New Visitors Center Art Gallery now open in Central City

Year-round venue to showcase one-of-a-kind works

By Lynn Volkens

There’s a new art gallery in Central City. Located right at the top of Main Street, just a few steps up Eureka Street, this satellite venue of the Gilpin County Arts Association gallery occupies the second floor of the Central City Visitors Center (103 Eureka Street).  On May 15th, Central City Mayor Ron Engels cut the wide ribbon at the foot of the stairs, officially opening the Gilpin Arts Visitors Center Gallery for business. Those attending got their first look at the inaugural exhibit, titled Earth, Fire, Water which features the paintings of Steve Griggs and Virginia Unseld, and the ceramics of Forrest Anderson.

The gallery drew even more people to the opening reception held Saturday night, May 18th. A crowd of thirty to forty people came and went during the course of the two-hour welcome party. It was a chance to meet the artists, mingle and visit, linger appreciatively over a particularly appealing piece of art (and maybe purchase it), all while enjoying the unique architectural features of the gallery space. The single large room is spacious and uncluttered. Tall windows fronting Eureka Street let in plenty of natural sunlight. Bright white pedestals and built-in shelving showcase Anderson’s pottery to perfection. Griggs’ and Unseld’s paintings ornament exposed brick walls.

All three artists are award winners. Some of the people attending the reception were already familiar with the artists’ work. For others, the exhibit offered a new taste. “His paintings remind me of something out of Paris,” said one woman looking at a series of scenes painted by Steve Griggs, “maybe from the 1950’s or ‘60’s.” With titles like, Waiting for the Tide, Sister Harbor, Jazz in the City, and Home for Lunch, Griggs takes an everyday landscape or street scene and turns it into something special. He uses his brush and watercolors to remind us not to take the beauty of our surroundings for granted, but to stop and take it in. Griggs is based in Centennial, CO.

Virginia Unseld uses pastels to capture the natural beauty of the local landscape and beyond. Glowing autumn aspen trees, sparkling streams, mountains, lakes and the play of light on all, are her specialty. Although she maintains a mid-Gilpin studio, she particularly enjoys working “en plein air” – outside – as much as possible when weather allows. In the winter, she’s been known to take her brush and paints on the road and work inside her car. She says a good painting “is like a game of golf, the fewer strokes, the better.” Mountain dwellers will immediately relate to the rain-soaked canyon road in her work, Wet Ride Home, the siren call to explore the Bend in the Road, and the seasonal magic of Mt. Evans First Snow.

Russell Gulch resident, Forrest Anderson, works hands-on with all three elements of the exhibit’s name. His ceramic pieces are shaped of clay, smoothed by water and he says, “coaxed” to final form by fire. He credits that interplay for providing the strength and richness of color in his work. As with Griggs and Unseld, Anderson also looks to his surroundings for inspiration, particularly to color, textures, materials and forms found close to home. His art finds practical use in the form of teapots, pitchers, tumblers, mugs, plates, bowls, platters and lidded jars. The ceramics connoisseur enjoys the beauty in the use, and has a choice of large, small or in-between sizes; graceful rounded form or tall and vertical; smooth or fluted sides; glazes in shades of green, blue, gold, cream, brown, copper and rust; with or without etched or painted design. “I’ve got to have this,” one woman announced with a “what else can I do?” shrug as she handed a plate to cashier, Curt Halsted.

“We’re doing well,” said Halsted of the evening’s sales. He was not surprised. “Everything here is one-of-a-kind,” he noted, pointing out the reasonable prices (ceramics start at $10; paintings, around $200), the high quality of the work, (Even the frames are high quality,” he observed), and the fun of buying art for self or gift. Halsted recommends both the Visitors Center gallery and the larger gallery housed in the historic Washington Hall building at 117 Eureka Street, as great shopping-especially for unique wedding presents. “After all,” he asks wryly, “How many knife sets can you get?”    

  The Earth, Fire Water exhibit runs until July 14th, after which a new show will be installed at the Visitors Center Art Gallery. This gallery will be open year-round, offering a win-win-win situation: Central City gains another commercial enterprise; artists gain another sales outlet; and visitors gain another inviting venue to take in the arts. The Vistiors Center Art Gallery is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday until the end of the month. The gallery will be open seven days a week, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., beginning in June.

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