Yampa River celebrated at First Friday Artwalk

John Camponeschi
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
"Foxes at the River," a watercolor by Jill Bergman, will be hanging at Pine Moon Fine Art during June.
Pine Moon Fine Art/Courtesy photo

This week’s First Friday Artwalk features a variety of top-quality exhibits, many of which are linked to the Yampa River and this weekend’s celebration of its magnificence, power and the life it brings to its banks.

The river is unique in its natural beauty and in the fact that it is among the last rivers in the Western United States that does not feature major diversions or dams throughout its course.

This week’s Friday Artwalk, which includes receptions at many of the participating galleries, falls the night before the primary day of activities at the annual Yampa River Festival. The festival, which is hosted by Friends of the Yampa, is celebrating its 43rd year and runs June 1-4 in Steamboat Springs.  

This month’s exhibitions feature the works of many local artists as well those from outside the area.  

Katie Berning, outreach and office coordinator for the Friends of the Yampa organization, attested to the power that can come from linking Yampa River Month, which occurs in June, with artwork inspired by the waterway.

“It was an awesome opportunity to pair up with the Tread of the Pioneers Museum and other galleries to celebrate the river during the First Friday Artwalk,” she said.   

The Tread of Pioneers Museum opens two exhibits, one of which is entitled “Lens on the River: A Photographic Journey on the Yampa River.” The other is “The Yampa River: From the Flat Tops to the Green River.”

John Fielder is an environmentalist and award-winning photographer whose artwork celebrates the Yampa River and its surrounding beauty. Fielder is one of the featured artists at the museum during June’s initial Artwalk. Berning noted Fielder for his work surrounding the river and as one of the many advocates laboring to document and preserve its legacy.  

Fielder has been a photographer for the last four decades and has used his artwork to protect natural spaces. His advocacy has been an inspiration for measures that ensure that historic aspects of Colorado and the American West are protected. 

In an effort to continue this legacy, proceeds from the sale of his images in “Lens on the River” will be donated to Friends of the Yampa.

The celebration of the Yampa River continues at the museum with another exhibit titled “The Yampa River: From the Flat Tops to the Green River.” This joint venture between Friends of the Yampa and the museum presents the history of the river as well as the science that sustains the waterway. It also focuses on threats to the river and its ecosystems.

Examinations of changes to climate and associated threats to wildlife are present throughout this exhibition. Additionally, it informs about the ways in which the river is utilized throughout its run all the way to the Green River.

In addition to Fielder’s work, local artists with works featured in the exhibition include Abby Jensen, Ben Saheb and Noah Wetzel.

A free reception will be held Friday from 5-8 p.m. at the Tread of the Pioneers Museum at 800 Oak St. Fielder and other artists will be present. Refreshments and light fare will also be served. Free admission to the museum and exhibit is available to Routt County residents.

Pine Moon Fine Art is featuring a two-person exhibition called “Nightfall,” which hosts the work of Jill Bergman and Paulina M. Johnson. Using printmaking and watercolors, Bergman and Johnson sought to capture the magical transition between day and night and highlight the emergence of the beauty that rises after the sun sets.

Bergman was the designer and main artist behind the “Yampa is Wild” mural that appears on the ambulance building in Steamboat Springs at 911 Yampa St. Bergman’s art often focuses on nature and its surroundings, as well as her love and admiration of the Yampa River, but “Nightfall” went in a new direction.

“Sometimes it is fun to have a little bit of magic, or fairy tales, mixed in there, and that is how the Nightfall idea happened,” Bergman said.

“Waking Up by the River,” a paper on edge by Paulina M. Johnson, continues the theme of celebrating rivers.
Pine Moon Fine Art/Courtesy photo

The Schoonover Gallery is presenting the sculptures of Tina Milisavljevich, an artist who hails from Montana and who formerly resided in Colorado. Drawing her inspiration from the mountains and wildlife that inhabit them, she uses driftwood as one of the primary mediums for her work. She also uses car parts from the 1950s and 1960s, including hoods and fenders, to add what she calls “wonder and remembrance.” 

An opening is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on Friday for Milisavljevich’s artwork at the Schoonover Gallery.

Storm King, a sculpture by Tina Milisavljevich using various materials, can be seen at the Schoonover Gallery during Friday Artwalk.
Schoonover Gallery/Courtesy photo

Continuing on the theme of waterways, Steamboat Creates and the Depot Art Center are hosting two different exhibitions. The first, “Runoff,” which is in Bliss Hall, celebrates the Yampa River and is another collaboration involving Friends of the Yampa.  

The mission behind “Runoff,” according to Robin Miller, operations manager for Steamboat Creates, is to “bring together artworks that inspire the preservation of water resources, demonstrate a variety of stakeholder ties to the Yampa River Basin and celebrate one of the last wild rivers in the west.”

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of artwork will again be donated to Friends of the Yampa.

“Untitled,” in acrylic paint, by Cayla Sanderson, was inspired by an Imagegraph by Cyndi Marlowe.
Steamboat Creates/Cayla Sanderson

Also, Steamboat Creates and the Depot Art Center will host Alan Grant, whose stunning and unique landscapes from around the world capture his love for adventure while seeking out dramatic landscapes.

Roland W. Reed, a historical pictorialist who captured the traditional ways of life of Native Americans, is celebrated this month at the Jace Romick Gallery. Working during the turn of the 19th century, Reed captured tribal life with a respect that rendered his images unique. His life was dedicated to educating the world on native ways of life.

Romick purchased the original glass-plate negatives, as well Reed’s personal artifacts, in 2021. He has paired some of them with a Platinum-Palladium development process at the only lab left in the United States to offer such a service. The product is an image that has spectacular detail.

“Papoose,” an 1903 image of an Ojibwe mother and her child, by Roland Reed.
Jace Romick Gallery/Courtesy photo

While an exhibit surrounding his work was opened a year ago, Romick is releasing never-before-seen images taken by Reed into the collection as part of this First Friday Artwalk.  

Also featured at the Romick exhibit this month are some of Jace Romick’s own images surrounding a recent trip to the desert Southwest. His work is complemented by local artist Brian Bonebrake and his series titled “The Language of Gestures,” which examines the roles that our hands play in communication and the breaking of language barriers. 

“Hang Loose,” an oil on board by Brian Bonebrake, is displayed at the Jace Romick Gallery.
Jace Romick Gallery/Courtesy photo

Rounding out a busy First Friday Artwalk, longtime local photographer John Russell will display his wildlife and scenic photography from 5-8 p.m. Friday in the former Masonic Lodge building at 111 Eighth St., just around the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Eighth heading toward Oak Street. With 33 years of capturing compelling images for the Steamboat Pilot & Today under his belt, Russell’s exhibit features some of his most compelling wildlife and scenic photography from his many years in the Yampa Valley.

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