Ranchlands art exhibit comes to Steamboat Springs for the first time
Steamboat Springs — On a warm spring day at the Zapata Ranch in Mosca, seven artists observe a day in the life of a ranch hand.
Some may cowboy up and grab a rope to help, others may sit and watch daily tasks.
But at the end of the day, each artist’s perspective reveals another layer to what it means to be part of Ranchlands.
“It’s so interesting to see how these artists will paint the same landscape or what part of the horse they will zero in on,” said Tess Leach, a member of the Phillips family and Ranchlands’ director of hospitality and senior director of business development. “It really makes you appreciate and see all the different elements of the everyday workings on the ranch.”
Ranchlands — a Colorado-based ranching and ranch management company — was created to implement conservation and sustainability programs by partnering with owners of large-scale ranches.
The family-run business, which has been operating for the past 16 years, currently manages the 103,000-acre Zapata Ranch, owned by The Nature Conservancy and home to a herd of bison near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Ranchlands also manages the Chico Basin Ranch, owned by the Colorado State Land Board — an 87,000-acre, family-run working cattle ranch near Colorado Springs.
Bringing people together from varying backgrounds, the Ranchlands, through its Artist Gatherings, invite 10 to 20 artists to one of the properties for about one to two weeks throughout the summer or spring season to live and work at the ranch.
Starting Friday, 26 pieces created during one of the gatherings will be on display from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Depot Art Center. The exhibit is presented by the Steamboat Springs Arts Council and the Community Agriculture Alliance in conjunction with the First Friday Artwalk.
“Ranchlands evokes emotions of nostalgia and enchantment for me,” said Kim Keith, executive director of the Arts Council. “The collection illustrates a deep appreciation for subtle moments of hard work, quietness and a respect for this way of life.”
The pieces in the show range from oil acrylics to photography and from abstract to realistic.
“They really are bridging the gap between ranching and the rest of America, it’s their mission,” said Duke Beardsley, one of the featured artists in the exhibit who has been involved with Ranchlands for eight years. “They show another side of the West some people may not know about.”
In addition to the large scale cattle operations that co-exist with the conservation programs, Ranchlands runs a series of land-based businesses including hospitality, hunting, fishing and ecotourism.
“We ride this line between being ranchers and conservationists,” said Leach, who helped bring the exhibit to Denver and now Steamboat. “Our goal really is to start a conversation and to do something to bridge that gap between the urban and rural divide. Because we feel that if the two communities keep moving further and further apart then the rural lifestyle will be at risk.”
From Beardsley’s experience, a lot of daylight can be lost trying to keep up with life on the ranch, and the best thing to do is to become immersed in the lifestyle.
“I would then go back to my studio after the stay at one of the ranches and create something from those memories and feelings,” he said. “They really open up their lives to whatever is happening, and as an artist, you are encouraged to be part of that. The strong affinity and fondness for the work they do is apparent.”
At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, the Steamboat Springs Arts Council will host a panel discussion about the role of conservation in ranching with Duke Phillips, Ranchlands CEO, Tim Sullivan, former state director for The Nature Conservancy, and Anne Zoltani, from Friends of the Yampa.
In celebration of ranch life and the culture of the west, the Arts Council and the Community Ag Alliance will hold a Community Barn Dance at 7:30 p.m. March 27 at the Depot Art Center with music from Steamboat Swings. A $5 donation is suggested at the door.
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