Ah Haa: New Face!

Ah Haa: New Face!

For summer news at Ah Haa, go here. For more information about how to participate in Ah Haa’s auction, click here.

Marty Wollesen is Ah Haa’s new Executive Director

Martin “Marty” Wollesen joined Ah Haa School for the Arts as the new Executive Director two months ago. He is a believer in the power of imagination and that creativity is core to the human spirit. Marty is recognized as a mindful “change leader” in the performing arts. Having led multi-disciplinary performing arts organizations through significant expansion, Marty continues to provide strategic guidance for teams of leaders to navigate transition and activate unimagined possibilities.

We invite you to learn a little more about Marty in the below Q&A!

What got you excited about Ah Haa School for the Arts?

The “Ah Haa” in the name of the School. The Ah Haa is that moment that changes our lives because we see something for the first time or look at the world around us differently than we did before. It is the spark of imagination and the wonder of possibility. And of course, that for 30 years, Ah Haa School for the Arts has been practicing the Ah Haa, nurturing the Ah Haa, and sharing the Ah Haa with people of all ages was irresistible.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in California, in pre-Silicon Valley, but I have been exceptionally lucky to have lived in many places in California as well as Farmington, New Mexico. I went to elementary school in Singapore and high school in the Philippines, plus a year of college in Egypt. I taught English for a Danish shipping company in Portugal and worked on a kibbutz in Israel. Most recently, I was living in our nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

What is your previous experience in the arts?

Living and traveling abroad was an incredible experience in so many ways, but especially the exposure to a broad variety of rich artistic and cultural traditions. That certainly informed my love and curiosity for the arts. Much of my career has been leading performing arts organizations in executive and artistic roles. I have presented, produced and commissioned work in jazz, classical, contemporary and global music forms as well as contemporary dance and theater. But I also started and ran film series, film festivals, dance festival and multi-arts festivals. On a more personal note, my mother was an artist of great curiosity and inventiveness and my grandmother on my father’s side was a painter, poet and composer. My younger brother is a jazz percussionist and instrument builder. I think of myself as an explorer and a dedicated audience member – although recently I have begun to explore creative writing.

What are some of your highest priorities and goals for Ah Haa’s new space?

At the most basic level, to continue to provide experiences that create the “Ah Haa” for everyone who encounters Ah Haa School for the Arts. Especially with our new downtown home, I want us to be a community center where creativity and curiosity are alive. I want to celebrate wonder and develop new partnerships within our community that will define continue to define Telluride as a creative hub for the arts. Every human being through their daily choices is making artistic decisions, yet so many don’t believe they are artistic. I’m always shocked to hear that. I want us to be one of the many spaces where that myth is busted.

What are some of your other interests?

Mostly I like learning something new. I love books. I’m finishing a 3,600-page Norwegian novel, although I’ve been saying that for a while! I love film and dearly miss the pleasure sitting in the movie theater with a coke and popcorn, but then we are lucky to have so much access to good film online, albeit with a little sifting through the oddments. Like so many people in the last year I discovered baking and cooking. I also had a flurry of activity creating sorbet and photographing them with household objects. Mark that down to pandemic lunacy and a hot, hot summer. I’m a swimmer but I also bike and run. And now I guess, I will be hiking and skiing.

Pandemic Sorbet

Pandemic Sorbet: Orange juice, lemon juice, honey, ginger, cayenne, bourbon, luxardo cherry.


Alligator Sorbet: Black Plum, cherry, sour beer sorbet. Photo Left:

What excites you about living in Telluride?

Well, I arrived just as everyone was leaving for off-season, but I’m not going to take that personally. I’m certainly not the first person to be gobsmacked by the stunning beauty of Telluride. The majesty of the mountains is humbling. Every day is a marvel. I am so excited to explore trails as well the history and culture of this area. I am struck already by how friendly and generous the Telluride community is. And I am so grateful for the huge variety of arts and creativity that makes this town so special and vibrant. I’m excited to be a part of it all!


If you have contributed to our Capital Campaign to help us complete our new downtown home, or if you would like to, please contact Marty Wollesen for at tour of our new studios and classrooms before Ah Haa open up to the public.


Ah Haa’s annual Art Auction will be online again this year, kicking off on Friday, July 16 and closing on August 5, with Art Walk.

Because we want to make this annual tradition available to everyone, regardless of where you might be this summer, the Art Auction will be online again offering two weeks of virtual bidding on a fun and fantastic array of art, experiences, and opportunities. Your active participation will help raise critical funds to help Ah Haa School for the Arts continue to nourish the creative spirit through classes, workshops, programs, and events for people of all ages in our community.

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