Volunteers make the art world go ’round

Sidebar by Martha Quillen

Art – December 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

Art: For the people, by the people, and of the people,

When Art of the Rockies opened in 1991, Alan and Anita Yarmark, the proprietors of The Clay Basket and A&A Pottery in Salida, were there. A&A sells pottery at art shows and Renaissance Fairs all over the United States. But the Yarmarks have donated both their time and money toward making Salida a viable marketplace. For the Salida Art Walk this year, the Yarmarks mailed out flyers, served shrimp and champagne, and helped people decorate complimentary A&A mugs.

Bernice Strawn works on the Salida Steam Plant’s Sculpture Park, the Art Education Equity Network, and with numerous other local arts organizations. Yet Bernice Strawn, and her husband Mel, were both well-known professional artists before they came to Salida, and Mel once presided over the art department at D.U. From years of experience, the Strawns understand art organizations, grant applications, promotions, paperwork, and how to get things started. Now, they lend their expertise to us.

Stuart Andrews owns View Art and Music in Buena Vista, and also serves as president of the Chaffee County Council on the Arts. A non-profit organization with approximately 150 members, the CCCA promotes arts of all types in Chaffee County, and sponsors an art show every Labor Day weekend.

At the Chaffee County Open Awards Art Show businesses support the CCCA by donating ribbons and $50 prizes for their favorite works.

As soon as she heard about Colorado Central, Lee Dooley of Concerts Plus called us to talk about Concerts in the Home, a fund-raising project for Concerts Plus.

Volunteers for Concerts in the Home host multi-course meals with live music. “It’s a lot of work,” Dooley says about the elaborate meals volunteers prepare and serve in their own homes for dozens of paying guests. But running an organization like Concerts Plus takes a lot of work.

Non-profit or not, the entertainment business requires promotions, bookkeeping, press releases, brochures, and bookings.

Yet Dooley volunteers her time as does Jeanne Kostelic, a soprano who now lives in Salida. They volunteer, and so do many others — because organizations like the Chaffee County Council on the Arts, Art of the Rockies, and Concerts Plus are only possible if a great many people are willing to donate time.

Betty Plotz performs with a local dance group, and has given her time to the High Country Fine Arts Association, the Salida Steam Plant, and various other artistic organizations. “I don’t know why I do it,” she confessed over the phone last summer. “I don’t know why anyone does it.” But the next day Plotz dropped off a Salida Steam Plant Theatre release on her way to a committee meeting.

“Sometimes I think people expect volunteers to work more hours than paid employees,” Plotz said. “Maybe, it’s because we don’t get overtime.”

Yet even though zero multiplied by time-and-a-half is still zero, volunteers keep working. A case in point: The Colorado Endowment for the Humanities 1993 financial statement shows total revenues of $635,227 — which includes $513,615 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, $121,382 from donor gifts and contributions, and $230 from Resource Center earnings. Below revenue and expense listings in very small print the CEH financial summary notes, “Not included in this statement are in-kind contributions of volunteer time and services to CEH and its programs valued at approximately $1.5 million for 1993.”

Anyone who has ever served as a volunteer on a committee knows it can be a time-consuming, frustrating, thankless task. Talk to anyone working on a major arts project, and you’ll find that art committees are no exception.

People have different opinions. Schedules go awry. There are ego conflicts, cries of elitism, and disagreements over division of labor. Performances are frequently the culmination of tense rehearsals, missed dinners, sore muscles, frayed nerves, and hurt feelings.

Yet the show goes on.

It’s impossible to estimate how many hours it has taken to create an art industry in central Colorado, but one thing is certain. Art buyers didn’t just descend upon us.

Actually, quite the opposite is true. Our regional artists have brought their talents, skills, resources, cash, and even some of their customers, into our small towns.

Jeweler Jerry Scavezze markets a lot of his work by catalog. Marcia Csiky sells many of her bright, modern, almost-electric, figure drawings and paintings at art shows in Florida. A Chris Byars sculpture reigns over the parking lot at the prison in Cañon City. Artists too numerous to list here, or even calculate, rely on multiple markets.

But artwork adorns the walls of our restaurants and revitalizes the windows of our shopping districts. Drama enlivens dull evenings, and music warms cold winters.

And behind the scenes, striving to create another performance or another exhibition, are people who work for little, or nothing, or wholly on speculation — because they believe it’s important.