Art champs: Artist, couple and nonprofit recognized for commitment to local arts scene
Artist, couple and nonprofit recognized for commitment to local arts scene
One is an artist. One is a couple committed to western heritage. And one is a nonprofit that supports creativity in area youth.
Although Vera Mulder, Edward and Lois Gardner and the Super Rad Art Jam have different passions in the arts, all are interested in ensuring the arts scene remains vibrant.
They were recognized for their contributions to the arts with this year’s Champion of the Arts awards from Grand Junction Commission on Arts & Culture during a reception and presentation in January at City Hall.
The winners were selected based on nominations.
Super Rad Art Jam
After nominating Super Rad Art Jam and its founders for a Champion of the Arts award multiple times, three former Grand Junction High School art teachers got their wish when the local nonprofit was recognized in the business category.
Super Rad Art Jam, founded in 2004 by Naomi Barlow, Jason Bradham, Jess Rigg and Bryan Wade, is best known for organizing an annual High School Student Show at Mesa Mall and the Mural Jam at Westlake Skatepark.
“I’ve thought they deserved this for years,” said Gary Hauschulz, who, with the support of former GJHS art teachers Susan Metzger and Sal Salas, nominated Super Rad for the award.
“As teachers, motivating kids is one of our main jobs — anyone can teach the motivated kid — so you look for carrots and Super Rad provided great carrots. (With), the art show and the Mural Jam they are out there motivating the hardest kids to motivate outside school,” Hauschulz said.
Super Rad started because the quartet of artists and art enthusiasts wanted to raise money for District 51 art programs while giving local youth a creative outlet.
“Our purpose is to support our art education programs,” Barlow said.
Now in its ninth year, the spring High School Mall Show is comprised of student work in various mediums, hung at Mesa Mall. It gives young artists the chance to experience pride in showing their work and valuable business lessons if a piece sells, Barlow said.
Typically, the show draws upward of 150 pieces of art.
“We try to make it as much by the kids as for the kids,” Barlow said.
The summer Mural Jam, which is now in its sixth year, is open to people of all ages and for a nominal fee they can spray paint on Westlake Skatepark.
The money goes to support school art programs.
Rigg said volunteers cover the skatepark walls with a protective paint layer in advance, providing a blank canvas to “paint in a safe, appropriate and acceptable setting.”
Super Rad also offers multiple workshops in visual arts and wants to expand into other art forms if possible.
Super Rad’s next big fundraiser is Illustration-a-thon that will go from 4–7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at Naggy McGee’s Irish Pub, 359 Colorado Ave. Illustration artists will paint custom works for customers ($5 black and white, $10 color) on site. There will be a silent auction with items from community businesses and artists.
Information about Super Rad Art Jam can be found at its Facebook page.
Fruita artist Vera Mulder said it’s difficult for her to go anywhere anonymously.
In addition to producing her own artwork — Mulder has worked in nearly every medium but currently is focused on watercolor, fiber arts and batik — she gives art lessons to students of all ages and helps other local artists, particularly younger artists, showcase their artwork in businesses across the Grand Valley.
The Commission on Arts & Culture received numerous nomination letters from individuals and businesses across the Grand Valley, citing “her lifelong passion for art.”
Despite her decades of tireless work in the local arts scene, Mulder was “surprised” to be nominated for a Champion of the Arts award.
Her interest in art began as a child when she drew in her mother’s cookbooks or created paper dolls and accompanying fashions.
“I wanted to be a fashion designer,” she said with a smile.
In 1969, Mulder moved to western Colorado from Kansas “sight unseen” to teach at Holy Family school. She since has taught at Palisade High School and Mesa State College. Mulder now teaches at St. Mary’s Pavilion in Grand Junction and the Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade and at the popular Fruita Art Camp offered every summer for children.
Mulder shows her artwork at Rose Hue Gallery in Fruita and the Blue Pig Gallery. She has a short-term show hanging at Barnes & Noble Booksellers of digitally altered images from the Children’s Nature Center in Fruita.
Edward and Lois Gardner
Not everyone who helps keep the local arts scene vibrant is an artist, which is where Edward and Lois Gardner come in.
Married 57 years and residents of Grand Junction for nearly that long, the Gardners’ shared passion for western tradition and history compelled them to financially support the Museum of Western Colorado’s annual Grand Junction Cowboy Poet Gathering and Two Rivers Chautauqua.
The behind-the-scenes contributions the Gardners give museum events — Edward Gardner even joined the museum’s board of directors years ago because of his love for the museum’s programs and trips — led Peter Booth, executive director of the museum, to nominate the couple for the Champion of the Arts award.
“We’re really pleased those two performing arts would be considered by the Commission on Arts,” said Edward Gardner, who is one of the owners and operators of Whitewater Building Supplies.
The Gardners began supporting the cowboy poetry event in the early 1990s.
“Both of us come from a rural background,” Edward Gardner said.
The couple laughed as they talked about the humor and nostalgia in cowboy poetry.
Their love of history also led the couple to support Two Rivers Chautauqua and they admire the work the performers put into the event every year.
“One of the neat things about chautauqua is young chautauquans,” Edward Gardner said. “You can hire professionals, and they are good, but it’s surprising how well the young chautauquans do.”
Lois Gardner encouraged locals to attend either event, not only for the entertainment but for the knowledge.
“They would be surprised at the talent and information,” Edward Gardner said. “There’s quite a bit of history that goes on with chautauqua and cowboy poetry.”