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Nancy Lovendahl honored for ‘Inspiring Others Through Art’

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

Where: Skye Gallery

When: Through Nov. 10

More info: skyegalleryaspen.com

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

pitkincounty.com/pitkincountycares


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