Dorothy Garber would have so enjoyed Friday night's opening at the Creamery Arts Center.
"Changing Direction: New Work by the Hotchkiss Fine Art Association" showcases a variety of mediums by HFAA artist-members Dana Bradley, Rosalie Clock, Jeanine Cowan, Dona Doye, Cedar Keshet Fowler, Gary Hall, Peter Halladay Bobby Hass, Peggy Judy, Mary Jursinovic, Emily Matteson, Gini McNair, Mary Smith, Jean M. Storz, Jaquita Watters, and Lynne Norton Anderson (with Robert Lueallen as firemeister for her raku pottery).
Open through July, the show celebrates a new beginning for the organization that Garber helped establish almost 60 years ago, and that not so long ago almost folded. Board president Gary Hall explained that in 2016 the HFAA went through a re-organization and is now seeing a resurgence in interest and an increase in membership.
That growth is due in large part to an influx of artists to the North Fork area, said Mary Smith, a 17-year club member. "It's just amazing how many artists are here." Many of those newcomers have joined the organization, and now serve on the HFAA board. "They are really interested in revitalizing the club," said Smith. They're keeping it on track and holding monthly meetings that include an artist's demonstration.
Garber is credited for founding the HFAA in 1958. When she arrived in the North Fork area in 1945 she wasn't yet an artist, said Smith. According to her 2006 obituary, Garber was prolific in multiple mediums and supported the arts in numerous ways and "brought her energy and enthusiasm to a growing community of artists who remain friends and colleagues to this day." She embraced the arts completely, and ultimately her works became well-known regionally and nationally. In 1991 Garber was nominated for Colorado's Governor's Award in Excellence for the Arts. Each year the Delta County Fair presents a special arts and photography award in her honor.
In 1959 the HFAA held its first Black Canyon Art Exhibit, an annual juried show that grew to feature hundreds of works by artists from throughout the region. "It was a big deal," said Smith, and packed Memorial Hall every year. It was also a big draw for the town, since it lasted three days.
The Black Canyon show was last held in 2012. By that time, said Smith, the HFAA had lost many of its longtime members. For a time, there wasn't enough volunteer power to put on the annual show, and members voted to end it. (Another show Garber was involved with for 40 year, the Fall Art Festival in Glenwood Springs, went on hiatus in 2015 due to declines in volunteers and funding, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.)
Not wanting the club to disappear, Hotchkiss artist Mary Hockenbery took over as board president. She opened her business, the Church of Art, for meetings and exhibit space. She basically kept the organization on life support, said Hall. Last year Hockenbery announced that she was stepping down as president and a new board was put in place. After the Church of Art closed, the HFAA obtained a group membership at The Creamery.
The Creamery opened its doors in 2006 as a world-class art gallery and education center, and also underwent a successful reorganization in 2016. They now offer adult and children's art classes, provide a venue for live music, host a weekly open mic session, and offer a senior outreach program.
"It's the people's place for the arts," said Hall, a former Blue Sage Center for the Arts board and gallery committee member and current member of the Paonia Literary Committee. Hall said he is committed to keeping the organization going. "Any opportunity to support the arts in the valley, I will jump on it."
Hall and Smith say that while its focus is on Hotchkiss, they want the club to be inclusive for the whole North Fork Valley. "We want everybody to join us," said Smith. That would be good for the Creamery, too. And maybe, she added, with a little more interest, "It will lead to the return of the Black Canyon Show."