With new exhibit, Tread of Pioneers Museum connects the vast Perry-Mansfield dots

Luke Graham
Katie Adams sets up a display celebrating Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp's 100 years in Steamboat Springs The display will open to the public Friday. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
John F. Russell

— Six degrees of separation typically don’t exist in Steamboat Springs. Two degrees is usually all it takes.

And as Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp celebrates its 100th year, it’s hard not to find a place or person in the Yampa Valley that isn’t just one or two steps removed from the renowned facility in Strawberry Park.

To celebrate the centennial, Tread of Pioneers Museum is opening a new exhibit honoring Perry-Mansfield’s illustrious first 100 years.

The exhibit, which opens Friday, demonstrates the reach of Perry-Mansfield throughout the Yampa Valley and beyond.

As visitors enter the exhibit room, and just past a shelf being used by Perry-Mansfield alumni to display their memories and stories, a framed piece helps connect the dots.

In the center is the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp. From there it’s amazing to see the school’s fingerprints throughout Steamboat.

Author Lucile Bogue’s history of the camp is full of interesting tidbits and anecdotes. But Bogue also started Yampa Valley College, which later became Colorado Mountain College.

And The Juilliard School? Former Perry-Mansfield dance director Linda Kent is now a teacher at the famous New York City arts school.

Marjorie Perry, the sister of Perry-Mansfield co-founder Charlotte Perry, was a close friend of Carl Howelsen and helped bring him to Steamboat Springs. It’s also thought that Howelsen did some of the stonework masonry at the school and camp.

Richard Pleasant was exposed to dance at the school in the 1920s and later formed the American Ballet Theatre.

And Steamboat Dance Theatre, a staple in the community, was created by the Steamboat Arts Council in 1972. Eleanor Bliss helped create the Steamboat Arts Council.

“It’s funny and amazing,” Perry-Mansfield Executive Director Joan Lazarus said. “It’s like one of those Clue games. I had no idea about some of the stuff.”

For Tread of Pioneers curator Katie Adams, the exhibit project was a trip through time, while also being a puzzle of its own.

Perry-Mansfield volunteer Karolynn Lestrud and Lazarus opened up the camp’s archives for Adams to pour through. With a room to work with, Adams had to be part historian and part designer.

“There are so many interesting pieces to Perry-Mansfield,” Adams said. “You’re trying to put 100 years of camp history into this. There is no way we can do justice to the story that has developed over 100 years.”

But the exhibit was taking shape Wednesday, and a small look at 100 years of dance, theater, equestrian and learning were evident.

For Lazarus, the exhibit introduces Perry-Mansfield to people who didn’t know about while also re-introducing it to people who did.

“Perry-Mansfield feels like magic, and the fact that it’s here in this setting,” she said. “We want people to pay attention to that and celebrate that.”

Tread of Pioneers Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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