Unveiling history – Steamboat Art Museum will soon complete expansion project | SteamboatToday.com

Unveiling history – Steamboat Art Museum will soon complete expansion project

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As the tin ceiling and insulation is pulled from the rafters of the Rehder Building, history is unmasked.

Heavy wood beams are exposed along with native sandstone quarried on Emerald Mountain and bricks made in a brickyard, where Fish Creek Mobile Home Park now sits. The Romanesque Revival architecture style building, circa 1905, graces the corner of 8th Street and Lincoln Avenue and is home to the Steamboat Art Museum.

As the back portion of the historic building is renovated, its rich history is revealed. The building's tenants included the First National Bank, a Ford garage and auto parts store, a creamery and cheese factory, Candy Sandoval's Silver Dollar Saloon, the 1974 Brandy Wine Restaurant, which eventually became Gorky Park and then Antares Restaurant.

"I once banked at First National Bank when it was located in the current SAM gift shop," said Michael Olsen with Michael J.K. Olsen Architects, who is serving as the architect for the SAM renovation project. "This was the same era when Antares Restaurant was in the back, and I do remember the grand wooden bar. However, the most poignant memory was walking through the upstairs when it was filled with the Helen Rehder's furnishings. It was like a museum unto itself, as if it was untouched for decades."

The building was sold to Harry Rehder, Henry Rehder's father, in 1937 and kept in the Rehder family until 2004, when Helen Rehder died and bequeathed the entire building to the city of Steamboat Springs. It was Helen Rehder's wish that the building be preserved historically and used to house a museum.

"A few years before SAM was in its current location, we realized there was a need to establish an entity that was going to be able to promote not only local art but bring in high-end art to stimulate and inspire local artists as well as the community," said Robert Dieckhoff, one of the museum's founding board members.

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In 2006, the local museum moved into the Rehder Building and now operates under a 99-year lease with the city of Steamboat, which was negotiated in 2010.

On Dec. 1, the Steamboat Art Museum will unveil its most recent expansion efforts with exhibit, "Steamboat Art Museum Invitation Exhibit: Imagining the West."

"You have this 5,000-square-foot open space, and we're taking it back to its period of historic significance," said SAM Executive Director Betse Grassby.

From 2009 to 2013, the exterior and interior of the original building and the 1920 sandstone addition were renovating, transforming the building into an exhibition space and museum store.

"The most challenging aspect of this project was assessing what and where things actually were in the historic building," said Olsen. "There appeared to be layer upon layer of additions and remodels in the space. Seeing what was behind all the clutter and convincing the museum board of the potential was the challenge."

The most recent renovation project, which is currently underway, focuses on the back addition to the building.

In addition to exposing the stonewalls and refurbishing the original wood beams, the multi-level floors in that portion of the building will be brought down to grade so they are ADA accessible. There will also be an installation of a new HVAC system.

"One's natural response is to keep the interior as intact as possible," Olsen said. "I felt that the best solution was to remove the interior walls and express the building's historic structure composed of timber trusses and exterior stonewalls. Once I was able to show the board how we could meet the floor plan requirements while expressing the structure, it was an easy sell."

"Walking through here, it brings back those memories," said Grassby. "I remember when the Brandy Wine Restaurant opened in the winter of 1972. It was the coolest restaurant that everybody who was around that time has memories of. It's even where my husband and I had our first dance at our wedding reception."

Some of the Brandy Wine antiques, like the two gargoyles guarding the entrance through the front of the restaurant, will come out from storage and be incorporated into the new space.

"We're keeping as much of the period of historic significance as we can," Grassby said. "It really gives you an idea of what it looked like when the building was originally built."

When the project is completed, it will double the museum's exhibition space to about 7,700 square feet, with the ability to showcase up to 200 to 400 pieces at a time, with additional moveable walls allowing for more flexibility in the types of exhibits as well as the number of pieces the museum can display.

Adding two smaller galleries to the original Helen Rehder Gallery in the log room and Macnab Gallery in the front room, the new space will include a Founders Gallery and Youth Gallery where the work of kids who participate in the variety of workshops offered at the museum can be displayed.

"It gives the museum the ability to have multiple shows at the same time," said Richard Galusha, one of the museum's founders and now a volunteer on the exhibition committee who is known for hanging the pieces featured in the museum's shows. "With a lot of the shows, especially the ones with bigger pieces, we really had to scrunch up the paintings or pieces that we hung on the wall. Now, there will be an ability to spread the painting placement out more and use the entire space."

There will also be an art resource library featuring the collection of books donated to the museum and artist workspace. The new space will also be available for the community to rent out for chamber music concerts, rehearsal dinners, events, speakers and more.

"It's going to give SAM room to bring the types of shows we always wanted to do since the beginning but couldn't because we didn't have enough space to bring in those bigger shows and present it in the way that it should be presented." said Shirley Stocks, curator for the Steamboat Art Museum since its inception who retired in May but continues as a volunteer and active member of the museum's exhibit committee.

The shows traveling to Steamboat this winter and next summer are testament to that.

They include the December "Invitational Exhibit: Imagining the West," followed by the Oil Painters of Americas 27th Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils, featuring 250 works of representational art in addition to the Oil Painters of America National Conference, in June 2018, and the American Women Artists National Conference and Exhibit in 2019.

"These upcoming shows really are a huge deal for Steamboat, not just the museum," said Stocks.

From putting on small exhibition shows, pulled together within two weeks, to being able to host nationally acclaimed exhibitions with 250 renowned artists, Stocks said it's surreal to see how far the museum has come in just a few years.

"We were simply trying to put together a place, a home, a permanent art collection for what became the Steamboat Art Museum," said Wayne Westphale, another founding member of the museum.

"I was in Encinitas, California, talking to art instructors about SAM a few years ago, and was astounded that they knew all about the shows and artists we've had at the museum," said Linda Hamlet, who was also one of the founding trustees serving on the museum's first board of directors. "SAM is on the map and known in the art world."

Now, with the original vision of the founding board coming to fruition, Hamlet said it's set the bar high for the artistic and cultural opportunities in Steamboat Springs.

"It's been a lot of hard work, and we did it on a shoestring budget," Galusha said. "But with Shirley's knowledge and connections in the art world, along with really dedicated volunteers and board members, we did the best we could with what we had. We were just artists trying to do this and to see how far the museum has come, it shows that you really can make things happen." 

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

The Rehder/ First National Bank Building Timeline:

According to Steamboat Art Museum archives

2006: The estate of Helen Rehder bequeaths the building to the city of Steamboat Springs for use as a museum

2006: The Steamboat Art Museum stages its first exhibit in the Rehder Building

2009: SAM signs a 99-year lease with the city for $1 per year

2006 – 2009: The city completes rehabilitation of the exterior of the building, including the foundation, basement, windows, masonry and roof.

Cost of project funded by the city and State Historic Fund Grant: $646,000  

2006 – 2012: SAM renovates the Main Gallery and Museum Store

Cost of project funded by SAM capital donations: $100,000 

2013: SAM rehabilitates the upstairs administration offices including electrical, heating and lighting upgrades, plaster wall repair

Cost of project funded by museum, Heritage Advisory Fund grant and SAM donations: $60,000

2015: Design documents, engineering fees, permitting and preparation for final phase of expansion project

Cost of project funded by DOLA grant from the city, Main Street Steamboat Spring and SAM donations: $49,500

2017: Rehabilitation of 1920 addition for expanded exhibition space, an art library and artist workshop/classroom

Total cost of project: $750,000 to $800,000

Funds from city of Steamboat Springs: $187,500

Funds from Boettcher Foundation grant: $20,000

Funds from private cash contributions and pledges to date: $400,000



Those who went before:

Ground Floor – 1905 Building

1905 – 1919: First National Bank

1920-1930: Northwest Automotive Garage offices and auto parts store

1950s: Mel Wheeler’s insurance office

1960s: Three Forks Oil and Uranium

1974 – 1986: Positive Negative Camera Shop

1983-1985: Toots Sweet

1970s: Calico Corner

1986: Hugh Carmichael’s Resort Graphics

1989: Merle Sandefur Sporting Goods

1990s: First National Shirt Shop

1990s: Grant’s Juniors

1990s: Steamboat Kids

1990s: Audacity

1994 – 2009: First National Bank of Steamboat

1998 – 2009: Vectra Bank

1993 – 2006: Into the West

2006 – 2109: Steamboat Art Museum

Second Floor

1920 – 1930s: Dr. George Mattern’s dentist office

Pre-1950: Ladies Lounge

1990 – 2004: Living quarters for Rehders

2010 – 2109: SAM administrative offices


1920s – 1930s: Charlie Pratt’s Barber Shop

1920 Addition

1920 – 1930s: Northwest Automotive Garage

1930s: Gold Coin Creamery and cheese factory

1940s: Silver Dollar Saloon

1950s: Reverend Clyde W. Bromell’s Antiques

1950s – 1976: Boggs Hardware farm implement repair

1974 – 1987: Brandy Wine Restaurant

1986 – 1988: Photo Boat

1988 – 1993: Alpine Photo

Mid 1990s: Needleworks

1987 – 1994: Gorky Park Restaurant

1992 – 2006: Into the West

1994 – 2006: Antares Restaurant

2006 – 2109: Steamboat Art Museum


Past and present local artists included in first few exhibits:

Barbara Sanders, Anna Marie Moore, Harriet Huff, Ayn Hanna, Shirley Stocks, Phoebe Fulkerson, and Laura Wait. Work from visiting artists and private collections include Richard Bosman, Sarah Supplee, Jack Cowin, Guillaume Azoulay, Jay Moore, Mary Weatherford, Silvia Plimack Mangold, Sol LeWitt, John Newman, R.H. Palenski, Stanislav Nikireeb, and Hollis Williford.

Past exhibitions:

Dec. 2006 to Feb. 2007: Opening Exhibition

March 2007 to May 31: Intaglio Exhibition

June 2007 to Sept. 2007: Western Art Exhibit

Sept. 2007 to Nov. 2007: Martha Chapa

Dec. 2007 to April 2008: Bill Gollings

June 2008 to Oct 2008: Don Woodsmith

June 2008 to Aug. 2008: Western Humor

Dec. 2008 to April 2009: Clyde Aspevig

May 2009 to Sept. 2009: Rare Plants of Colorado

Dec. 2009 to April 2010: Ken Carlson

May 2010 to Oct. 2010: David Taylor Quilts

Dec. 2010 to April 2011: Jim Norton

June 2011 to Oct. 2011: Scott Christensen

Dec. 2011 to April 2012: Quang Ho: A Retrospective

June 2012 to Oct. 2012: Rod Hanna: A 50-year Photography Retrospective

Nov. 2012 to Dec. 2012: American Water Color Society

Dec. 2012 to April 2013: Jean Perry and Curtis Zabel: A Retrospective

June 2013 to Oct. 2013: Donna Howell-Sickles

Dec. 2013 to April 2014: The Russian Experience

May 2014 to July 2014: Colorado Nature Photography

July 2014 to Sept. 2015: Birds in Art

Dec. 2014 to April 2015: Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist

Dec. 2014 to April 2015: Mark Thompson: A Retrospective

May 2015 to Sept. 2015: John Fawcett: A Retrospective

Dec. 2015 to April 2016: Len Chmiel: A Retrospective


Future Exhibitions:

Plein Air Event & Quickdraw

Sept. 23 to Sept. 30

The event will feature 40 artists coming from across the country to paint the Yampa Valley at various locations throughout Routt County. The event will include a Plein Air Paint Out, QuickDraw competition in addition to a barbecue and auction at Wolf Mountain Ranch.

Steamboat Invitational Exhibit: Imagining the West

Dec. 1 to April 7, 2018  

Featuring over 50 of the West’s most notable artists with artwork expressing the inspirations and influences of the West. The opening will also include the Steamboat Art Museum’s unveiling of the expansion changes.

Oil Painters of American National Conference

May 29 to June 2, 2018

Because of the Steamboat Art Museum’s expanded space and ability to host the national exhibit and conference, OPA will be using facilities throughout the community for their plein air exhibition, educational events, awards ceremony and hospitality events at venues including: Chief Theater, Depot Art Center, Bud Werner Memorial Library and the Steamboat Grand, among others.

27th National Exhibit of the Oil Painters of America

June 1 to Sept. 4, 2018

Showcasing more than 250 works from this prestigious national organization of representational painters.

American Women Artists National Exhibit:  “Looking West”

May to September 2019

National juried show that will bring similar opportunities to the Oil Painters of America Conference offering a variety of educational and hospitality events throughout the community.


Aspects of integrity:

According to the Rehder Building summary report by Sally TeStrake

  • Location: Set at the original site of one of the first financial institutions early in the development of the economic center of Steamboat Springs
  • Design: An example of Romanesque Revival architecture style
  • Setting: On a prominent corner of downtown Steamboat Springs
  • Material: Built of native sandstone and locally made bricks
  • Workmanship: Built with a care and skill that has withstood the test of time
  • Feeling: Evokes a sense of the aesthetics of the Old West and history of Steamboat Springs
  • Association: P of the fabric of the community for more than 100 years


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