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Jennie Lay: The art business

Jennie Lay

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a whole lot of great cultural stuff going on in town right now. That’s an enormous testament to our flourishing visual and performing arts community.

But possibly even more critical to this rush of art is the less glamorous side of creativity — the business of making art.

Behind every enchanting opera, art show, concert and play, there are a whole slew of miraculous organizational feats going on.

One great example is the fledgling Emerald City Opera.

Keri Rusthoi, the company’s founder, was passionate about opera. She wanted to sing with the world’s top opera singers, but she wanted to stay home in Steamboat to do it. So now she spends most of the year in a windowless office beneath a bank, bringing together the abundant details of everything from singers, to costumes, to public relations and endless fund raising.

The fruits of her yearlong toil will shine during performances of “La BohÃme” this weekend. The production is nothing short of fabulous — a must-see performance for everyone from the opera connoisseur to the person who doubts he or she will like opera.

Tons of musicians, set designers, singers and technicians have put in tremendous efforts, in addition to their artisanship, to pull the opera together with polish and grandeur. For a two-performance run and not much money, that’s a whole lot of thankless enthusiasm if you don’t count the sheer joy of seeing the brilliant production come together and the standing ovations that are sure to follow tonight and Sunday afternoon’s performances.

With the demise of long-standing events such as the vintage car races and balloon rodeo, thank goodness Steamboat has such a motivated arts community.

Just when you thought events might start to slow down a little bit … wham, in comes the Beaux Arts Festival. Billed as a “celebration of the senses and the creative spirit,” Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Nancy Kramer said she sees the current Beaux Arts lineup as a mere skeleton for what organizers envision it will grow to be.

But remember, for every day of fun and frivolous artistic activities that grows out of Beaux Art, there are weeks, if not months, of planning involved. The Art Cars don’t just miraculously arrive and the Renaissance street painters don’t show up uninvited. The future prospects for this weekend’s inaugural wine festival show great promise for the marriage of the culinary and visual arts, but the “to do” list that accompanies such a vision is enormous.

Just ask the formidable “Strings ladies,” as the devoted crew of women at Strings in the Mountains is so often referred. The feat of buying and building that enchanting new park, let alone bringing together the extraordinary programming, has not been a task for the faint of heart. That smooth-running festival is founded on loads of artisanship, business sense and volunteers.

The core of volunteers within the arts community ranges from the artists to all levels of art appreciators. It’s a good trade, they figure. Work hard to bring the creative world to Steamboat; be lucky enough to live in the middle of that whirlwind of inspiration.

I have talked to lots of devoted artists and art organizers this summer. You are doing admirable work that deeply enriches our community. You do your best work when you collaborate, share your limited resources and help advance the arts community.

Don’t be daunted. Your thankless organization, frustration and perpetual shortage of funding has giant returns every time a new exhibit goes up, a concert is performed, an opera singer, dancer or actor steps on stage, or a group of authors comes together.

Artists and art appreciators alike, your passion fuels the vision — but it’s your collaboration that’s paving the way to an increasingly vibrant and sustainable arts community.


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