Monsters, Robots and Rocketships – The Story of Four Salida Sculptors

By Ericka Kastner

From Pinball Wizard to Severe ReConstructivist
New Orleans-born Rocketman Jimmy Descant has art in his blood. His mother studied fine art at the local community college and sold oil paintings in the French Quarter during the 1950s. His father was a professional photographer who photographed then-Sen. John F. Kennedy in the 1960s and worked as a house photographer for NASA.
The Rocketman’s most recent show, “JFK as an Indian,” on display in Salida last November, looked back at this connection to his roots and combined his own family history with where Jimmy is today, alive and well and severely deconstructing found objects in the Colorado mountain West.
His mother, Pearl, saved his early art (including a drawing that showed the face of a man on the front of piece of paper and on the back, the back of his head) but it was all lost, along with other childhood memorabilia, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Jimmy and his wife Penelope were overwhelmed by the destruction Katrina left behind and chose to salvage what little they could, a pickup truck’s worth of possessions, and move west.

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Down on the Ground Trying to Learn Balance

By George Sibley

I was glad to see an article recently reporting on a study of mental processes in aging people. It concluded that while older people do think more slowly, it’s not just mental deterioration; it’s at least partially due to the fact that their brains have accumulated a lot more stuff to paw through in responding to anything. This brain load is not “wisdom”; it’s just stuff in boxes and bags all marked “some assembly required.” It can be put together into complex, experience-shaped edifices that will come to be regarded as wisdom if they actually work out as intended. It can also be assembled into complex edifices of monumental and sometimes monstrous folly.

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Sculptor Chris Byars: A Salida Original

By Mike Rosso

It’s quite likely there may never have been an arts scene in Salida without the arrival of sculptor Chris Byars. One of the ironies of this is that many recent artists to town have never even met the man.

While on a back roads tour of Colorado in 1971, the Denver native stopped in Salida to visit his older brother Jack, who was living there at the time. The following weekend, Chris followed suit.

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News from the San Luis Valley

Heartbreak Theatre in Monte Vista 

The would-be theatre that was proposed before the Monte Vista City Council has been denied. The project vanguard, the Kelloff Regional Center for the Arts, was initially met with high praise and raised substantial funds through the community for the construction of the theatre, but reported difficulties met through meetings, and called working with the city a “negative experience.” All donations are being returned to patrons who contributed to the vision.

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State House Update

By Christopher Kolomitz

The Colorado legislative has passed the halfway point and session ends May 7. Lawmakers haven’t been as controversial as last year and they’ve made some bipartisan headway on flood relief, fire mitigation efforts and business stimulation.

For the upcoming second half of the session, look for plenty of debate regarding state finances and the budget, especially as it relates to education, lawmakers have said. A March economic and revenue forecast indicates lawmakers will have $924.3 million more to spend in the general fund during FY 2013-14 than the amount budgeted for FY 2012-13. The report indicated the state’s economy is growing and easing into a more stable period.

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Twenty Minutes from Home

By Hayden Mellsop

Twenty minutes from home is a ski area I sometimes go to. Leaving town, I drive up into the mountains, from sunshine into clouds and a whole other world. It’s not a particularly fashionable resort. The parking lot is small and full of tattered Toyotas and sticker-clad Subarus. The lifts aren’t heated and are kind of slow, and sometimes they break down. Chances are you won’t share a chair with someone who is followed on Twitter, but that’s why I like it.

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Stations of the Cross

Story and photos by John McEvoy

The roots of Hispanic history in Colorado lie beneath the charming little town of San Luis and radiate throughout the San Luis Valley from there.

San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado and is located in one of the world’s highest desert valleys; at over 7,000 feet in elevation, it is bordered by the 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the volcanic San Juan Mountains to the west.

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Regional News Roundup

A Loquacious Bill

A bill has been introduced by Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Jim Wilson to address a controversial speed study initiated by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The bill, SB-14-146 does not mince words: “Concerning information that the Department of Transportation may consider when conducting a traffic investigation for the purpose of determining the appropriate speed limit for a portion of a state highway for which a municipality has proposed a speed limit alteration.”

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The Salida Arts District

By Patty LaTaille 


Those who have lived in Salida any length of time, say from 2002 onward, may have noticed an artistic renaissance slowly transforming the rural mountain town of 5,300 from its origins as a railroad/mining town. Salida has one of the largest historic districts in Colorado, with beautifully renovated buildings – many dating from the Victorian era. Interspersed in and amongst them are nearly 125 artists in residence – showing their work in the local galleries, and on building exteriors.

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The Arts in Salida

This month, partly due to Salida’s recent designation as a Creative Arts District, we are celebrating some fine Salida-based artistic talent.


In the first article, we’ve profiled four area sculptors, all working with whimsical themes: monsters, rockets and robots, in many cases made from discarded junk and machinery. The artists interviewed also represent a wide age bracket – from the 30s to the 70s. In addition, we visited with sculptor Chris Byars, an early pioneer of, and influence on, Salida’s arts scene.

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Book Review

The Cowboy Takes a Wife
By Davalynn Spencer
ISBN-13: 9780373486977
Publisher: Love Inspired, 2014

Reviewed by Elliot Jackson

Ah, the “historical” romance novel! Casually dismissed by the non-cognoscenti as “bodice-rippers,” the classic formula is this: take one beautiful and spirited (also penniless, orphaned or in some way materially disadvantaged) heroine, and one handsome, studly, often lordly and always rich hero; add instant mutual attraction/antagonism between same; set in an “exotic” historical setting of some sort or other; mix well with other ingredients including villainous Other men and scheming Other women, and sex – lots of unashamed, lusty and usually premarital sex. Ah, the good old days. 

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Full Circle

 By Jennifer Welch

It’s embarrassing, really. I’ve lost two cows in two months. The first cow, Luna, snagged her training halter on a tree limb and snapped her neck trying to get loose. The second, my favorite cow, Deluxe, pushed her way into our feed stores and ate an entire bag of layer pellets. She perished three days later, despite our best efforts to keep her alive. Both of these deaths were the result of management issues.

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Inner Old Man, Part 3 – New Year’s Reservations

By John Mattingly

Inner Old Man (IOM) understands that these New Year’s Reservations are written one fiscal quarter late, but IOM is, after all, old and forgetful. He spends an alarming amount of time each day hunting down things he has apparently hidden from himself, so keep in mind the views and opinions of IOM should never be confused with those of the author.

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Voices of the Valley

In 2014, the Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas hosted Voices of the Valley, an evening of poems and essays inspired by the natural landscape and water resources where we live and play. The event was held in March at The Book Haven in Salida, and Colorado Central Magazine was a sponsor. As part of the event, middle school students in the Upper Arkansas Valley were invited to participate in a literary contest. Here are the winners from fifth through seventh grades.

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Old and Young Are Similar, Except for the Wrinkles

By Martha Quillen

Today, technology is advancing so rapidly it’s changing how we socialize, entertain ourselves, get our news,and participate politically. Whether you like it or not, new technology is altering the way we live, work and shop – and also what we buy.

Whether you live in Chaffee County or China, change comes slowly to the hinterlands, but it revved up significantly when television arrived. People, especially children, tend to embrace what they’ve seen on the screen. And with the modern marvels of television translators, cable and satellites, more and more national and international marketing flooded into our homes.

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A Story Told by Trees

By Hal Walter

A recent writing assignment had me exploring historical points in my immediate geographical area, and it occurred to me, as it has many times over the years, how many people have made either permanent or temporary homes in this area long before we arrived with our four-wheel-drives, heated homes and Internet connections.

My neighbor Gary Ziegler, an archaeologist by trade and owner of Bear Basin Ranch, has recently been investigating the occurrence of “culturally modified” trees on his property and the surrounding area. Ziegler has made a career out of finding and unearthing lost Inca cities in Peru, but it’s possible another history lesson has been right under his nose since he bought Bear Basin in 1972.

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The Frantzhurst Rainbow Trout Hatchery

Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey Series
By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

The Frantzhurst Rainbow Trout Hatchery is the ninth property featured from the Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey. The trout farm, once labeled the “largest trout operation in the world,” continues to operate as a state-run fish hatchery. It is located approximately a half-mile northwest of Salida off Colo. 291. The hatchery’s annual production is about two million trout, which are used to stock Colorado’s many streams and lakes.

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April 20, 1914 at Ludlow, Colorado

By Forrest Whitman

History in Colorado doesn’t quite repeat itself, but (as has been often said) it rhymes. President Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour hauntingly reminds me of the Ludlow Massacre. It happened exactly 100 years ago on April 20, 1914. Somewhere around 39 coal miners and their families were killed and an uncounted more were wounded by Colorado militia and company security guards. Some woman and children died as they huddled in dugouts under the tents as they burned. These were coal miners and their families out on strike against CF&I (Colorado Fuel and Iron). They were living in a tent city at Ludlow after being kicked out of company housing for joining a strike. That strike was about many things, mine safety especially, but another issue was the way the miners were paid in script only useable at the company stores. The most basic strike objective, reminiscent of President Obama’s campaign, was a livable minimum wage.

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