Ah Haa Art Auction: Allred & "The Wild Years"

Artist at work, Ron Allred

Artist at work, Ron Allred

The auction in brief:

The Ah Haa School for the Arts 21st annual art auction. It’s all about “The Wild Years” in “To-Hell-U-Ride,” the 1970s, when the region began a steady march from (relative) famine to feast, hippy to hipdom.

In the roll up to the Big Night, on Thursday, July 18, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Ah Haa hosts a Guest Artist Talk & Sale featuring six artists, including two who grew up in Telluride,  Werner and Gardner Catsman – plus, Jane Goren, Ingrid Lundahl, Judy Mulford, and Rob Schultheis.

The Main Event takes place Friday night, July 19. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the silent auction. The live auction begins at 7:30 p.m. Items featured on and off the runway include goods and services, paintings, jewelry, ceramics, adventures and more – PLUS a one-of-a-kind original work by Telluride visionary Ron Allred.

(The dance party begins when the silent auction ends, roughly 9:30 p.m.)

1970s: The Big Picture

Historian Bruce J. Shulman describes the 17-year period he dates from January 1968 (with the Tet offensive) to November 1984 (when Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term as President) the “long 1970s.” Why long? Because of the mythological Sixties, the really big turning point in U.S. history, the one not to have missed. Following the 1960s was like trying to follow dogs and kids on stage.

What were the 1970s all about? Was the era more than a Pinto in a gas line and a Jimmy Carter cardigan to keep warm? Well, yes. The 1970s was, true enough, about an energy crisis, but also Watergate, “Star Wars,” Carlos Castaneda, Bobby Riggs versus Billy Jean King, Buckminster Fuller and geodesic domes, a hostage crisis, the Jim Jones massacre, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,”  “All in the Family,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Rocky,” Muhummad Ali, and the rise of Gerald Ford.

Bottom line on the era? Bad hair, bad clothes (midi skirts hot pants, bell bottoms, leisure suits, platform heels), bad fabrics (polyester), bad music, some anyway (heavy metal, Ozzy Osborne, Abba, but also the Eagles whose “Greatest Hits” remains one of the best-selling records in history), bad politics, bad economics. Somewhat miraculously, however, out of that swampland the flower of some of the attitudes and values that shape our world today began to bloom: feminism, gay rights, an obsession (that never want far enough) with fuel efficiency.

So bring on da funk. Bring on da noise.

Ron and Joyce Allred

Ron and Joyce Allred “

1970s In Our Neck of the Woods: Enter Ron Allred

In the early 1970s, Telluride was just beginning to pulse thanks to a chap from Beverly Hills named Joe Zoline, who had just bought the ski resort. Still, half of Main Street was boarded up and people were high-tailing it out of town muttering darkly under their breath about the closing of the Idarado Mines. The historic Sheridan Opera House, now celebrating its 100-year anniversary, was a camping ground for derelicts with broken glass and dusty mattresses everywhere. In 1972, however, the first lifts and ski runs opened for business.

By 1974, the forerunner of Telluride Arts helped to engender the town’s three oldest festivals: Film, Bluegrass and Chamber.

In 1977, a guy named Ron Allred wheeled his way into town for the first time and fell head over heels. (Heard that one before?)

Ron and his friend Jim Wells had grown up in Grand Junction. The story goes that through their business, Benchmark Companies, the duo built the town of Avon, just west of Vail. Once that project reached build-out, they decided to find the next great place in Colorado to repeat their dance. Having shopped other locations to no avail, that blue sky August day sealed the deal.

By 1978, Ron and Jim purchased the Telluride Ski Resort from Zoline and determined to develop their property – 3.5 square miles of land on what was once sheep ranches –  based on the look and feel of ski resorts in the Alps, iconic places such as Zermatt, Megeve, and Chamonix. Like the models, Mountain Village would have a pedestrian-friendly core, its business center, surrounded by a network of winter and summer trails, walking paths, and single-family estates tucked into the landscape. The region’s transformation was officially a work in progress.

Ron Allred’s masterpiece for Ah Haa:

It was the brainchild of the school’s executive director Judy Kohin to pair up non-artists with talented artists to create a work the newbie could be proud of. In creating his masterpiece, Ron Allred carries on a tradition that began with General Norman Schwarzkopf and continued with actress Susan St. James:

“Their process exemplifies what the Ah Haa is all about,” explained Judy. “Having these ‘non-artists’ face their fears and open up to the creative process is incredible. I’ve seen how they transform through the process: the pieces they create become extraordinarily meaningful and the experience has a lasting effect on the participants. It is exactly that – that moment of inspiration – that the Ah Haa strives for with all of its students.”

Ron Allred with artist-collaborator Judy Haas

Ron Allred with artist-collaborator Judy Haas

Ron got paired with Judy Haas, an artist whose national reputation was built on her colorfully shimmering trout paintings. Born and raised in Aspen, Judy moved to Telluride five years ago. With an affinity for the region in her blood, she was the perfect choice to be Ron’s mentor.

The piece Ron and Judy created in her Pine Street studio is a mixed-construction based on two maps: a topo map from 1978, the year Telluride’s last mine, Idarado, closed down for good; and a map of the region’s 1979 TRAPAC (Telluride Regional Advisory Planning Commission) agreement, which delineates agreed-upon population densities meant to limit growth and preserve the natural beauty of the Telluride region. The old maps were combined with an etching on plexiglass, a simplified version, in Allred’s handwriting, of his commitment to the preservation of Telluride, hence the title of the work: “Preserving the Jewel.”

“Meeting Ron and collaborating with him on this project has been an unexpected surprise and pleasure,” said Judy (Haas). “Through him, I have learned a part of Telluride’s history. I also came to understand his intense love of a place he hopes to help preserve for our children and generations to come. The ideas of sustainability and preservation are imbedded in his art.”

"Preserving the Jewel" (Note the artist's signature, lower right hand corner)

“Preserving the Jewel”
(Note the artist’s signature, lower right hand corner)

Why Ron’s piece, “Preserving the Jewel” and all donated items really matter:

Ah Haa is the region’s artistic and cultural center, a place that every individual, regardless of age, profession, or skills, gets to push his boundaries and grow – yet tuition income covers less than half of the school’s operating expenses. We give to Ah Haa so that everyone in our extended community gets a shot at becoming an artist. We give to support established artists. We attend the auction because supporting Ah Haa supports the vitality of the Telluride community as a whole and because the school helps define what Telluride is all about: the daily possibility of personal transformation.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to my interview with Ron and Judy.

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