Grand County and the arts: a picture perfect match |

Grand County and the arts: a picture perfect match

Arts and the Economy. I was thrilled Friday night to see a standing-room-only crowd at the Creative Economy Seminar in Grand Lake, where people from a variety of businesses and backgrounds took the first steps toward building a cohesive arts community in Grand County.

We have so much going on here ” world-class painters and photographers, accomplished writers, musicians, actors, visual artists in a wide range of media, galleries and enough festivals to fill a summer with theater, music, art and crafts.

Wouldn’t it be great to have them all working together to turn Grand County into an arts destination known for its creative projects and resources?

Allison Sarmo, Grand Junction’s cultural arts coordinator, came to Grand Lake to talk about Mesa County’s experiences. Granted, it’s a very different county from us, but there are lessons to learn.

“You can start it on a shoestring like Grand Junction did and have it work,” Sarmo said. “Art becomes a major attraction for tourists and brings in new residents. Cultural amenities and the arts revolutionized economic development in Grand Junction.”

Judging by the makeup of Friday night’s crowd, there’s wide interest in arts as an attraction. Attending the seminar were artists like April Thomas-Lang, who just opened a glass studio near Grand Lake, gallery owners like Deb Lucero of Winter Park FrameWerks and theatrical producers like Kimberlee Nanda of the Grand Theater Company. But also in attendance were teachers, health-care workers and representatives of property management companies such as DiAnn Butler of Destinations West and Mike Wirsing of Allegiant Management.

Goals for Growth. Prior commitments and responsibilities prevented me from attending the latest round of Grand County Master Plan meetings, and for that I’m embarrassed. Those who don’t participate shouldn’t complain.

We can still make our opinions known by taking the Grand County master plan survey. It’s available online at .

What perplexed me were the questions about how important we think the issues cited in the current master plan are. They’re things like preserving open space, protecting wildlife habitat, conserving water and improving water quality, providing adequate affordable housing options, controlling air quality degradation and making sure new development is appropriate for the area, visually pleasing and adequately supported by roads.

How can issues like those be the ones the county has been focusing on? Open space and wildlife habitat continue to fall to development. Water and air quality are being degraded from a lack of erosion control at some construction sites; half-million-dollar houses have become the norm while service employees paid by the hour struggle to find an affordable home; high-density developments continue to be approved in less dense or undeveloped areas, potentially adding hundreds of vehicles per day to roads that can’t support them and aren’t being improved.

I spent much of my more than 25 years as a journalist covering land use and environmental issues and it has left me pessimistic about the value of grandiose studies and public hearings. I would love to be proved wrong and see Grand County end up with a document that is used as a serious planning agenda for enforcing what we want this area to be.

Love This Land. Middle Park Land Trust is hosting its third annual Celebration June 22 at Devil’s Thumb Ranch’s Broad Axe Barn. This isn’t a dress-up dinner, but a casual, fun cocktail party that raises funds for the conservation group to protect the places that make Grand County special. Mountain views, river corridors, historic ranches and wide-open meadows are why we all came here, so let’s make sure we don’t lose them.

Tickets for the event are $50 and can be purchased through the Land Trust and at other locations around the county. Go to for details.

If you can’t attend, go to the Web site anyway and browse the items in the silent auction. You can bid on them ahead of the event. There’s some great stuff including work by local and national artists, golf weekends, hot air balloon rides, restaurant meals, exquisite wines and more.

Keep in Touch: What’s got your attention around the area? Let me know. I’ll try to find the answer or spread the news. Send it all to

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