Telluride Fire Festival, Wicked Hot: Overview, 12/6-8!

Telluride Fire Festival, Wicked Hot: Overview, 12/6-8!

The 5th annual three-day-long, incendiary art blockbuster known as the Telluride Fire Festival takes place December 6-8, 2019, but an opening reception for the weekend is scheduled at the Slate Gray Gallery on December 5, 4-7 p.m. The art of Telluride local Ben Kapp is featured.

For two nights, Festival-goers will be entertained by sensuous fire spinners and towering, flaming art in Town at the 100-year-old, iconic Transfer Warehouse,  now under the stewardship of Telluride Arts.

Other crowd-pleasing events schedule for the weekend include: Fire Ball in North America’s highest nightclub in Mountain Village; a sculpture garden atop the ski area; a free fire dancing performance in Heritage Plaza, also in Mountain Village; plus free flow arts workshops at Telluride’s five-star Wilkinson Public Library.

For a full schedule of all the hot events, go here.

For a preview of thee weekend, check out the video below.

In the Telluride region, the holiday season is off to flaming start this year thanks to two locals, Erin Ries and Chris Myers. From the fire in their bellies emerged a fabulous phoenix: the Telluride Fire Festival, turning up the heat in its 5th year.

Each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, a city of more than 70,000 people rises out of the dust for one week only. During that time, enormous fire art installations are erected, many of which are ritually burned to the ground, never to be seen again. That temporary city is known as Burning Man. The Telluride Fire Festival honors this American cultural phenomenon and the many artists whose works are generally only on view on the Nevada sands. Fire Festival showcases some of the jaw-dropping works of art unique to the world-famous desert love-in.

“The Telluride Fire Festival was born out of our yearly sojourns at Burning Man in Black Rock City, NV, where spectacular moving and stationary art is on display everywhere. Telluride has a thriving arts community and is equally, though differently quirky, so it made sense to offer up the Telluride region as a new platform to help amplify what is a dynamic, singularly spectacular art form,” said Ries.

Designed as a community celebration of excellence in interactive fire arts,” Fire Fest brings a fire art experience to Telluride’s Main Street and the pedestrian plazas of Mountain Village.

Like the Black Rock desert happening, the Telluride Fire Festival features multi-storied, fire-emitting “art cars” and burn barrels and other larger-than-life, animated, blazing art installations. Fire artists and dancers are also scheduled be on hand to offer spontaneous performances.

One of the featured installations in 2017 at Burning Man was created by Atlanta artist, Ryan Mathern, a sculpture titled “Tonglen.” Mathern now brings his art to Telluride for the 2019 weekend.

Tonglen, Ryan

The 18-foot tall “Tonglen” is a face of segmented, polished metal, eyes calm and lips pursed, supported by a neck armature containing two volumes, a diamond and a heart. Behind the mouth and inside the curve of the face is a diamond-shaped combustion chamber; below it, just off the ground, a hear-shaped bellows. A rod protrudes behind the head and joins to a levered handle, so that a person acting on the handle will cause the bellows to expand and contract, forcing air through the combustion chamber and out of the mouth. With each exhale a breath of flame will emanate from the lips and jets of fire dance upon the crown of the forehead.

Atlanta-based, Ryan Mathern creates steel sculpture, adding virgin and reclaimed materials to a tubular steel substructure and steel rod framework. Using indelible materials (including stainless steel, aluminum, and chrome plate) alongside weather-able materials (mild steel, copper) allows for a great range of contrast and interplay of textures. Within these pieces, negative space is created by removing metal with a cutting torch. Those are often lit from within by electrical light, ambient light, or fire. Often, Mathern’s work combines phrases in Tibetan script with subject matter such as mythical creatures and Asian devotional machines.

All of Mathern’s large-scale pieces so far have involved fire. Enclosures for wood fire, sculptural elements that are consumed by flames, and pressurized propane flame effects are used to bring the sculptures to life, expose inner forms and messages, and cast light and heat on the observer. Fire creates a performance aspect, ties the piece to external participants, ages and transforms a work, and can serve as the climax or culmination of any given project.

Charlie Vierhout is showcasing his 10-foot tall street clock, entitled “Our Time,” which juxtaposes a contemporary take on “time” with a more historical view of street clocks.

In “Our Time,” hands move both forward and backward on the clock face. A pendant allowing people to select multiple styles of flame blasts controls the tower flame effects. Inside the tower are four computers are used to control LEDs, the hands, and flame effects, as well as four custom built gearboxes. 1,300 LEDs are also inside the installation, which run an ever-changing color display.

“Our Time,” photo by Rand Lyons.

“By the way,” says Vierhout: “’Our Time’ does actually tell time. But it is up to the bystanders to  figure out the puzzle that allows them to obtain the correct time.”

In general, Charlie Vierhout creates complex computing system for a living and makes art for a release. After many years of living life from one extreme to the other, he found a middle ground within the burner community and has been building fire, light, and sound art for several years.

Telluride-based Ben Kapp works to create beautiful artisan light sculptures that dazzle the eye, bringing structure and form to life. Having an intuitive knack for understanding innovation and aesthetic principles, Kapp crafts contemporary and thoughtful designs comprised of metal, wood, and various media. Those creations can complement any space: home, business, outdoor landscape, large events, and more.

Kapp is showcasing his latest pieces at Slate Gray Gallery during Fire Fest. The opening reception is scheduled Thursday night, Dec 5, 4-7 p.m.

Other fire artists:

Propane artists participating this year are: Charles Vierhout of Avondale, AZ, Matt Brooks of Denver, CO; Jamie Vaida of Oakland, CA; Ryan Mathern of Atlanta, GA; Space Ninjas of Dillon and Aspen, CO. Artists creating wood installations are Keith D’Angelo and Niel Ringstad of Telluride, CO and Michael Wright, and Meredith Miller of Phoenix, AZ.

Transfer Warehouse, Skotty Kenton.

Other hot events:

The wicked hot costumed Fire Ball takes place at North America’s highest nightclub, at 10,535 feet on the St Sophia Ridge.

Aerial silk performers, flow arts performers, fire spinners, and musical entertainment should entrance participants. Food, a cash bar, dancing, and inviting pillow lounge spaces for relaxing are also part of the scene.

John Beck, Fire Ball.

“Fire On The Mountain” atop the ski area will showcase three spectacular wood sculptures on display during the day, which will then ceremoniously burn to the ground Saturday night during the Fire Ball.

A dance and acrobatic performance at The Palm Theater in collaboration with Telluride Dance Collective and Homestead Circus Productions.

Free fire art performance and a flaming art car in Heritage Plaza in Mountain Village.

Free flow arts workshops at the local Wilkinson Public Library.

“Fire is at the very core of human existence. It transformed our ability to survive,” explained event  co-founder Myers. “Today, it remains critically important to mankind’s survival. The human fascination with fire inevitably led it to become an art form.”

The Doors released their monster hit in 1967.

Ries and Myers, again co-founders and directors of the Telluride Fire Festival, are making the refrain of “Light My Fire” real again in 2019.

Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire…

Telluride’s Historic Transfer Warehouse, more:

Funk, TransferWarehouse, courtesy SkottyKenton.

Before its roof collapsed in 1979, the stone building was a downtown garage and filling station. In 1906, before the advent of the automobile, the cavernous, two-story space was the barn for the local livery and the center of the Warehouse District that served the mining industry. The stone (roofless) building is a perfect backdrop for fire art.

Telluride Fire Festival, more:

Keith D”Angelos “Flaming Heart,” image, Diana Ries.

The Telluride Fire Festival, a 501c3 organization, is an interactive fire art experience offering fire related workshops and outdoor displays of fire artistry to support artists and enable all to immerse themselves in the many forms of fire art.

For more about the Festival, to become a sponsor, volunteer, or subscribe to enews, visit

Fire Fest Sponsors:

Alpine Lodging, AmeriGas, Brown Dog Pizza, Cosmopolitan Restaurant, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, High Pie Pizzeria, Kure’s Ginger Beer, La Cocina de Luz, MTNtown Magazine, New Sheridan Hotel, Scott’s Printing, SilverStar Luxury Properties, Telluride Express, Telluride Ski & Golf Resort, The Hotel Telluride, Timberline Ace Hardware, The Victorian Inn.