Art community to celebrate legacy of late local artist Susan Schiesser

A maquette of the sculpture for the late Susan Schiesser shows what the finished project will look like. (Courtesy photo)

A celebration of life will be held Friday evening at the Depot Art Center for local artist Susan Schiesser, who died in October 2020. Friends are invited to gather from 5-6 p.m. Friday in memory of Schiesser who was a driving force behind the vibrant art culture in Steamboat Springs.

Following the celebration of life, a live and silent art auction of Schiesser’s works and private art collection will take place at 6 p.m. also at the Depot Art Center. Cookie and Jo Lockhart will be conducting the auction of 30 items, which include Schiesser’s own paintings as well as donations from other artists.

The funds raised from the auction will go toward building a sculpture of a piece that Schiesser created titled, “She Walks on Water.” The painting depicts a bear with wings and a crown; it is meant to serve as a reminder of the bears that once roamed the Yampa Valley.

Dagny McKinley, local historian, author and friend of Schiesser’s, pointed out that the Yampa River was once named Bear River.

If you go

What: Celebration of life for Susan Schiesser followed by a live and silent art auction

When: 5-6 p.m. Friday, celebration of life; 6-8 p.m. Friday art auction

Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St.

“We have a history of bears in Steamboat, and that legacy has been lost a bit,” said McKinley. “Through this bear, we want to bring to mind the history and heritage of the area, just like the arts. It’s a way of celebrating Susan through her work.”

Local sculptor Sandy Graves will create the sculpture, which is currently in the design phase and is anticipated to be finished at some point next year.

Graves first met Schiesser when they were part of a group of local artists who founded the Artists’ Gallery of Steamboat in 2006.

“It was the first time that I felt I had an art community in Steamboat, so it was pretty special,” Graves remembered. “I learned a lot from Susan because she was pretty advanced in her career at that time. She was a great mentor to many artists here.”

The sculpture will serve as a reminder that life is fleeting, but a legacy can continue to engage future generations.

“This is a way of celebrating Susan through her own work,” McKinley said. “She started several galleries in town, but what was more important than the physical things was what she did emotionally for artists. So many people say they wouldn’t have continued on with their art if Susan hadn’t encouraged them to do so.”

The 10- to 12-foot sculpture is expected to be finished next year, and while there have been preliminary talks with the city of Steamboat to identify a place where the sculpture could live, its exact location is yet to be determined.

McKinley and Schiesser began discussing the project before they knew how sick she was.

“She wanted to leave a legacy, a place where people could be inspired by art,” McKinley said. “Susan was a creative force, as will be this sculpture.”

Donations for the project are welcome and can be made out to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation: Susan Schiesser Memorial Fund.

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