Retrospective of Steamboat artist, gallery owner, museum founder opens Friday

Several of Richard Galusha's paintings in his Steamboat Art Museum exhibit, opening Dec. 6.
Wild Horse Gallery/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Like so many living in Steamboat Springs, Richard Galusha has lived a life of hustling through three or four or five jobs at a time. But he stands out in that each job has been a successful and influential career, both separate from and connected to every other.

Galusha is an artist, gallery owner, art teacher and museum founder, and he has crafted an exhibit representing these varied positions through 35 years of his paintings, which opens Friday, Dec. 6, at the Steamboat Art Museum. 

Galusha grew up on a West Texas ranch, where he loved to sketch horses. After serving in the Navy, during which time he painted and sketched his travels, he got his bachelor of fine arts degree at University of Colorado, Boulder. He arrived in Steamboat in 1986 and landed a job teaching art at Steamboat Springs High School by showing a painting he’d done of his mother. He’d go on to teach there for close to two decades. 

Each morning, Galusha got up at 4 a.m. to paint — bold colors with an impressionistic style, portraying plein-air landscapes, wildlife and portraits — until it was time to head to the high school. 

For 10 years, Galusha also taught painting and figure drawing at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

“What I was learning in the studio is what I’d teach them in the classroom,” Galusha said. “I always taught what I knew.” 

After school, he’d get home and do “little things”: read art history from his art book library, prep for tomorrow.

If you go

What: “The Richard Galusha Retrospective: An Artist’s Journey” exhibit 
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, opening reception; exhibit runs from Friday through April 11
Where: Steamboat Art Museum, 801 Lincoln Ave.

“I’d always rather be fresh, jumping into a painting, than tired and jumping into a painting,” Galusha said. 

Through many years of spring, summer and winter breaks, Galusha and his wife, Shirley Stocks, who’s also an artist, would stay home and paint, rather than taking vacations. They held one-person art shows at the Depot Art Center.

They later spent time traveling the world. They painted their way through the Canadian Rockies, through Tanzania and Kenya, through the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini and through the English countryside.

Exhibit events

Members’ Preview with the artist: 4 to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6
Opening reception with the artist: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6
Celebration dinner with the artist: 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 1
Presentation with Richard Galusha – An Artist’s Journey: 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 14

In 1998, Galusha and Stocks first opened Wild Horse Gallery.

“Because I own the gallery, I pretty much painted the subject matter I wanted to paint, (rather than only what I thought would sell),” Galusha said.

He notes the only drawback to both owning and displaying his work in the same space was that painting time was sometimes interrupted by having to be at the front of the gallery.

“There are pluses and minuses — you just make the best of what you’ve got,” Galusha said. “It was living the life of an artist.” 

Several of Richard Galusha’s paintings in his Steamboat Art Museum exhibit, opening Dec. 6.

In 2005, Galusha retired from teaching, but he didn’t slow down for a second. In 2006, he and Stocks became founding members of the Steamboat Art Museum, with Stocks curating shows and Galusha hanging them. 

“I’ve hung every show except one,” he said, “when I was in Italy.” 

The time and effort the two give the museum is their way of giving back to the community, Galusha said. The museum will also house Galusha’s retrospective exhibit through April. 

“I’m the last show (Shirley)’s curating,” Galusha said. “She retired two years ago.”

The show depicts about 80 paintings from throughout Galusha’s career, most on loan from several private collections from across the country. Many show the plein-air scenes from around Galusha’s Hahns Peak Village home: wildflowers, mountains, lakes, cottonwoods. Others show Rabbit Ears Pass and Fish Creek Falls. A Western art period depicts large landscape paintings, and a travel period shows Botswana, Kanmandu, the Caribbean and Yosemite, among others. Another wall is entirely hung with portraits. 

“(Attendees) will see a variety of subject matter, how I’ve responded to the landscapes, and they’ll see some odds and ends,” Galusha said.

“(On Tuesday), when I went in by myself to absorb the full body of work, I was comforted and delighted by it,” said Steamboat Art Museum Communications and Special Events Director Chris Gallion. “It felt like I was being surrounded by the landscape we all love.” 

Just over in the SAM’s Cole Verploeg Youth Gallery is an addition to the exhibit that instantly adds another dimension both into the past and future. Framed pieces by a generation of Galusha’s Steamboat Springs High School and CMC art students, collected from the artists themselves and dating as far back as 1986, hang in the gallery. Several of the artists now have successful art careers of their own.

“A lot of kids are told they can’t make it in the art world,” Galusha said, “and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s all out there — you just have to grab onto the knowledge. A lot of that is outside the classroom.”

He recommends that art students train up on the business side of art as well. 

“It means a lot to all of us at the museum in that one of our very basic, important goals is to provide arts education as well as beautiful exhibits,” Gallion said. “This really brings it full circle.”

“The Richard Galusha Retrospective: An Artist’s Journey” opens at the Steamboat Art Museum on Friday, Dec. 6, and runs through April 11, 2020. An opening reception with Galusha is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, with additional events in February and March.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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