Entrepreneurial Artists Thrive in Pikes Peak Region
The Pikes Peak Region is home to thousands of competent artists, working in every conceivable medium. Many exhibit at local galleries, with varying degrees of success. Most have other jobs, but a few are so persistent, talented, and inventive that art is their sole source of income. We talked to three of these artist entrepreneurs, women who have built lasting professional success in the local arts community.
Julia Wright has spent most of her adult life as a professional artist and arts entrepreneur in Manitou Springs. She has directed the Commonwheel Summer Art Festival in Manitou for 40 years, has written a dozen books, and has created works in many different mediums. Wright came to Manitou Springs in 1975 to participate in the Commonwheel Labor Day Art Festival, moved to Manitou in 1976, and joined the Commonwheel Artists Co-op. By the end of that year, she was the main festival coordinator. “I helped these festivals change and grow,” she recalled, “evolving from a group of hippies who loved and respected hand-crafted art to more of a business venture. It still allows only artwork created and shown by the artists to be sold at the Festival.” A recent opening at Commonwheel featured Wright’s colorful feather masks and altered photographs which are all modestly priced and (like Wright herself) lots of fun. “With photography I want people to look deeply, to use their imaginations, and discover a myriad of images within each image. I enjoy asking if they can see the starting image or if it just all melts into one new piece of art. Nature is my most powerful inspiration. I really enjoy finding a piece of a photo to twist and turn into a new image. I love watching people look deeply into the images, point out what they see, and get a conversation going,” says Wright.
Lori Hannan lives with her family in the Greenhorn Valley near Rye, a small town west of Pueblo. She has been a potter for more than 30 years. On her website Red Cloud Pottery she notes that her pottery is, “inspired by the Colorado landscape and nature’s own works of art.” “I love making pots!” she wrote in an artist’s statement. “I can’t imagine my life otherwise. I am so grateful to be able to do this creative work and hope that the people who have my pieces in their home can feel the joy.” Hannan’s pots are simple, functional, and masterful. They’re so quietly conceived that it takes a moment to realize how good they are. Glazes flow, mix, diverge, and collide, and the results seem natural and inevitable. A bowl’s classic shape is subtly tweaked and part of its exterior is left unglazed. You don’t have to analyze Hannan’s ceramics—you just look and like. Her pottery is available at more than a dozen regional galleries, including 45 Degree in Old Colorado City.
“Lori’s pottery is really very popular,” said Reed Fair, who with his spouse Emily owns 45 Degree (and are also ceramic artists). “We try to have potters with individual styles who don’t directly compete with each other so they’ll each have a unique niche.” Best of all from a buyers standpoint, Hannan’s work is comparatively inexpensive. It’s easy to like, easy to buy, and a joy to use.
OLD COLORADO CITY
“Art is my vocation and my spiritual practice,” Maria Batista said. “This means that I spend my life working to see with more clarity and honesty, and with joyful awareness that I will never master this task.” Looking at Batista’s extraordinary work in jewelry, sculpture, and life drawing it’s clear that she’s being overly modest. Her technical skills in those three very different media are at the very highest level, supporting and enhancing the deeply spiritual quality of her work.
“I was a public school teacher in District 20 when I met Bud Stafford,” she said. “He was the only person in the city willing to train jewelers, and I apprenticed with him for three years.” Stafford, who died in 2013, was a legendary teacher and master craftsman.
Batista became a professional goldsmith in 1992 and eventually left teaching completely. But in 2002, she decided to broaden her horizons. “I went to the MARBLE/marble Symposium near Marble, Colorado to explore stone carving,” she said. “They give you a 500-pound block of Colorado Yule marble, instructors, tools, and I loved it, even the stone dust—it’s just calcium carbonate. So off I went to Italy—as a teacher, I love to learn.”
Six years ago, Batista branched out to an even more demanding discipline and learned to create figurative bronze sculptures using the ancient lost-wax process. She learned quickly—her bronze sculpture “Calypso” was on the cover of the 2015 Colorado Journeys magazine. “I am dedicated to carving stone and to sculpting figures in bronze,” she wrote on her website, “working from live models in the old master tradition.” Batista’s work can be seen at the Hunter-Wolff Gallery in Old Colorado City.