Historic paintings showing at Toklat | AspenTimes.com

Historic paintings showing at Toklat

Charles Agar

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies members will hold a potluck this afternoon and offer a rare glimpse of the watercolors of one of Aspen’s cultural forbears, Emma Hilken.The 4 p.m. event is for members but open to the public. The dinner will take place at theToklat property near Ashcroft, which ACES recently acquired.Hilken was born in Baltimore in 1855. Her daughter Elizabeth Paepcke, along with Paepcke’s husband, Walter, was a founder of the Aspen resort community. The Paepckes’ daughter Paula Zurcher is an Aspen resident and ACES board member. Zurcher is contributing digital copies of her great-grandmother’s watercolors to the center.Zurcher said that her great-grandmother was a dynamic woman, well-traveled between homes in Baltimore, Germany and Colorado, and possessed a great sense of humor and adventurous spirit. Hilken’s parents emigrated from Germany, and she spoke and read German fluently. She was an artist, and after a diagnosis of a debilitating lung disease – tuberculosis was not yet known and was called “consumption” – she came to Colorado Springs for benefits of the water.In Colorado Springs, Hilken lived on a street called “Dead Man’s Row,” exclusively for people with TB. While in Colorado she met Helen Hunt Jackson, a novelist known for her works on Native Americans. Together, they traipsed the countryside, collecting flowers, which Hilken captured in watercolor.Hilken died at the age of 46 in 1901.Digital copies of Hilken’s original watercolors will be on display starting at 4 p.m. today Dinner is at 6 p.m., followed by a campfire.The Toklat property is 11 miles up Castle Creek Road from the roundabout in Aspen, just across from the Ashcroft ghost town. Toklat, an Eskimo word meaning “a valley formed by a glacier,” was where Stuart and Isabel Mace originally built a home that doubled as a lodge, restaurant, kennel and art gallery high in the Castle Creek Valley. After the Maces died, a number of donors purchased the Toklat land for ACES.Right now Toklat is undergoing renovation to hold future ACES programs. Toklat is open to visitors. There is a naturalists at nearby Ashcroft every day through the end of September. (ACES naturalist are on sight from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Ashcroft entry is $5.)Charles Agar’s e-mail is cagar@aspentimes.com.