The arts losing a familiar face

Allison Sarmo, the longtime director of the Cultural Arts Commission in Grand Junction, is retiring at the end of the month.

Allison Sarmo has no plans to be an idle retiree, searching for things to fill her time.

In fact, she already has a list of books she wants to read. She is planning her daughter’s May wedding. It soon will be time to garden.

“I know I’m not going to get bored,” Sarmo said.

Sarmo will retire as cultural arts coordinator with the city of Grand Junction, effective April 1. It is a role she has filled for 16 years. She has been part of the Commission on Arts and Culture since its inception in 1990.

The city does not immediately plan to fill her position, Sarmo said.

In her place, a group of people, including members of the Commission of Arts and Culture, will fill her role as advocate for culture and the arts in the community.

“I think the commission will continue to be the advocates,” said Sarmo, 59. “I think the arts and cultural community in Grand Junction will continue to grow.”

Cheryl McNab hopes so.

McNab is the executive director of The Art Center and worked closely with Sarmo. McNab’s primary concern is that city officials will abandon their commitment to the arts with Sarmo’s departure.

“She has been such a big advocate in the arts,” McNab said. “She is the voice in the city for the arts.”

Sarmo does not foresee the city forgetting about the arts in Grand Junction now that an established commission is in place. In fact, during Sarmo’s time as cultural arts coordinator, the City Council passed a program ensuring that 1 percent of the budget on city building and park projects must be spent on public art.

Art on the Corner, which Sarmo didn’t create but helped oversee as part of her job, is not going away. The Downtown Development Authority will take over management of the project, Sarmo said.

The increased visibility and accessibility of art in downtown Grand Junction and elsewhere in the community is one of Sarmo’s proudest accomplishments during her 19 years with the Arts Commission, including her 16 years as coordinator.

The city has purchased nearly 40 pieces of art in the past 20 years, Sarmo said.

“I’m truly proud of the art in public places because I think that’s a visible reminder that people are proud of the community and that it’s an interesting place to live,” Sarmo said.

There will be a party to recognize Sarmo’s contributions to the arts in Grand Junction at 6:30 p.m. Friday at The Art Center, 1803 N. Seventh St.


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