September 23, 2012, I embarked on my first art residency to the mountain town of Salida, Colorado. I was excited for the opportunity to be in the heart of the Rockies and learn about the Arkansas River Valley. This award was a dream and I was ready for it!
Arriving at Denver International Airport, my next destination was Chaffee County, a bus ride several hours away. It proved to be a worthy choice of travel in both comfort and beauty. First views of Salida were blanketed by golden rays of neighboring mountains. Fall was indeed a joyous time to be in Colorado with its endless panorama of open country and brilliant Aspens. My art buddy Merna was at the bus stop to greet me and take me to the Tweit/Cabe resident guest cottage, then a welcome night downtown meeting new friends. The cottage was cozy and artful with everything one could possibly need. For this weary traveler though, sleep would wait, there would be dinner on the outdoor terrace at the Fritz. We passed around tapas, a delicious assortment of small plate entrees followed by mouth-watering pies for dessert. The town also has its own winery so I partook in a toast, promising to drink lots of water to help with altitude. Group laughter and wonderful food were a perfect way to begin my journey. Looking up I noticed the moon and imagined that my time here was all meant to be.
I got my first look at the studio next day, after a good sleep. I’ve always carved indoors so I set my sights on working outside just beyond the studio loading dock. Being surrounded by mountains in all directions seemed just what I needed to find my rhythm again. I would pull out my tools and hear the steady sound of hammer and chisel. A shift in life and health put a lot of things on hold. It’s been seven years since my last stone work. In the interim of not carving, I continued to explore and simply took up other art forms. I’m also a painter, but my proposal for residency was to create a piece in stone. It did not not take long for me to set up space and get to work amongst the rubber rabbitbrush, honey bees and butterflies that would be studio company over the weeks ahead. I made a work bench from wood palettes and carved away under the beautiful Salida sky. Knowing it was not going to be easy, I paced myself between carving, biking, walking, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep. Never thought about time or if my body was up for the challenge, I just forged ahead and found my stride. The passion returned with the first mark to stone.
The amazing thing about this residency is its legacy. Richard Cabe, an accomplished sculptor who worked in granite, but whose life was cut way too short to brain cancer, built up an incredible studio. His time here reveals a man on a mission, an artist who lived life to the fullest. Susan J. Tweit, gifted writer and Richard’s lovely wife, established the Terraphilia Art Residency with her late husband. Together they created a beautiful environment, including their own sustainable home.
Wish I met Richard but I’m grateful their last wish was to set up this extraordinary residency for visual and literal artists. Every moment was magical. Last day I took a crisp early morning walk down the bike trail to see yet another beautiful sunrise then one last carving session to complete my piece.
Merna helped me ship stones home–good thing for flat rate! As soon as it warmed up I biked around town one last time. Afternoon packing began then finally some down time with Susan, beginning with a tour of her amazing home. We walked to town with my stone sculpture saddled to her bike, enjoyed a toast at the Boathouse, then went next door to Salida Artworks ‘Creative Mixer’ night where I spoke about my residency and showcased my work. I’m still smiling and chuckling over this night. Thanks Susan, sometimes we have to save the best for last! I took the short walk home solo to bask under the moonlight.
“Taking Flight” October 2012. Vermont marble, Colorado schist
Thank you ~ To Colorado Art Ranch and Grant Pound for accepting me. Merna my art buddy who got me where I needed to go, always with a smile. Lisa, owner of the fabulous Book Haven, for your dedication and support of the arts. Ed for taking me to rock mines, so many rocks to carry, also for help installing my sculpture. To Absolute Bikes for setting me up on a great bike rental, and Josh for guiding me up ‘S’ Mountain trails. To Terry for driving all the way to Salida to take me out for a beautiful afternoon visit to Leadville. Ed, Paula, Wayne, Licia, Larry, Carla, your smiles always made me feel welcome. And to Susan J. Tweit, a big heartfelt thanks for the gift of time and space, offering residency and hospitality that was beyond my expectations. So grateful to all my friends along the way who made my stay special. I’ll always have happy memories of Salida.
With love and gratitude,
The Heart of the Rockies.
Night from “S” Mountain.
Terraphilia Gallery. September/October 2012, Colorado.
All images and text © Robin MacDonald-Foley