Telluride AIDS Benefit: Metal Artist Issenberg Honors #25

The Telluride AIDS Benefit continues to wave its “Fight.Fund.Educate” banner on high – and with good reason. With regard to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, today’s political environment is, at best, a giant question mark; at worst, toxic. On the scientific front there may be cause for optimism, but to date there is still no definitive cure for the virus. The Telluride AIDS Benefit is celebrating 25 years of community involvement and dedication to the cause: raising money to help HIV and AIDS clients of its beneficiaries, literally hundreds of individuals and families of all demographics living with HIV/AIDS from the Front Range of Colorado to Africa. TAB also remains laser-focussed on prevention through education.

Join in TAB’s week of events, beginning Friday, February 23, 6 p.m., with the Student Fashion Show at Telluride’s Michael D. Palm Theatre and culminating with the Gala Fashion Show at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. All happening between March 1 – March 6.

To honor TAB’s silver anniversary, artist Lisa Issenberg’s uber cool cuff is now on sale for $75 at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art. The Gallery has represented Lisa’s work, primarily her jewelry, since 1992.

Go here for a full schedule of TAB events and here for an overview.

Go here for a story about the Student Fashion Show.

Go here for tickets to the fashion show.

Go here to donate to the cause.

This is a story of mettle meeting metal, of an organization that has shown steel resolve in its mission over 25 years and a talented metal artist commemorating that determination through her medium.

Robert Presley was a one-of-a-kind, a kooky creative genius and local enfant terrible with a life-of-the-party persona. Fabrics were his canvas. He dyed, slashed and frayed them into submission, turning improbable materials into provocative designs.

Learning of his HIV+ status became the catalyst for Presley to take his art – and his life – more seriously. His approach was “in your face.” It was because of Presley that many in the Telluride community gained a heightened awareness and deeper understanding of what was once referred to by the far right as Gay-Related Immune Deficiency or GRID

Robert Presley died in the summer of 1997 from complications from AIDS –  after strutting down the aisle in February tricked out in a mint-green ensemble, tiara, parasol and sash that read “Miss AIDS 1997. But his memory lives on in the Telluride AIDS Benefit, founded in 1994 by Kandee DeGraw and a group of friends determined to help Presley defray the costs of his medical expenses in his battle against the insidious virus.

“We ran an ad for volunteers and had 120 people show up the first year. It was incredible,” recalls DeGraw.

Ron Gilmer with Robert Presley back when. Gilmer remains an AIDS activist & TAB board member.

In its first year, the nascent non-profit netted about $12,000. At Presley’s request, the money went directly to the Western Colorado AIDS Project (WestCAP), a community-based referral and educational providers which assists HIV-infected individuals and families across 25 counties in Western Colorado. Since then, TAB has dispersed almost $2 million for education, advocacy, clinical care and NGOS. WestCAP remains its primary beneficiary, but now TAB has a total of of nine nonprofits helping individuals and families afflicted with HIV/AIDS from the Western Slope to the Front Range to Africa.

More about who those beneficiaries are here.

Metal artist Lisa Issenberg was one of DeGraw’s friends – and she was present at TAB#1, so when TAB’s executive director Michelle Hill Maughan reached out and asked if Issenberg might be interested in creating a piece to raise funds for TAB #25, the artist readily agreed.

“The cuff was Michelle’s brilliant idea.. something unisex,” explained Issenberg. “Pondering a design using the techniques and materials I regularly work with to create my award designs – water jet cutting and satin-brushed stainless steel… ‘TAB25’ in steel set inside leather felt obvious and perfect. We debated adding another detail – a hand-stamped word – but in the end, decided a minimalist approach felt right, something bold and simply beautiful. Something which reminded me when I created it of Wonder Woman, a symbol of power and making a difference in the world. The TAB #25 cuff says many things, but perhaps most importantly, ‘I support the work of TAB, its mission, to ‘Fight. Fund.Educate,’ to ‘heighten awareness and generate financial support for educational programs and client care.’ Knowing I was there at TAB #1 and am still there supporting TAB 25 years later brings such a good feeling.  Working with TAB is especially exciting because I know its history so intimately. I know and love the players and in general am thankful for its existence. And although I can’t afford to donate to every cause that yanks my heartstrings, I can offer to help via art. Perhaps that’s another reason I love my work so much.”

Since 1991, artist and designer Lisa Issenberg has specialized in innovative, custom metalwork, often incorporating other mediums, such as photography, wool felt, or bamboo.

In 1994, Issenberg made her first award in metal for Mountainfilm, also for Ah Haa and Snowboard World Cup events. For the past five years, through her company Kiitellä – the word means thank, applaud or praise in Finnish – Issenberg has specialized in making awards and recognition medals.

Kiitellä’s art is edgy, original and distinctive, yet firmly grounded in the history of art and design: Bauhaus form and function meets Art Deco graphics meets Scandinavian design sensibility and the grace of the mountainous world surrounding Issenberg’s headquarters in Ridgway.

Kiitellä’s process incorporates industrial techniques and handcraft. No two pieces are the same. Each is pleasingly imperfect – like life.

According to Issenberg, Kiitella “designs and fabricates custom awards for organizations that stand out as leaders in creativity when recognizing honorees.”

Anyone who has ever attended TAB’s fashion show, knows that is place where creativity abounds.

Among Issenberg’s most notable awards in snow sports:

Mikaela Shiffrin 10 awards

Ted Ligety 4

Megan McJames 6

Lindsey Vonn 2

Gus Kenworthy 1 – but is was another BIG one!

Gus Kenworthy stands atop the freeski slopestyle podium at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass Mountain, with Nick Goepper in second place. (Getty Images-Matt Stockman.)

Also, FIS Alpine World Cup Finals @ Aspen; U.S. Alpine Championships @ Sun Valley, Sugarloaf & Squaw Valley; U.S. Freestyle Championships; U.S. National Freeskiing & Snowboarding Champions; and FIS World Cups in all disciplines — alpine, freestyle, snowboard, telemark, freeski, aerials —  across the USA.



In the Outdoor Industry, Issenberg has created awards for nonprofits such as US Ski & Snowboarding; The American Alpine Club; The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum; The American Avalanche Association; The Conservation Alliance; Outdoor Industry Association; and American Mountain Guides Association.

“The American Alpine Club award to Sally Jewell really excites me said Issenberg. “I have been making their awards since 2014, and so this David R. Brower Award for Sally Jewell feels really personal. I want to thank her. And I want her back as U.S. Secretary of the Interior!”

For the AAC awards, lssenberg fuses satin-polished, laser-cut stainless steel, snowy white natural wool felt and thick laminated bamboo. The front layer features the AAC logomark — a series of shapes creating an imposing mountain… minimal and bold. The result is an award with warmth, depth, and beauty.

Issenberg’s local projects here in Telluride include The Michael D. Palm Donor Wall; donor walls inside and out for the Telluride Historical Museum; donor wall and doctor plaques for the Telluride Medical Center; Telluride Mountain School; trash and recycling receptacles for the Town of Telluride; and Telluride Mountainfilm.

The Telluride Gallery of Fine Art has represented Issenberg’s work since 1992.

“I have huge gratitude for their support and confidence in my work,” added Lisa.

Lisa at work. Photo Credit Elizabeth Riley.

Lisa Issenberg earned a Master of Industrial Design degree from Pratt Institute in 2001 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. She lives in Ridgway, Colorado with her husband and black lab Django and creates in her metal design studio and steel shop, from time to time taking a break to adventure in the surrounding San Juan mountains.

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