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Blue Sage welcomes new executive director

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After more than five years as executive director of the Blue Sage Center for the Arts, Annette Pretorius is moving on.

During her time at the Blue Sage, the 20-year-old nonprofit has increased membership, added educational opportunities and expanded its music and arts programming. After joining the Blue Sage in August, 2011, Pretorius worked with then board member Carol Schott and pianist and vocal instructor Susan Ellinger to establish the annual Classical Concert Series, which is now in its fifth season. In 2015, she worked with rhythm artist David Alderdice to create a New World concert series.

"She's been a delight," said board president Don Grant. He called Pretorius an outside-the-box thinker who helped the organization grow and progress.

The Blue Sage currently serves residents of the North Fork Valley through classes, events, exhibits, venue rentals and art outreach into local schools. The organization will hold its annual board meeting and 20th anniversary celebration from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14. The meeting will include photographs and stories from the center's last 20 years.

Pretorius will be recognized for her service. She said that during her time at the Blue Sage she's enjoyed the community and the bringing together of people the most. Because the organization lacked structure at the time she was hired, she helped establish a custom database and set of procedures that allow the organization to operate efficiently.

Carol Newman, a Denver-area artist, was selected by the board to replace Pretorius. She is in the process of moving from the Front Range and will officially begin her job on Halloween day. "Scary, huh?" said Newman during a recent phone interview.

Blue Sage board president Don Grant said the board received several applications and quickly narrowed the field down to a handful of finalists. Due to her impressive resume and experiences, including teaching and extensive work with non-profits, "Carol floated to the top," he said.

Newman's artistic skills include mosaics, fiber arts, painting, mixed media and jewelry. She said she learned about the job opening through Colorado Creative Industries. That the North Fork area is designated a creative district by the CCI was a big consideration in accepting the position, said Newman. She sees arts as essential to a healthy community and looks forward to using her arts and business backgrounds to support and advance arts in the area.

Newman grew up in the Denver area, where art got her through high school and some very tough times in her early life. "Art always kept me sane," she said.

In the early 1980s she moved to North Carolina where she had a career in human resources at Time Warner Cable. While in North Carolina she served about seven years on the board of the Society of American Mosaic Artists and volunteered at the Civic and Cultural Arts Center of Pineville.

She returned to the Denver area about two years ago and immersed herself in the arts community. She has served as program chair for Colorado Mosaic Artists and is a member of the Society of American Mosaic Artists, the Arts and Crafts Council, the Art Students League of Denver, and the Kashi Kari Gallery, an artist collective in the Santa Fe Arts District of Denver. Her works have been exhibited regionally and are held in the private collections. She shares her love of mosaics through teaching at private and public venues. Most recently, a mosaic mask, titled "Thinly Veiled," created for the Denver Hospice Mask Project, raised $200 for hospice care.

Newman said she'd never been as far south as Paonia. Her first taste of the area was the Mountain Harvest Festival Harvest of Voices, an annual event highlighting local writers and sponsored by the Blue Sage.

The Blue Sage is very progressive, said Newman. "For it being a primarily volunteer-based organization, I'm very impressed."

She eventually would like to teach classes at the center, but in the interim will focus on getting to know the organization and the community.

Pretorius said that building a solid reputation and creating an all-inclusive culture was and remains one of the biggest challenges for the organization, and said that Newman's backgrounds in education, business and the arts will help address those challenges.

Friday's annual board meeting will also include an election of two new board members and an overview of the organization.

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