Toklat makes move downvalley
A Castle Creek Valley art tradition has moved to Basalt: Toklat art gallery, established decades ago, reopened this weekend on Midland Avenue.The collection of art from around the world was located across from the Ashcroft ghost town until last weekend, when the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies officially took over the gallery’s former location. Botanist and naturalist Stuart Mace first established the gallery in the mid-’50s while care-taking a parcel of land in the Castle Creek Valley owned by the Ryan family.The Ryans agreed that Stuart and his wife, Isabel, could live at the wilderness lodge they named Toklat for the rest of their lives, and they raised five children there. Stuart died in 1993, and when ACES arranged to purchase the property last year, Isabel received $150,000 as part of the sale for her life estate.Isabel and daughter Lynne, who has run the gallery for more than a decade, have relocated to Basalt, where Lynne chose to open the family’s business in the Riverwalk Building.”When life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade and get on with it,” Lynne Mace said of the move. “But when I knew I had to move, there was never any question in my mind that I would come to Basalt. I had no intention of going to Aspen and competing in that market.”Mace said she considers Basalt to be “what Aspen was 30 years ago,” with its rows of independently owned shops. And she expects customer traffic to be more steady on a year-round basis. Compared with being 13 miles up Castle Creek Road, she said, her new location means that the world is at her fingertips.Mace sent letters to her customers about the move and has been advertising heavily in the newspaper to get the word out.”All summer long people were telling me they could hardly wait until I got to Basalt – it’s easier to get to, and they were very happy for me,” she said. “Almost everyone said I’ll do very well down there.”The history of the Toklat gallery dates to the beginning of the wilderness lodge in the Castle Creek Valley. Stuart Mace first began selling his own wood carvings and photography in the parking lot near Ashcroft, also offering Navajo jewelry and rugs and Inuit artwork.Lynne Mace next remembers her family establishing its next shop in the front of The Aspen Times building on Main Street – after school she would do her homework while manning the small storefront gallery. In the ’80s Stuart Mace sold artwork in a different storefront on Main Street for a couple of years.Eventually in the mid-’80s when the restaurant at Toklat closed, the Mace home continued to host a gallery and cookouts by reservation. Their characteristic hanging tables, dangling from cables in the wooden building’s ceiling, were fully booked a full year in advance, Mace said.Stuart Mace died in 1998, and his only daughter became the gallery’s sole manager in 1996. The art in the gallery has always been internationally themed, she said, including rugs and beaded art from Mexico, work from all over the United States and tapestries from Warsaw, Poland.”You choose what you love, and I’ve stuck with that and been pretty successful at it,” Mace said of the work she carries. Toklat’s wood walls were a “terrible place to hang paintings,” but with her new location’s “fabulous walls” she may carry more.One of Toklat’s hanging tables is suspended in the new gallery’s back room, where rugs are displayed, overlooking the Fryingpan River. The gallery includes a room for Isabel Mace, who is now 87 and lives with her daughter in Basalt.Lynne Mace calls herself a “sucker for punishment,” since she’d like to reinvent her family’s traditional cookouts, just as she has managed to reinvent the gallery in a new location.”I’ll think of something,” she said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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