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Arts center founder, executive director to step down

Frances Hohl/For Steamboat Today
Linda Laughlin, founder of the nonprofit Center for Visual Arts, is stepping down as executive director. The popular downtown gallery has a mixture of established local artists and emerging artists and also offers an education component with lectures and workshops for the public.
Courtesy Photo

Fundraiser planned for CVA

It’s time to “Paint the Town” at one of Steamboat’s best parties of the year. The fundraiser for the Center for Visual Arts is a great way to spend your time in between Christmas and New Year, according to local artist Deb Babcock.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to pick up some local fine art at auction prices,” Babcock said. Not to mention “great music, great food and a wonderful selection of wine and beer."

The CVA party is always a ball of fun for visitors and locals and is organized differently every year. It benefits the nonprofit gallery that has been essential to nurturing Steamboat’s art community during the past decade.

Playing on the “Paint the Town” theme, local encaustic artist MK Ghiglia will don her cigarette girl costume and sell pieces of a large picture, which people will then color. All the pieces will eventually come together as a mosaic, depicting a scene from downtown. Where it will hang, is yet to be determined, Ghiglia said.

MB Warner, one of CVA’s most prolific artists and a respected lecturer, will show her stuff with a live painting demo, and live music by Leaner & Lunker is expected to rock the house.

The party also marks the end of an era, as CVA founder Linda Laughlin is retiring as executive director.

“Bring your friends, your holiday guests and kick up your heels at this annual holiday event,” Laughlin said. “Please don’t stress out and wait ‘til the last minute, the Steamboat way. Get your tickets today.”

“Paint the Town” is set for 7 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Art Depot, 1001 13th St. Tickets are $40 each and are available at steamboatartcente... or the CVA, 837 Lincoln Ave.

After eight years of putting her heart and reputation on the line, the woman who has helped bring local artists into the limelight is retiring as executive director of The Center For Visual Arts, the nonprofit gallery she founded in Steamboat Springs.

Fundraiser planned for CVA

It’s time to “Paint the Town” at one of Steamboat’s best parties of the year. The fundraiser for the Center for Visual Arts is a great way to spend your time in between Christmas and New Year, according to local artist Deb Babcock.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to pick up some local fine art at auction prices,” Babcock said. Not to mention “great music, great food and a wonderful selection of wine and beer.”

The CVA party is always a ball of fun for visitors and locals and is organized differently every year. It benefits the nonprofit gallery that has been essential to nurturing Steamboat’s art community during the past decade.

Playing on the “Paint the Town” theme, local encaustic artist MK Ghiglia will don her cigarette girl costume and sell pieces of a large picture, which people will then color. All the pieces will eventually come together as a mosaic, depicting a scene from downtown. Where it will hang, is yet to be determined, Ghiglia said.

MB Warner, one of CVA’s most prolific artists and a respected lecturer, will show her stuff with a live painting demo, and live music by Leaner & Lunker is expected to rock the house.

The party also marks the end of an era, as CVA founder Linda Laughlin is retiring as executive director.

“Bring your friends, your holiday guests and kick up your heels at this annual holiday event,” Laughlin said. “Please don’t stress out and wait ‘til the last minute, the Steamboat way. Get your tickets today.”

“Paint the Town” is set for 7 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Art Depot, 1001 13th St. Tickets are $40 each and are available at steamboatartcente… or the CVA, 837 Lincoln Ave.

Linda Laughlin was in a tight spot when she decided the Yampa Valley needed an outlet for little-known and emerging artists in 2009: There was a full-blown recession underway, nobody thought she could succeed with this new little art gallery and no organization would take her idea under their nonprofit umbrella.

None of that stopped her. She used her experience as a former gallery owner and ad agency executive to get things moving.

“I spent a year and half to get the non-profit designation,” Laughlin said. “My family helped fund this thing for years, and a dedicated board kept us above water. It didn’t break even until year 4 or 5.”

Few people know that, for years, Laughlin spent endless nights setting up the art exhibits, hammering nails and moving art from spot to spot until it “was perfect.”

However, a few people did.

“People don’t really understand what it takes to get a gallery going, getting the nonprofit status and the grants written,” said sculptor Brad Poissant, who sat on the original board of directors after Laughlin started the CVA. “Linda has done a remarkable job getting it going and making it a success.”

Artist Sandra Sherrod, co-owner of Pine Moon Fine Art, said Laughlin’s work is reflected throughout the community.

“She did a good job of finding a place for the emerging artist, and that’s really important in the art community,” Sherrod said. “If you don’t get those emerging artists going, your art community will collapse.”

Well-known ceramic and watercolor artist Deb Babcock said Laughlin’s work has made it possible for many artists to get their feet wet.

“It’s a nice way for people who are just breaking into art to have a place right in the middle of downtown to display their work,” Babcock said. “She’s had a hundred people cycle in” and out of the gallery. “She’s been really helpful for a lot of the up-and-coming artists.”

Nobody knows that better than Gallery 89 owner Rufina Tegeder, who said Laughlin’s mentoring spurred her to open up her own art gallery in downtown Steamboat. Tegeder now represents some of the artists who got their start under Laughlin’s CVA.

“I think Linda had a profound effect on these artists,” Tegeder said. “She’s basically launching careers and nurturing their talent.”

Laughlin acknowledged she is often seen as a no-nonsense Easterner who gets things done, even if it means stepping on some toes. But no one can deny her soft spot for the arts.

“Art is part of what defines humanity. This sounds lofty, but it really is what I believe,” Laughlin said.

“There’s been an incredible amount of joy watching the creative process, and we’ve had a lot of successes.”

Laughlin’s biggest success may be launching the hugely popular First Friday Artwalk, along with co-founder Sherrod. Sherrod and other artists had been pushing for a community-involved, monthly artwalk, but they needed Laughlin’s marketing skills to finally launch it in 2007, while she was under the auspices of the local Arts Council.

“She had the info on how to get the community to come together,” Sherrod said. “She’s very good at marketing.”

“The artwalk has gotten more people out in the community, checking out local art,” added Babcock who shows at CVA and has her own ceramics studio. “She’s (Laughlin) helped people bring art into all these other venues, like hair salons and restaurants.”

In the meantime, Laughlin has spent the past few years preparing the CVA to survive without her at its helm.

“She’s leaving a healthy organization in the hands of the artists, executive director and the administration assistant,” said new Executive Director Betsy Chase.

Laughlin will join the CVA’s board of directors to remain involved and credits the artists and volunteers with keeping CVA healthy.

“It takes a tremendous amount of volunteer effort and fundraising to do it,” Laughlin said. “It’s a labor of love. I’m fortunate to have a family that loves what I do, that’s willing to work and pay the bills so I have the remarkable privilege to do this.”


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