Damian Radice found out long ago that art is in his blood
Every time he fashions a funky-looking teapot, puts the finishing touches on a sculpture or gives guidance to a student, Damian Radice can thank the volatile summer weather for where he is today.
Each spring for 22 years the Grand Valley artist temporarily relocated to the Midwest to estimate damage inflicted by floods, hail and tornadoes for his father’s insurance-adjusting business.
The “almost obscene” amount of money Radice raked in allowed him to return to the valley for the fall, winter and spring, where he could tinker with home-improvement projects and indulge his obsession with art.
The result is Radice and his wife, Karen’s, ever-evolving art compound in Fruitvale, where visitors who escape the drone of traffic on 30 Road are greeted with a warm handshake, a hot cup of coffee and a peek at the craft of a man whose hands are always at work.
Here you’ll find a portrait of a longtime friend, a painting of a brewing Nebraska thunderstorm, a fence made of wooden doors salvaged from trash heaps, and a wax copy of a bronze sculpture of a playful dog, “Play Ball,” that’s on display at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.
“It’s almost a curse,” Radice said of his love of art. “You can’t stop. You can’t put it on hold. Everything you think about or look at is in that aspect.”
He should know. He tried once.
Radice was advanced enough in his drawings at the age of 4 that his mother told him he would be an artist.
Her prescient statement just meant Radice would join his five siblings in diverse lines of work. One brother is a Catholic priest in China, while the other runs an acting school in Italy.
His three sisters own a tennis club in Texas, work in management for the Denver Water Board and work for Qwest.
“We didn’t fit the regular mold of ‘Get a job and make money.’ Probably why none of us are wealthy, either,” he said with a laugh.
The family moved to the valley from the Front Range in 1959. Radice graduated from Central High School and, after obtaining an associate’s degree in art from then-Mesa College, he bought nearly an acre of land on 30 Road, thinking it would generate some rental income. It did — with the bonus of plenty of room to accommodate his drive to create.
Over the years he’s turned the buildings that dot the property into art venues — an upstairs studio here, a downstairs pottery classroom there, a room he and Karen are looking to rent to a local artist who needs the space.
It makes it particularly odd, then, that there was a time 15 to 20 years ago when Radice swore off art. For reasons he can’t recall now, he had become angry at it. For five years he didn’t paint a picture, throw a pot, or create a single bronze cast.
It didn’t last.
“I tried (to quit), but it would creep out in how I looked at things,” he said. “When I could no longer remember why I was mad, I went back to it.”
That’s a good thing, both for Radice and the students he mentors.
The art classes he teaches started by accident. Years ago, his wife invited out to the house a group of Japanese students to whom she was teaching English. They took a look at the studio and asked to take classes. They each gave Radice $8 for a Saturday afternoon session. Soon, home-schooled kids were calling.
Radice now teaches two pottery classes and one foundry class. He’s learned it’s a symbiotic relationship.
For his students, the sessions help them develop the right side of their brains and a different way of looking at the world around them. For him, the sessions are invigorating.
“They come up with ideas that keep you energized,” he said.