Docent tours at Steamboat Art Museum highlight new exhibit featuring landscapes, friendship | SteamboatToday.com
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Docent tours at Steamboat Art Museum highlight new exhibit featuring landscapes, friendship

“Four Directions – Common Paths: Oberg, Smith, Whitcomb, Young; Friendship, Inspiration and Craft – a 30 Year Connection” opened at the Steamboat Art Museuem on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Art Museum is launching a series of docent tours at 4 p.m. each Wednesday to highlight its newest exhibit, “Four Directions – Common Paths: Oberg, Smith, Whitcomb, Young; Friendship, Inspiration and Craft – a 30 Year Connection.”

The exhibit, which opened in early December 2020, will run until Sept. 4, 2021, which is an extension of its original end date of April.

“We decided that this is such a fabulous exhibit, let’s get people in to do tours,” said SAM Executive Director Betse Grassby. “There’s a lot to talk about that isn’t self-explanatory here.”



Ralph Oberg, Matt Smith, Skip Whitcomb and Dan Young are the four featured artists, and they are a group of painters who have spent the past 30 years traveling the West together, painting landscapes.

“Why the show is so exciting,” Grassby explained, “is that it’s not just paintings, but it’s also their story. These are four guys who have worked really hard together, who support each other, push each other and critique each other but never compete.”



Dottie Zabel, the museum’s director of operations, notes that the four of them wouldn’t do a show individually without the others.

“The story of their friendship is almost as important as the artwork in here,” she said.

With the popularity of plein air painting rising, especially in the past two decades, these four men were the original pioneers.

If you go

If you go

What: “Four Directions – Common Paths: Oberg, Smith, Whitcomb, Young; Friendship, Inspiration and Craft – a 30 Year Connection” exhibition docent tour

When: 4 p.m. Wednesdays

Where: 801 Lincoln Ave.

“They were doing plein air painting before it was really cool,” Zabel said. “They were the old soldiers going out there in their snowsuits, getting out in the elements, catching the light, the atmosphere, the color that you can only get when you’re outside.”

The exhibit features four friends who helped pioneer plein air painting. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

The exhibit features approximately 25 pieces by each artist in an array of sizes. The docent tours will highlight the artists’ techniques and backgrounds as well as their shared story as a group traveling the West together. Grassby hopes the tours will encourage locals to come in and see the paintings.

“We are very blessed that we have this fabulous facility,” Grassby said. “We have over 5,000 square feet of exhibition space, so it allows us to spread out.”

As with any business, the museum has struggled in the past year due to new rules and regulations surrounding COVID-19. The facility in downtown Steamboat Springs been unable to host lectures, and special events and artist celebrations have been postponed. Grassby said COVID-19 has impacted their visitor numbers, and they’ve seen a decline, but more so with locals.

“Visitors will always come in because they’re looking for something to do,” she said. “But we wanted to set up these docent tours to get our locals in, especially to see this amazing exhibit. This is truly one of the greatest shows of contemporary artists that we’ve ever staged.”

The museum’s current capacity is 35 people, which Grassby said has never been an issue. The free tours, which started on Wednesday, are a first-come, first-served basis and are not expected to reach capacity.

“We want people to feel safe coming in,” Zabel said. “And we want people to know that we’re here for them. We’re happy to make whatever arrangements necessary to allow people to come in and view the exhibit.”


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