Anderson Ranch launches new community engagement series for local creatives |

Anderson Ranch launches new community engagement series for local creatives

Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s first Thinker Thursday panel answers questions after giving their presentations on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun


The next Thinker Thursday at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center is Feb. 20 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the center’s Schermer Meeting Hall. The freeform “PechaKucha-style” event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a dinner at the ranch. Reservations are required. For more information or to RSVP, contact Leah Aegerter at

A group of 12 different people showing 15 different slides for 15 seconds each, amounting to 4:05 minutes total.

That was the breakdown of Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s first Thinker Thursday event Jan. 16, a new monthly, multi-format series from January to April aimed at engaging creatives of all kinds through freeform presentations and formal critique sessions.

With little to no downtime in between, the 12 speakers took to the Schermer Meeting Hall podium and shared everything from the connection between humans and fruit flies and the drive to fight climate change to the mixology needed to craft killer music mash-ups as a DJ and the world of thumb-sized plants.

“The idea is very quick interactions with each other, very quick presentations with that idea of really hearing and catching a spark of a chit-chat conversation of something someone is very passionate about,” Peter Waanders, president and chief executive officer of Anderson Ranch, explained Jan. 16. “One thing that all of these speakers have in common is they have an idea and a vision, they have a passion to really chase that and to learn and make it part of their lives.”

According to Andrea Jenkins Wallace, director of programs at Anderson Ranch, the Thinker Thursday event idea came out of ranch staff’s desire to bring a broader scope of people to the arts center campus.

There are many locals who have never made it to Anderson Ranch, Wallace said, and staff is dedicated to bringing in all kinds of creative people who live in the Aspen-Snowmass area.

“Our passion is to be a connector,” Wallace said. “We want to appeal to more of the community.”

Wallace went on to say the recent Thinker Thursday event was “PechaKucha” inspired, a Japanese word meaning “chit chat” and a growing storytelling format. She said staff felt this short, 15 slides with 15 seconds allowed per slide set-up, followed by a Q&A, would be an effective way to engage the community and the speakers.

“We reached out to people pursuing their path in a creative way with passion, that’s what connects people together and to the ranch,” Wallace said of the first Thinker Thursday speakers.

On Feb. 20, a new group of speakers will gather for another PechaKucha-style event, but in March and April, the Thinker Thursday format will see a switch-up.

Instead of speakers presenting to an audience, local artists will have the opportunity to have eight of their new or in-progress pieces in any medium critiqued and discussed by attendees. The two “Crits and Conversations” sessions in March and April facilitated by a panel of Roaring Fork Valley artists, architects and designers, fits into the overall Thinker Thursday series mission of bringing broader demographics to the arts center, Wallace said.

“It’s more about people in the community getting to know more about the community they live in,” Wallace said. “And maybe people will learn more about themselves and find new things they’re passionate in.”

After the speakers finished their short presentation Jan. 16, they sat in a row of chairs in front of the audience to answer questions posed by Waanders.

Although the presentation topic range was broad, Waanders was able to connect each speaker through themes of overcoming personal challenges; and understanding the relationships of both society as a whole with its surrounding ecosystems, and of individuals with individual elements of life like tiny plants and snowflakes.

Several speakers thanked Waanders and the Anderson Ranch staff for the opportunity, and one audience member said he felt the event was movie-like, asking Waanders how he and the ranch staff came up with the idea.

“How do you come up with this idea? It’s almost hard not to when you’re surrounded by an audience that could easily be up on this stage as well as these speakers could be in the audience listening the other way,” Waanders said. If you are intersted in presenting during the next PechaKucha-style Thinker Thursday in February, contact Leah Aegerter at