More than 800 community members over two days took part in Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES)’ Harvest Party at Rock Bottom Ranch. In the past, the fall tradition was held on one single afternoon with upwards of 1,400 guests. This year, it took place on Saturday, Oct. 16, and Sunday, Oct. 17, divided into four separate time slots to make a socially distant celebration on the picturesque plot of land near Willits. And, best of all, the weather cooperated with a glorious weekend of sunny skies and mild temperatures.
Access to the sold-out event included pumpkin carving, hayrides, farm tours, an opportunity to harvest and keep vegetables, play ranch games, make crafts and press apple cider. Food trucks offering salads, pizzas and empanadas were on site, offering fresh and healthy options for purchase. Each day featured live music in the open air barn with Elk Range followed by Citizen Twang on Saturday and Dan Sheridan followed by Hell Roaring String Band on Sunday.
Alix and Fabrizio Zangrill of Monkey House Carbondale were the premier Barnraiser Sponsor, Forum Phi underwrote the pumpkin patch, Alpine Bank sponsored the apple cider press, Of Grape and Grain provided the wine and Four Dogs in Basalt provided the beer. Seed Sower sponsors included Christie’s International Real Estate, Holy Cross Energy, Reese & Henry and Company, and KO Public Affairs.
“I think it’s important to remind people that harvest celebrations happen all over the world with food, traditional games, music and more to give thanks to the natural world which provides us so much!” noted Development Director Christy Mahon.
Thanks to ACES for continuing this tradition and connecting our community with nature in every season.
Nancy Lovendahl honored for ‘Inspiring Others Through Art’
Nancy Lovendahl in Aspen on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Nancy Lovendahl holds her husbands hand after receiving the Pitkin County Cares Education Award in the Pitkin County commissioners meeting room in Aspen on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Nancy Lovendahl receives the Pitkin County Cares Education Award in the Pitkin County commissioners meeting room in Aspen on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Nancy Lovendahl in Aspen on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Nancy Lovendahl receives the Pitkin County Cares Education Award in the Pitkin County commissioners meeting room in Aspen on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Old Snowmass-based sculptor Nancy Lovendahl has dedicated her life to inspiring others through art. Pitkin County made that fact as official as can be in mid-October, adopting a government proclamation by the board of county commissioners that reads, in part, that she has “dedicated her life to inspiring others through art.”
The county honored Lovendahl with a Pitkin County Cares Award for education in recognition of her founding of the Claudette Carter ARTMentors program administered by the Art Base in Basalt. Now running for 12 years, it was inspired by, and is named for, Lovendhal’s mentor: the longtime local artist and shop owner Claudette Carter, who died from cancer in 2007.
The program is aimed at young people considering a career in the arts. It pairs a working artist with a high school junior over the course of a school year for one-on-one instruction and guides the teen artists through the entire cycle of the artistic process: from conception to creation to exhibition, promotion, marketing and sales.
Each spring, the process culminates in a show at the Art Base (the 2020 and 2021 editions have been virtual).
“She not only shows the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be an artist,” county commissioner France Jacober said, in presenting Lovendahl with the award on Oct. 12. “She also invites them into her creative world and inspires them to pursue fine arts as a pathway to a rewarding artistic lifestyle.”
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Nature/Nurture’ art exhibition
Who: Artists Nancy Lovendahl, Chris Hassig and Strange Dirt
An internationally recognized sculptor, Lovendahl has work in the Smithsonian Institution’s collection and exhibits her work overseas regularly, but stays connected locally through mentorship and through local shows. On the same day she was presented the award, Skye Gallery in Aspen opened a new exhibition of Lovendahl’s work, alongside work by Chris Hassig and Strange Dirt. Titled “Nature/Nurture,” it runs through Nov. 10.
Best known for her stone sculptures – often working with stones that weigh thousands of pounds – other local and regional exhibitions include her monumental music-themed stone sculpture collection “The Power of Limits” at Western State University in Gunnison, installed in 2016, and a piece in Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s ongoing “Sculpturally Distanced” installation.
During the pandemic-interrupted 2020, her long-in-the-works multimedia exhibition “Small Glimpses, Many Times” haltingly made its way on a tour from the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center to Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver to the Art Base in Basalt. This summer she also showed a collection of Mount Sopris-themed pieces at The Launchpad in Carbondale.
Based in the Roaring Fork Valley since the 1970s, Lovendahl was nominated for the award by Monique Rodriguez, who was her first mentee in the program in 2009 and 2010.
“She really guided me personally,” Rodriquez recalled in a phone interview. “Like all young people, I had my own issues going on and I was figuring out where I wanted to go and my family dynamics. She really helped me with all of that. And through her program, I was able to get scholarships to actually go to college. Without it, I probably would not have gone to school.”
Rodriquez went to study art at Willamette University in Oregon and is now in a masters program for library sciences while also working at the Pitkin County Library.
She recalled how Lovendahl mentored her in art and life, remembering Lovendahl’s willingness to share her own experiences, mistakes and vulnerabilities to help Rodriquez navigate the teen troubles as well as the vagaries of artistic expression. It developed into a supportive friendship, she said.
“When I was her mentee I never felt like a high school student,” Rodriguez recalled. “I was able to see my true potential because she treated me like a fellow artist, like an up-and-coming artist, instead of like a teenager.”
As Lovendahl puts it, she speaks to her mentees “nose to nose,” as equals. And she has found that the relationships and the time she puts in to help young people nourishes her own work as an artist and helps her see the work in new ways. The mentorship work has given Lovendahl and her husband, the jewelry maker Scott Keating, a meaningful way to contribute to future generations.
“We were never fortunate to be able to have kids, so this was my way of having kids,” she explained at the reception following the awards ceremony. “But I never really saw them as younger than me. I’ve always just kind of talked to them, nose to nose.”
Lovendahl and Rodriguez have stayed close over the past 12 years and Rodriguez has watched Lovendahl have the same positive influence on teens year after year.
“She’s helped a lot of young women realize their potential as artists or their potential to get away from the valley if they wanted to,” she said. “It’s sometimes really hard to realize when you’re 16 that there’s a whole word out the and you can do it.”
Lovendahl said that her role as a mentor has been to help young people believe in themselves. Her vision for the ARTMentors program wasn’t about specialization, or about linking students and mentors by their medium or particular style.
“It actually doesn’t matter who your mentor is,” Lovendahl said. “We aren’t necessarily teachers. We’re simply signposts along the way. And I know, for myself, if I had had a mentor when I was in high school, it would have been way easier for me.”
Some ARTMentors students have gone on to art school and to start careers in the arts, others have used their art skills elsewhere. Lovendahl recalled a conversation with mentee Michelle Lehman, who would become valedictorian at Basalt High School in 2015 and went to study at Middlebury College.
“I remember her saying, ‘Well, I’m never going to actually be an artist,’” Lovendahl recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, the key is to live a creative life.’ She was trying to work that out.”
Lehman studied neuroscience and animation and now specializes in making computer graphics that illustrate scientific findings through a Denver design firm.
The county proclamation credits Lovendahl for helping young people do more than make art.
“Mentees have said that her influences not only helped them to realize their artistic dreams but has saved them in some cases, and changed the course of their lives,” it reads.
Lovendahl, who has lived in the Little Elk Creek subdivision for more than three decades, focused her acceptance speech on Pitkin County itself and noted how its policies and, in particular, its affordable housing program have supported her work as an artist and mentor.
“My husband and I are results of living in employee housing,” Lovendahl said. “And both of us, as artists, would have never been able to stay in this community without it. … You have made a commitment to the arts by having employee housing and we are the result of that.”
Lovendahl was among 16 Aspen area locals honored with 2021 Pitkin County Cares Awards. They covered a range of community service, from the veteran volunteer fireman Roy Holloway to the high schoolers Devin and Ava Kaplan, who deliver meals to the sick, to registered nurse Bari Ramburg, for organizing local school COVID-19 testing and community vaccination efforts. Children’s book author Jill Sheeley was also honored with a Pitkin County Cares education award for founding the Fraser writing contest for young people.
Of her fellow honorees, Lovendahl said in closing her acceptance speech: “We’re all just drops of water in this fabulous reservoir called Pitkin County and I’m really grateful to live here.”
2021 PITKIN COUNTY CARES AWARDS
Greg Mace Award: Roy Holloway, volunteer firefighter and suicide prevention supporter
Exceptional One-Time-Event Award: Rick Stevens, for Basalt Area Gives initiative
Children and Youth Award – Jeanne Walker and Sylvia Wendrow, Buddy Program and Spellbinders
Rising Star Award – Ava Kaplan and Devin Thomas, Aspen High School Pathfinder Angels
Seniors Award – Debbie Overeynder, Pitkin County Senior Services volunteer
Health Award – Bari Ramburg, for school COVID-19 and community vaccinations
Health Award – Macey Morris, Pathfinders chef
Community Pride – Paul Schultz, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and Wheeler Opera House, Trash Crush
Good Samaritan – Charlie Vresiolvic, Aspen and El Jebel Mobile Food Bank
Environment Award – Howie Mallory, for public lands stewardship
Environment Award – Carolyn Moore Linda Ukraine, volunteer rangers at the Maroon Bells Visitors Information Center
Education Award – Nancy Lovendahl, ARTMentors founder
Education Award – Jill Sheeley, Fraser writing contest founder
The reimagined and expanded Denver Art Museum is a road trip-worthy new destination on Colorado’s cultural map, with the much-hyped and landscape-altering new 50,000-square-foot Sie Welcome Center, rebuilt and redesigned galleries in the museum’s 50-year-old Gio Ponti building, an industry-leading new education center for young people’s programs, a new sensory garden, two new restaurants, and so on – all opening Oct. 24 with a free admission day following three years of construction (and one year of pandemic delay).
Yes, $175 million still goes a long way for a museum expansion.
IF YOU GO …
The re-opening of the expanded Denver Art Museum is Oct. 24 when admission is free. Reservations are required for opening day and advance tickets are required thereafter. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. denverartmuseum.org
But for Aspenites and devotees of the Bauhaus and Aspen’s own Herbert Bayer, the first stop must be the new 2nd floor design gallery and interactive Design Studio.
It includes “Herbert Bayer’s Earthworks,” an exhibit devoted to Bayer’s land sculptures in Aspen that began in the 1950s, “Earth Mound” and Anderson Park, as well as his final Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park in Washington.
The display brings 16 previously un-exhibited Bayer pieces out for public consumption, including pastel drawings and crayon renderings of the original mound, sketches of the earth mound ringed in water, photographs and sketches and collages of what would become Anderson Park as well as a 1982 three-dimensional model of plaster and other materials for an “environmental mound” during preparations for Mill Creek.
“I don’t think these have ever been shown,” said the museum’s architecture and design curator Darrin Alfred. “To be able to have this opportunity, going through the archive and finding these works in particular, it’s incredible.”
Steps away, in the Design Studio, an interactive display – combining traditional behind-glass cases with pull-out drawers holding much more – is a treasure trove of more Bayer that’s being shown publicly for the first time. The collections are in three large drawers, broken down as “Colorado Ski Country,” sharing some of his more familiar early Aspen skiing marketing work, “Landscapes,” a fascinating group of works on paper inspired by Aspen that depict mountainscapes, Hallam Lake and studies of flowers and plant life, and “Native Plants,” which collects pastel drawings of various seedpods, plants and driftwood dated to 1947, which would have been Bayer’s first summer in Aspen. This is Bayer as plein air artist – showing us what he saw here, including a herd of sheep in his early days as an Aspenite.
The Design Studio also prominently displays early- to mid- 1970s ski trail maps from Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Snowmass by John Rieben, who introduced the International Typographical Stye to ski country and defined the ski map.
Along with the widely expanded design collection where I found Bayer’s corners, the high points of the reopened galleries are the massive North American Indigenous collection – thrillingly mixing historic pieces with contemporary works – and the collection of Western Art on the top floor of the new Martin building.
The Western Art collection flows onto new balcony spaces – constructed by Ponti with dramatically curved turrets, but not previously accessible by the public – which offer panoramic views of Denver and the mountains to the West. It’s a curatorial touch as genius as it is obvious, placing Western American art in its most fitting setting where the actual Rockies compete for your attention against artistic depictions of them.
“It’s an extraordinary platform to look at the landscape to connect the collection of the American West with the American West,” said architect Jorge Silvetti, whose Boston-based firm shares architectural credit for the new project with Colorado’s Fentress Architects.
When I broke off from my designated guide and group of journalists at a mid-October media preview, I stepped out on one of the terraces and found Silvetti alone there looking out at the horizon. “Oh. My. God,” he said to himself, a proper response to the setting if there is one, before turning to greet me.
Herbert Bayer pops up again in the Western Art collection. His “Green Center Over Horizon” (1970) gets a prime spot here among four large format works displayed on free-standing walls – an Agnes Martin, an Ethel Magafan and Andy Warhol’s “The American Indian (Russell Means)” complementing this signature Bayer.
The Bayers are among countless works coming out of the proverbial mothballs of the museum collection and into the light for the public at the reimagined museum.
“When you work towards a new building, you work towards new galleries, you really get energetic and incentivized to bring in new art, new collections and new gifts,” museum director Christoph Henrich said.
Or as Lanny Martin, the donor whose $25 million got this project rolling, put it: “This is not just a renovation, this is a re-imagination of how we show the critical art objects that we display to all of you.”
Aspen History: Aspen State Teachers College
“Aspen State upsets Texas in surprise game,” proclaimed the Aspen Times on October 19, 1978. “When the Aspen leaves turn to gold and there is a nip in the air… When the World Series blares over the radio and TV… That’s when Aspenites get nostalgic and think about Homecoming Days back in high school and college. For the perennial college kids of Aspen, Aspen State Teachers College last weekend held a good old-time Homecoming, compete with pep rally, football game, parade and Homecoming Dance. The cheerleaders led the parade with brooms and pom pompoms. Fulton Begley III who is dean of women and equipment manager of Aspen State, says that he was a little disappointed when half the team was lost before the game as a result of the pep rally held at The ASTC Study Hall (the new bar under the Paragon). However the ASTC team went on to upset Texas 16 to 8 in the game in Wagner Stadium. ‘It was the first time we ever scored at home,’ says Begley. ‘But then it was the first time any other team ever showed up to play us.’ Over 700 people turned up in old Homecoming attire at the Homecoming Dance at Rick’s, and danced to old songs by Tumbleweed.” The image above shows the 1978 Aspen State Teacher’s College football team in Wagner Park.
Asher on Aspen: When in Rome
I will never forget the first time I visited Ireland. Upon landing in Dublin, my friends and I went straight to a pub to celebrate our arrival. The bartender asked, “What’ll you have my dear?” Immediately falling in love with his accent, I stuttered for a moment and eventually asked for a Blue Moon without thinking. His eyebrows lowered and his face looked confused. “You’re in Ireland my dear. You’ll have a Guinness.” He proceeded to pour my pint without looking for approval. I remember thinking, “when in Ireland.”
The commonly used English proverb “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” has since been a life motto for me. It’s such a cliché nowadays, but where did it come from? And who said it first? The phrase can be traced back to the 4th century AD.
Having attended a Catholic school for 12 years, the story behind the phrase’s origins is an anecdote that has always stuck with me: Saint Augustine moved to Milan to become a professor of rhetoric. Unlike his previous church in Rome, he discovered that the congregation in Milan didn’t fast on Saturdays. Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan at the time, advised Augustine, saying: “When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but here I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal?”
In other words, there will be local customs and traditions in any foreign land that you visit so try to adapt to their way of life out of respect for the native people. Embrace the culture and step out of your comfort zone. Break away from the daily routine and do things that you might not typically do. The phrase is about people and their folklore, and it can be related to a variety of situations in everyday life.
On a recent weekend trip to Denver, this proverb was on my mind more than usual. I engaged in the city’s annual Oktoberfest celebration, danced the night away at a country music honky-tonk, cheered on the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium, and attended a fancy, five-course meal at the Denver Food + Wine Festival.
While wandering around Oktoberfest, we encountered many bizarre German traditions. My friends and I witnessed a stein holding competition, a game of keg bowling, and a crowd of people participating in chicken-dance contests. Women wore the time-honored dirndl dresses and men donned leather lederhosen shorts. We ate bratwurst and sauerkraut paired with a variety of beers while we polka-danced our way through a live band playing traditional German music.
After the festival, we made our way to Grizzly Rose Saloon and Country Hall. Here, you will find the biggest country music fans in the state of Colorado. The enormous dance floor is the heart of the establishment, where patrons gather to learn two-step routines. This bar is about dancing more than anything else. There is different choreography for nearly every country song out there, and the Grizzly Rose regulars seem to know them all. As Julie Andrews would say, “I could have danced all night.”
The next day, on a whim, we decided to attend a Denver Broncos football game. It was a 2 p.m. game, and it wasn’t until a half hour before while sitting at lunch that we spontaneously bought tickets. We were lucky enough to secure seats in the 100 section in the eighth row for only $70 a piece—a deal that was too good to pass up. Once in the stadium, I immediately purchased a blue and orange shirt to help support my state’s team. We made a lot of noise and cheered on the Broncos enthusiastically while making every attempt to get noticed on the jumbotron.
The last soiree that made the weekend special was the food festival’s signature Dinner Under the Stars event. This lavish evening offered us the chance to indulge in a five-course dinner at the beautiful Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Each course was one mouth-watering delight after another. I don’t typically eat black cod miso or Peking duck breast, but when in Denver celebrating the restaurant industry, I reasoned I should try everything.
Can you imagine if I would have drank wine at Oktoberfest, declined to dance at Grizzly Rose, or wore a Cowboys shirt to a Broncos game? Or, what if I refused to learn how to ski upon moving to Aspen? My experience in all these situations would have been completely different and very limited if I would have resisted the culture. Following the status quo to learn about a new way of life is a great way to escape your comfort zone and try new things. How boring would life be if we just stuck to what was familiar and we never ventured out to experience life in someone else’s shoes?
WineInk: Harvest 2021
Just as the splendor of the aspen leaves are finally falling from the trees signaling the close of the season, so too in vineyards across the Northern Hemisphere the harvest of the 2021 wine vintage is winding down. Most wineries from the Napa Valley to the northern Rhone from Paso Robles to the Mosel are just about finished picking their grapes and are moving on to the production of their wines.
“Just a couple more picks to go,” Matt Crafton, head winemaker at Napa’s iconic Chateau Montelena, said last week in a phone call from the Calistoga based winery. “We’ve got some Cabernet Franc and a little Petite Verdot still on the vines and that will be the end of it,” he told me, mentioning a pair of Bordeaux varieties that he will be blending with the estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon. In his voice you could hear a combination of both exhaustion and anticipation. “This is day number 48 of our harvest, and yeah, we have not had much sleep. But we are really excited about what we have picked and think this could be a great vintage.”
The word in Napa is that while quality is high, the yield (the number of grapes harvested for wine) is down this year from previous vintages. There is as much as a 20% drop in the fruit or “tonnage” of grapes than in an average year. Clusters of grapes have been comparatively small and the berries on them are also smaller .
But Crafton is filled with unbridled, sleep-deprived enthusiasm.
“Thus far, harvest 2021 has been fantastic, except for the yields which have been quite low,” he relayed in an early morning email “If you live in a binary world, then yes, this is not a perfect vintage (what is?). But that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. If your techniques are prescribed, your favored fruit profile narrow, and your wine style ‘stable,’ then 2021 may seem more worrisome than exciting. But for me, and for Montelena, these are the vintages we absolutely love. It’s about recognizing (and seizing!) the opportunities while harnessing the right skillset to capture this year in the glass.”
Of course, one would have to be pretty myopic not to see the beauty of the 2021 harvest in context. The four previous harvests, going back to 2017, have all been interrupted or affected by massive brush fires that have burned in and around Napa and Sonoma wine country. Each of those vintages were impacted, if not directly, then tangentially by the consuming focus on the infernos.
Amongst growers there is speculation that the fires left their mark on this vintage as well. As the population was stressed by the October blazes of 2020, so too were the vines. Some vintners think the vines did not shut down in a normal manner as they usually would following harvest. This stress, coupled with the continuing drought conditions, is what many believe is responsible for the diminished yields in this year’s pick.
For the last seven weeks, Crafton, like the other winemakers in vineyards around the world, has been consumed by the most important part of the process: getting the fruit that they have worried about and tended for the better part of eight months off the vines and into the wineries so that the fermentation process can begin. “It’s like nothing else,” Crafton explains. “It is exhilarating and requires a level of constant focus and attention. It is paradoxical but you have to be both flexible and focused because you need a plan and then be able to change that plan at a moment’s notice.”
Even when Crafton sleeps, which is not much during these last two critical months, he is constantly thinking about the details of the pick. The obvious, and most critical, task is making the decision about which vineyards, or vineyard blocks, or even rows, to pick at just the right moment. The grapes ripen and the sugars reach the levels the winemaker wants, and it is time to harvest. Get that call wrong and all the work that has been put into the vintage is diminished.
Of course, making wine is not an individual endeavor. “We have just a small four-person winemaking team on staff, but when all is said and done there over 100 people involved in our production process. From the vineyard workers to those who drive the trucks, even those who fuel the trucks, the people who work with us must understand that their job is just as important as mine.”
I mentioned to Crafton that it sounded a little like a team sport and he concurred. “It’s like being a quarterback and needing to understand what every position does on every play and putting together a game plan to execute that play. Something doesn’t work and the whole team is affected.”
Crafton is fortunate to be a part of one the most storied, family-owned wineries in the world. In 1882, A.L Tubbs, a San Francisco magnate, made a fortuitous purchase of prime vineyard land in the shadow of Mount St. Helena just north of Calistoga. He built an eponymous stone winery, planted the vineyards to Cabernet Sauvignon and hired a Frenchman as winemaker. Successful in his endeavors, the winery prospered until prohibition.
Ninety years later, after the winery had been given its current moniker combining mountain and St. Helena, it was purchased by Los Angeles attorney Jim Barrett. He became famous when the 1973 Montelena Chardonnay defeated the best of the French white Burgundies in the American Bicentennial year of 1976, at what would become known as the “Judgment of Paris.” Today, still under the Barrett family stewardship, Chateau Montelena makes around 35,000 cases annually (depending on the size of the vintage, of course) of some of the most sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley.
“I’m really fortunate to work for a winery of just the right size. If you are too small you don’t have the resources, the vineyards, and the grapes, to paint a picture, if I can use an artistic analogy,” Matt said. “Too big and it’s easy to lose control. I think we have a sweet spot that lets us be creative and focus on using the entire palette, to be production driven rather than just driven by sales.”
“It all comes together because we have the freedom to be curious and creative at Montelena. It’s within vintages like 2021, in the discovery and exploration, that we consistently over-deliver,” he explained. “Some see a lack of hang time, I see a diversity of flavor. Others see high acid, I see age-able wines. The ingredients are the ingredients. It’s our job to take them to the next level. I’m so excited for what these wines will be. I just wish we had more of them.”
And he was also excited to return to his family after harvest: “You are so focused that you really need to take the time to reconnect. I have three kids and we have never been to Fleet Week in San Francisco, so maybe we’ll drive in to see the Blue Angels.”
A high-flying end to a vintage year?
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Chateau Montelena 2019 Potter Valley Riesling
Talk about an outlier. When you think of Chateau Montelena you see visions of Calistoga, the ivy-covered walls of the winery and Cabernet Sauvignon and their famed Chardonnay. But for those in the know, Matt Crafton crafts another wine sourced from Mendocino’s Potter Valley, a Riesling that is as crisp and bright as a California day. This 2019 iteration comes a year after the winery declined to release the wine in 2018 due to smoke exposure in the vineyard. It was the first time since 1982 they did not release a Riesling. Floral on the nose, with a hint of sweetness on the tongue, the wine has a balanced character all its own.
High Country: The Green Joint gives an exclusive look inside its cultivation HQ
It’s increasingly rare for cannabis companies that started at the dawn of Colorado’s legal era to endure as family-owned and -operated businesses. But for The Green Joint, the Glenwood Springs-based dispensary chain founded in 2009, husband-and-wife founders Dan and Cheryl Sullivan remain at the helm with their son, Brian Sullivan, serving as executive vice president.
Over the past 12 years, the Sullivans have grown what started as a single medical store, Green Medicine Wellness, into one of the largest and longest-running independent cannabis conglomerates on the Western Slope with nine licenses including four recreational stores in Parachute, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Aspen.
The Sullivans were originally inspired to make the medicinal qualities of cannabis available to the masses after cancer took Dan’s brother, who they witnessed experiencing the healing benefits during his treatment first-hand.
In 2014, they transitioned the brand into The Green Joint, eventually opening an Aspen location in 2018. Since then, the store has stood out among a crowded cannabis shopping scene; currently there are nine dispensaries operating in the downtown core.
“What really sets The Green Joint apart from others is our devotion and commitment to our proprietary cultivation production that strives for perfection and excellence each step of the way,” explained Brian Sullivan. “We specialize in growing award- winning, high-quality cannabis strains that have been appropriately selected and sought out for their cannabinoid contents and strong genetic traits. Each plant is nurtured, harvested and trimmed by hand to ensure every nug is well cared for and properly maintained.”
Matched with a staff of seasoned cannabis connoisseurs, The Green Joint’s customer service is equally impressive and has deservedly earned first place accolades three years in a row from the annual “Best of Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt” contest presented by The Aspen Times.
“Our veteran budtenders, cultivators and managers are deeply connected to the ever-evolving industry of cannabis, which we are extremely passionate about,” added Sullivan. “Each team member possesses a vast knowledge of the cannabis plant along with its life-enhancing properties, benefits and cannabinoids. Our dedicated cultivation team is technical and talented with decades of expertise — these guys and gals love what they do! The final result is our unrivaled, A+ grade flower.”
Welcome to the inaugural and annual Harvest Series, where each week in October, High Country will introduce you to leading local cannabis cultivators and entrepreneurs as a celebration of the season. Synonymous with a final gathering of fruits and vegetables before the first frost, autumn is equally as ripe for cannabis farming — it’s a crop, too, after all.
For this week’s installment of High Country’s monthlong “Harvest Series,” director of cultivation Austin Drewes — who oversees a staff of 15 — shared an exclusive look inside the company’s greenhouse headquarters in Rifle with insight on how he gets The Green Joint’s flower to pack more power.
Katie Shapiro: What is your approach to growing cannabis?
Austin Drewes: We are passionate about our locally grown cannabis. This isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle — we’re farmers. We hand water on a daily basis and nurture each plant’s needs like a parent would. Our cultivation team is meticulous about what our plants eat, their sleep schedules and all the small things that make them the finest buds available. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality of cannabis possible and take extreme care throughout our entire process to ensure this happens. We truly are, your local farmer.
Individual attention is given to each plant — a process that’s extremely hands-on with high-quality strains sought out for specific cannabinoid content and medical purposes. Jeremy Swanson/Courtesy photo
The majority of The Green Joint’s 15-person grow team has worked for the company for the past decade. Jeremy Swanson/Courtesy photo
The Green Joint’s 12,000 square- foot cultivation facility in Rifle produces about 120 pounds of flower each month, which supplies its four retail locations on the Western Slope. Jeremy Swanson/Courtesy photo
AD: My growing background is legit. I was raised on farms as a child in the deep Midwest and I’m a fourth generation row crop farmer. In 2009, I excitedly moved to Colorado, as I was extremely interested in the newly forming cannabis industry that was in its infancy. To get my foot in the cultivation business, I opened a hydroponics store that I successfully ran for several years. Through mutual friends, I was introduced to The Green Joint team, who brought me in to consult and work with current staff members on how to successfully cultivate indoor cannabis. I quickly fell in love with the job and the ownership team, and in 2011, I was brought on full time as the director of cultivation. After 10 amazing years on the team, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
KS: What sets The Green Joint’s flower apart from competitors?
AD: The majority (of retailers) does not grow their own cannabis — they purchase most or all of it from non-affiliated grows that are generally located on the Front Range. The Green Joint’s proprietary methods of growing, harvesting and curing flower has been crafted over the years and is second to none. The individual attention that each plant receives is extremely hands-on and our strains were sought out for specific cannabinoid content and medical purposes. Producing our own cannabis has always been a huge focal point for us, as it allows us to control our final quality and ensure we always have product on our shelves. Over time, we’ve perfected our process internally, which continues to thrive as we expand our efforts. We’ve been really fortunate to have dedicated employees that stick around — we have several members on the grow team that have been with us for 10 years.
KS: Let’s talk numbers. How much are you producing for your stores?
AD: Our indoor, state-of-the-art facility is made up of 12,000 square feet of growing capacity. We are authorized by the State of Colorado to grow up to 6,000 plants at any given time, and our grow team produces roughly 120 pounds of flower each month, which is all consumed internally at our locations. In a few short months, we’ll have added an additional 6,000 square feet of greenhouse grow space — a 30% boost in overall harvest production. This will add a new level of automation that includes fertigation and intelligent controls to collect and test data to proactively make improvements across the facility. We’ve also added a commercial reverse osmosis system that regulates and repurposes all of the water we use through high-efficiency filtration systems.
KS: What other sustainability practices do you incorporate into the process?
AD: Our new greenhouses utilize smart technology that is designed to limit resources, compute data and intelligence, and be more sustainable over time. By cultivating in greenhouses with advanced technology, we are able to reduce our consumption of water and nutrients, limit the amount of electricity we use and increase plant production by using climate control methods. We also use intelligent sensors and tools that sample plant soil on a regular basis, which ensures we don’t over water or over feed our crops. With our new utilization of LED lights, we’ve increased yield production while greatly cutting down on the amount of energy we use
KS: What’s your favorite strain?
AD: Tough question! Our cultivation rotates through around 25 different strains that all get distributed accordingly to each of our four retail locations. My favorite strain is a toss up between our beloved Gelato and our incredibly popular Headband. Headband, which is one of our old-school favorites, is extremely smooth, but packs a strong punch. It’s one of those strains that is thoroughly balanced with the right amount of energy without being racing or overwhelming.
Katie Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.
Four Seasons: Artist Doug Graybeal’s ‘Still Here’ at the Art Base
It’s turned out to be a big autumn 2021 season for the Carbondale artist Doug Graybeal, who is opening his first solo show at the Art Base coming off of curating the extraordinary “Our Lands” group exhibition at the Aspen Chapel Gallery.
The “Our Lands” show was the culmination of collaboration with Aspen Valley Land Trust, which brought Graybeal and a group of locally based landscape painters onto properties protected and conserved by the nonprofit.
Running concurrently with that project, Graybeal – a longtime Roaring Fork Valley-based architect and artist – has been working on the new body of work “Still Here,” which opened at the Art Base in Basalt on Oct. 8 (less than a week after “Our Lands” closed).
The works in the show are closely observed but dreamy visions of local peaks and mountainscapes – Capitol, Sopris, the Roaring Fork River and environs – as seen across the four seasons. Here is Capitol in early winter with snows piling on yellow bands of aspen trees, there it is in spring with rock and green emerging, here is Sopris after its first snow of winter, there it is above yellowing fields in midsummer.
“The thought I had behind the show was that as I get older I realized that the environment around us is here and it’s never been anything other than the way a pioneer saw it,” Graybeal explained at last week’s exhibition opening. “Our reference to those mountains is that is they don’t change except for the seasons that’s our only reference of time to those things.”
So over the past year as he worked toward his scheduled Art Base show, Graybeal looked at these unchanging mountains from different angles and in every season as a ways to better understand and appreciate the permanence of the mountain landscape.
The 22 paintings in the show make use of Graybeal’s method combining watercolor and pastel on canvas, which manages to capture the vivid mountain views and their natural colors with a specificity that cameras somehow can’t.
He begins with a watercolor under-painting, Graybeal explained, uses his fingers to smear pastels in some places and marks it in other places to capture the many variations in shade, color and subtle contrast you see when looking at a mountain.
The style emerged, he explained from studying under the artist Georgeann Waggaman, who had used the method to create architectural renderings.
“You really just need to let the water do its thing,” Graybeal explained of the watercolor element of the work. “That’s how you get that special flowing kind of feel to it.”
Graybeal painted most of these new works – at least in part – en plein air, setting up his easel and doing his best to recreate what he saw in front of him. In some cases, the winter pieces in particular, he relied also on photographs. And he has included his sketchbook in the exhibition, opening up his process to viewers, showing black and white studies of shadow, establishing his light sources and focal colors, his key contrasts and, for each work, writing a short “why” statement for the image.
“I prefer to paint plein air because you can capture colors and a camera won’t,” Graybeal explained. “For instance, a shadow in the camera will come back black and you don’t see any of the detail, you don’t see the green in the grass reflecting in the light – whatever it might be, you miss those kind of things.”
“Still Here” was timed to open during what is often the Roaring Fork Valley’s most dramatic seasonal change, from fall to early winter as the first snows meet the last of the brilliant autumn leaves. It runs through Dec. 4.
“This is the perfect moment for this exhibition – when all of us are feeling the shift of seasons so immediately, and therefore, the impermanence of every moment,” Art Base curator Lissa Ballinger said when the show was announced. “Doug gracefully successfully leads the viewer through this exploration of landscape changed by the seasons.”
New TGR ski movie to play Wheeler Opera House
Teton Gravity Research’s 26th annual ski film, “Stoke the Fire,” will screen at the Wheeler Opera House on Friday.
The screening is the only major pre-ski season movie scheduled to play Aspen this year, as the Aspen Skiing Co. moved its annual ski film festival, The Meeting, from its long-standing mid-October slot to Jan. 24-26. TGR’s movies have been a staple of The Meeting’s lineups in years past.
Among the athletes in the film is Aspen-based skier Colter Hinchliffe, who has been a consistent presence in TGR movies since the 2012 release “The Dream Factory.” He got his foot in the door during a trip to Alaska the winter before, where he managed to talk his way into their shoot.
“I did everything I could to get in a helicopter with TGR,” he told The Aspen Times in 2019. “I did and the rest is history.”
The Wheeler Opera House “Stoke the Fire” tour stop will include prize giveaways from sponsors. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the screening beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 ($10/age 16 and younger). Tickets available at the Wheeler box office and aspenshowtix.com.
Friday also marks the first day of the Wheeler instituting its new coronavirus protocols. All attendees must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the event. Masks are still required for all attendees older than 2. More information at wheeleroperahouse.com.
Seeing the World on Two Wheels
Travel is about freedom and adventure, risk and reward. Bicycle touring is one of the most engaging, interactive and participatory means of having it all, and I’ve been at it for 50 years. With two wheels and a spirited attitude, the world is a wonder of sensory stimulation.
Enlivening the Body
Bike touring is not the easy way to go. Ask anyone who’s done it and they will acknowledge at least occasional physical suffering. But taking the easy way rarely tantalizes, challenges or pushes our thresholds. Going easy fails to provide lifelong memories like the many I have taken home after long and arduous journeys:
Tait rolling through a forest in northern Germany.
Tait cooking dinner in a bike touring shelter, Denmark.
Meeting other bike tourers along the dikes of Holland.
Paul warming up at a bike touring camp in northern Denmark.
Paul prepped for the cold and wet in Northern Europe.
Our hidden campsite on the Island of Crete is overshadowed by hundred-meter cliffs next to a flowing mountain stream. The Libyan Sea is a quarter mile away with the clearest water in the Med. We swim in salt, bathe in fresh. Tall pines provide shade against the searing sun. Jasmine scents the air. The lush red blooms of oleander decorate the canyon floor. Goat bells jingle as herds graze along the cliffs. Gulls cry while soaring against a deep blue sky.
In a small Greek village, my friend and I meet two Dutch sisters. We watch the sunset together, sipping Metaxa. The next morning, the sisters find us at our camp. We guide them along the wave-washed shore to a deserted cove among huge boulders where we lay out our camp pads and shed our clothes to feel the sun toast our skin as the sea pounds the rock walls sheltering us.
On one side, I gaze into the cool, clear water of a tidal pool and lazily follow the patterns of the foam-flecked surf. On the other side, I gaze at the brown body of one of the sisters. Her bronzed breasts are mounds on her strong chest. Her blonde hair is held behind her head with a golden clip, wispy curls upon her brow. Calypso? Circe? I feel like I’m living a Greek myth.
At camp later that afternoon, I watch a gaunt goat herder clad in sandals, carrying a staff, push his herd of shaggy animals down the canyon. He wades the river, lifting his paint legs, working his flock, shouting and whistling. He moves quickly in the hot sun, and the goats respond with blats and the tinkling of bells. Later, in town, strides a priest dressed all in black. His head is swathed in a black wrapping and his long gray beard hangs from his chin like sphagnum moss.
These journal entries describe “wild camping” at the mouth of the Samaria Gorge in 1984 where my friend and I discovered, by an accident of exploration, the reward for being on our own, as bike touring should be.
Posh cycling companies may seem convenient for guided bike tours. Sign up for a trip and you will spin the pedals and take in landscapes, but you will lose a vital sense of discovery that makes independent bike touring romantically adventuresome. A bike tour is about much more than the riding.
A self-guided tour begins with studying maps, plotting routes, calculating distances, considering logistics. There’s no one there to hold your hand, so you rely on yourself. You accept an edge of risk that hones your instincts and makes every kilometer uncertain and dynamic.
I have never felt so alive as when I don’t know what’s around the next curve, what the next village will offer, how to handle whatever comes up that defines my pedal-powered journey – and bike touring is all about the journey.
Stimulating the Mind
Touring from Bordeaux across the Pyrenees to Madrid, where I had started two months before, tested the limits of my endurance while offering something I hadn’t recognized: this trip was a mental necessity. My journal entries from May 1991 describe the harsh, desiccated landscapes of Andalusia in Northern Spain, which became a clarifying crucible for the value of voluntary suffering as a contrast to the easy and predictable life I had left in my rear view mirror:
A tiny bug crawls across the lens of my sunglasses. It moves like a shadow in my field of vision, noticed and ignored. I have been riding through a hatch of flies and they are plastered on my face, arms and legs like hitchhikers. But I’ve done some hitchhiking in my time, so I let them crawl and explore my body while I crawl along on my bicycle through the remote reaches of northern Spain.
I cannot be bothered by harmless insects. The stomach distress I picked up several days before in Southern France has distracted me from such petty annoyances with a dull, lingering ache and recurrent, sulfurous eruptions. One annoyance has allowed me to transcend another and, at the moment, I am more concerned with stomach bugs than with those roaming my flesh.
This is admittedly a low point, when the open road has lost its charm, when travel by bicycle has become an ordeal. I feel like I’ve had enough of indiscriminate wanderlusting, enough of hunching over the handlebars watching an asphalt blur.
Banking a curve on one of many mountain roads in Spain.
Tait on a rural route in southern Spain.
The open road, no traffic, blissful touring on the plains of Spain.
Touring through olive groves in the most mountainous country in the world – Spain.
I am wracked with doubts and at the mercy of the world around me. I am cycling across Spain with somewhat reckless abandon, which has rewards, but also vulnerability. Discomfort, loneliness, risk and a survival challenge create an ultimate distraction from the things I have left behind in comfortable Aspen.
My need is to push through this crucible of hardship and privation, and Spain is filling the bill with rugged terrain, harsh weather, noise, traffic and a universally cool indifference to my willful asceticism. As I pedal into the desert at the foot of the Pyrenees, I am arriving at the place I want and need to be.
My journal on these trips has become a confessional, recording memories sharp and vivid. It is as important as my maps, not for plotting where I am going, but for realizing where I have been. Persistent solitude and roadside attractions infused my mind. The metronome-like circular rhythms of spinning wheels and turning pedals induced a meditative, trance-like state that invited numerous epiphanies.
Discovering a Spiritual Quest
Touring the length of Israel in April 2014, the landscape was resplendent in history and culture, but demanding in parched Middle East deserts. There was not a green thing in site as my friend and I swooped down a steep series of switchbacks into the Mitzpe Ramon crater to traverse 100 kilometers of the Negev Desert. The lower we dropped, the higher the temperature. Soon, it was over 100 degrees, with neither clouds nor shade.
A tailwind gave us cruising speed, but no relief from the heat. Hours later, our water nearly gone, we were desperate for shelter. As if by miracle, we came upon a huge white gate and long fence line designating a kibbutz. Seeking help, we pressed what appeared to be a doorbell. What happened next made us feel like we stood at the gates to heaven:
Graeme descending a rough, steep trail at Masada, site of Herod’s Palace, Israel.
Watching out for camel crossings in the Ngev Desert in southern Israel.
Entering the Timna Valley, southern Israel.
Climbing out of Mitzpe Ramon, a vast crater in southern Israel.
Our prayers are answered by a handsome young man driving a small Toyota pickup. He invites us into what feels like a magical realm, saying we are just in time for the second Seder dinner. Would we be special guests and accept their hospitality? We nod mutely, still dazed by the heat and exertion. He leads us to a small mobile home encampment where showers rinse our salt-encrusted bodies.
At an appointed time, we pedal across a large spread of farm fields green with crops. We enter a courtyard bedecked with colorful lights where tables are laid out with bright flower. Dozens of beautifully dressed, handsome young people are seated. We join them and our glasses are filled with chilled wine made on the kibbutz. The dinner is a blur of delicious food, all locally grown. We are surrounded by lovely people who welcome us as if we are family. And, in a broad sense, we are.
This kibbutz was founded in the 1960s to encourage the unity of man. Here, in the midst of a sere desert, spiritual growth is inspired by communal giving and receiving – not just of food and drink, but of spiritual insights. After nearly a month of touring, we have discovered the purpose of our trip. We have come to the “holy land” for spiritual communion at a desert oasis flowing with artesian wells and brimming with youth and beauty. The desert blooms in a surreal expanse of cultivated desert in the midst one of the most forbidding landscapes in the world.
Spiritual awakening via bicycle, mental stimulation on the open road, physical commitment to two wheels and the wind – all of it combines to make bike touring a journey inward as much as outward. The pace is up to you, the route is your own, conditions are uncertain, landscapes are foreign, people are good and bad, you are free. The road beckons with the same siren song Odysseus exulted to hear when tied to the mast.
Paul Andersen is a former Aspen Times reporter and columnist, now an occasional contributing freelance writer. He rides a custom-built, rigid frame 29ner and has been known to curse headwinds.