Child, The Chainsmokers and Kygo alongside the on-snow action at Buttermilk Ski Area in January.

Lil Wayne, the New Orleans-bred hip-hop superstar whose "Tha Carter V" is expected to be released later this year, will open the concert series Friday, Jan. 26, at the 6,000-capacity outdoor music venue.

Saturday features a return headlining performance from the popular EDM duo The Chainsmokers, who sold out X Games in 2017 and have become Aspen regulars (including a surprise show at Belly Up Aspen in June). Their set will be preceded by an early-evening performance from the Chicago-based DJ duo Louis the Child.

The concerts will close Sunday with the innovative Norweigan producer and songwriter Kygo, returning to the X Games closing slot he filled in 2016.

ESPN announced the lineup Thursday morning. Tickets, starting at $20, are on-sale now at xgames.com. The festival's Early Bird prices also include a $120 all-music general admission ticket. Prices will go up Dec. 3. Premium ticket options include the Platinum Pass and Diamond Club passes, which grant access to preferred, heated viewing area, food drink and athlete autograph sessions.

X Games has also partnered with Aspen Skiing Co. on a new ticket option called College X Pass + Music. Available for ticket-buyers with a valid student ID, the $199 pass grants admission to all four concerts and a two-day lift ticket valid at any of Aspen's four mountains.

All four artists on the X Games lineup will also play intimate club shows at Belly Up Aspen downtown. The 450-capacity venue will host Kygo on Thursday, Jan. 24, The Chainsmokers on Friday, Jan. 25, Lil Wayne on Saturday, Jan. 26, and Louis the Child on Sunday, Jan. 27.

Aspen on the Hill: Zombie people of the Rio Grande Trail

People-watching is a time-honored tradition in Aspen, where man furs and high-heel hikers are seasonal species. But a mystery presented itself to me in recent months, as I found myself people-watching at sun-up on the Rio Grande Trail.

This summer I got in the habit of going for a dawn run. I'd wake up at 6 a.m. and brew coffee and quite literally run out the door of my Centennial apartment to jog the Hunter Creek Loop, or wheeze up and down Smuggler or do a few miles out and back on the Rio Grande Trail. Basically, I'm aiming to get outside and squeeze in something I can do in about 45 minutes — getting me back home before my baby daughter wakes up and in time to have breakfast with her and my wife.

While Hunter Creek and Smuggler at this ungodly hour are populated sparsely with the usual crowd of dogs and humans and the spandex-clad, the upper stretch of the Rio Grande — in addition to the usual trail-pounders — is a weird wasteland filled with the dead-eyed, dragging themselves through this aspen-lined trail at dawn.

Just about every morning I'd see bleary-eyed couples in pajamas, yawning and pushing astoundingly perky toddlers in strollers. Many mornings, I'd pass weary packs of men and women in suits or buttoned-up business casual dress. And every morning, I'd spend my run wondering what they were doing out there and how this bizarre high-country version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video came to be. So tired, so defeated, why go for an amble down Aspen's most popular and easily accessible trail?

Eventually, I put together that these folks are sort of time zone refugees. In town from the East Coast and finding themselves unintentionally awake, they're just strolling along the Roaring Fork River until the rest of town rises. The dressed-up folks, I figure, are attending Aspen Institute conferences and doing semi-productive early morning walk-and-talks connecting to the Rio Grande from the Meadows Trail. Those sleepy stroller-pushers, I've deduced, found themselves in hotel rooms with toddlers still on Eastern Standard Time — wide-eyed at 5 a.m. and jostling their parents from bed.

I feel their pain. But after the mind's fog clears and as the first sun rays splash on Bell Mountain, it is a hell of a place to find yourself waking up.


Aspen Music Fest’s after-school music programs now registering students

The Aspen Music Festival and School's valleywide after-school music programs are registering new students through Oct. 5.

The programs, now in their 23rd year, serve students in 16 schools between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

These programs are designed to complement the music instruction students receive from schools and private instructors. AfterWorks offers three main programs: Beginning Strings, Lead Guitar and the newly expanded Maroon Bel Canto Choirs.

Beginning Strings offers instruction in violin, viola or cello to students in grades 2 through 5 ($275 for 20 or more weeks of classes, a starter supply pack, private lessons, concerts and snacks). Lead Guitar is open to students in grades 4 and higher, and the program gives students instruction in classical guitar technique, music reading, theory, performance skills and ensemble playing ($225 for 20 weeks of classes and concerts). The Maroon Bel Canto choral program is expanding into two ensembles for the 2018–19 school year in order to best meet the needs of young singers of varying ages: The Maroon Bel Canto Children's Chorus for students in grades 3 through 5 and the new Maroon Bel Canto Singers, a smaller and more select ensemble for older students designed for students in grades 6 through 8 ($195 for 20 weeks of rehearsals, concerts, supplies and more).

Scholarships are available.

For more information or to register, visit http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com/afterworks or contact Katie Hone Wiltgen, director of education and community programming, at 970-205-5055 or khonewiltgen@aspenmusic.org.

Winifred Carol Wyman show opens on Friday

An exhibition of artwork by the late local artist Winifred Carol Wyman will open on Friday, Sept. 14 at Art of Hair in Basalt.

An opening reception for The Art of Winifred, Unframed and Unchained" will run Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.

Wyman died in 2013 but left behind a large catalog of paintings in her abstract, impressionist style.

The opening will include performances by classical musician Bruce Berger and magician Doc Eason. There will also be a book reading at 7 p.m. by Winifred's son, John Wyman, author or "Against Her Will," a cautionary tale about growing old in America.

John Wyman has also written the forthcoming "52 Moons" about his experiences in the 52 months he spent as his mother's caretaker.

This will be the final local show of her paintings before they are featured in retrospectives in New York and Chicago.

Paula Hayes’ living Aspen Art Museum installation is for the birds

It's alive.

Paula Hayes — the famed visual artist, sculptor and landscape designer — brought a living, site-specific installation to the commons outside the Aspen Art Museum this summer. Titled "Key Frame," the piece brings a bit of wild mountain growth and bird life to a highly trafficked corner of downtown Aspen.

"It's very much about the feeling up here," Hayes said this summer after the installation. "I really want it to attract the hummingbirds, which are so abundant."

All birds are welcome, though, Hayes added with a laugh: "I never kick anyone out of my little Airbnb."

The work includes a weeping pine, with shrubs and plants, in a deep oval-shaped planter plopped on the Aspen Art Museum's commons at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue downtown. A sculpture sprouts alongside the native pine. Made of UV-stable plastic, it mimics a hand making a pinching or "OK" sign. From it dangles a nesting house for birds.

"Key Frame" is designed to attract hummingbirds and pollinators to roost in the house. (It could work as a nest, and has in Hayes' similar installations elsewhere, but the high-traffic location likely won't attract any nesting birds.)

Hayes worked with ornithologists to make it as welcoming bird-friendly as can be.

She also collaborated with the local landscape architecture firm Bluegreen to make the piece happen, enlisting them for their expertise on local plant life and to care for it during its five months on the Aspen Art Museum commons (and to find a permanent home for the weeping pine later). The team planned meticulously for the June installation — digging into the idiosyncrasies of high alpine the horticulture and bird life while Hayes build 3-D models.

Over the past three decades, Hayes' expansive vision — including terrariums and landscaped environments — have made her a rare species of artist, finding a home in galleries, in outdoor installations and in landscaped environments. She's had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Hayes was familiar with Aspen before making "Key Frame."

She'd done one previous show for the Aspen Art Museum, seven years ago in its old building. Hayes — who lives in New York City and the Hudson Valley — has also made work for private collections here, and has designed the landscape for a local home. The dramatic setting and the grand scale of the mountains have stuck with her through the years, and inspired "Key Frame."

"It's so special here," she said. "I've come here several times and it's actually been in my dreams. It's influenced me a lot, this place."

Her inspiration for this piece was to connect the urban setting of downtown to the wild surroundings that are so close at hand. Hayes joked that she is unable to make eye contact with people in Aspen, because she's always looking up and around at the mountainscapes and the quality of the light. This tiny slice of mountain greenery on the sidewalk downtown, she said, is an invitation to keep people connected to the forest.

This little planted environment also affects the way passersby interact with the built environment and the museum itself.

"When we put the dirt here, the building felt so light," she said. "It's like it grounded this corner."

The work is constructed of plastic and industrial materials, but Hayes discusses it in terms of its authenticity, of optimizing its ability to interact with birds, bugs and animals as well as humans. Standing next to "Key Frame" and discussing it, she started clapping and exclaimed "They're here!" when a bee arrived to check out her work.

Viewing the installation while walking toward it from the north or south, at times "Key Frame" blends in with the green mountains behind it — Aspen Mountain to the south and Red Mountain to the north.

"I love that you kind of can't see it," Hayes said. "That sounds strange for an artist to say. But I'm like, 'Wow, you can't see it!'"

And she hopes that seeing it up against the background of the museum or surrounding buildings makes people reimagine the built environment of downtown Aspen.

"That's interesting, too, because that forces you to think about the interaction between the nature and the building — you're looking through it," she said.

During installation, the museum's curatorial staff handled the plants and sculpture with the clinical care they give to every artwork — approaching it delicately, wearing gloves. Hayes had to laugh and note that this was not a typical artwork and wouldn't be troubled by some fingerprints.

"I'm like, 'You know, we're going to plant these,'" she recalled. "'The birds are going to poop on it! The bears might be in there.' There's a lot of potential for good."

The morning before the opening party for "Key Frame," Hayes and her husband visited the Maroon Bells. Its pristine preservation, she said, overwhelmed her. Spending so much of her career digging in the dirt and developing a relationship with the wild things of the Earth, Hayes is protective of it and committed to conserving its resources. The global desecration of the environment through pollution and industry is a weight on her, both personally and creatively.

"I was crying," she said of her Maroon Bells visit. "I felt this protective thing, like 'If anything were ever to happen to this…' Things have happened to these places and humans have done things to these systems. Working in an era of heartbreak is difficult for an artist, but I feel committed to keep going and keep doing it."


The Art Base showcases Brad Reed Nelson

The Art Base in Basalt is showcasing another side of Brad Reed Nelson.

Best known as an inventive woodworker, furniture-maker and product designer, the solo exhibition "Object, function know function" will exhibit the Carbondale-based artist's sculptures and installation works.

The show opens today and runs through Oct. 5. An opening reception will run from 5 to 7 p.m. today. Nelson also will give a talk for Art Base members Oct. 4.

"Object" investigates space, weight and void through formal and found objects. Gestural in nature, the show mixes earthy, oxidizing tones with bright splashes of color — presenting the viewer with a unique look at pieces, parts and process.

"The space is set up in way that takes you through a chronological time line," Nelson said in an exhibition announcement. "Here you will see the play of weight, line, and void, rustic versus pristine, chaotic and rhythmic dissonance in no particular order."

The exhibition includes products and prototypes that Nelson has spent several years on, including a series of metal joints called "Knuckles," branding for Nelson's "Knuckles" trademark and a dimensional "Knuckles" that brings the form to life.

Nelson received a MFA in sculpture with an emphasis in wood from Arizona State University in Tempe and a BS in functional design from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. He has run his company Board by Design out of Carbondale since 2002.

His work has been featured in numerous publications including Woodworkers Journal, The Artful Home, Boston Globe, Aspen Peak Magazine, Aspen Magazine, Aspen Sojourner, Dwell, Los Angeles Times, and Elle Décor. Brad has taught, managed and developed curriculum and programs focused on furniture design and woodworking at Anderson Ranch Arts Center as well as at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

His work also has been shown throughout the United States in venues such as International Contemporary Furniture Fair, New York; MAD, Museum of Art and Design, New York; Sardella Gallery, Aspen; Tadu Contemporary Art Gallery, Santa Fe, N.M.; and the Carbondale Clay Center among others.

"I see myself as a 'maker,'" Nelson said. "I can be an inventor, I can be an artist, and I can be a designer, but I just make s— — that's all I do."