from her elephant series, each featuring fluid brushstrokes and vibrant colors expressing the emotions of both pachyderm and artist. Relatively new to painting, Crilly has rented a space at Stronghouse for almost two years. Like a lot of local artists, Crilly’s passion for art stemmed from an Ah Haa class; she took “Painting from Within” with Robert Weatherford, and her interest blossomed. The story of Elaine Fischer is another example of the symbiotic relationship between local art agencies. Five years ago, Fischer (whose day job is in politics as commissioner for San Miguel County) picked up more than a paintbrush during her class experience at Ah Haa; she fell into a new avocation. She soon staked out studio space at Stronghouse and was showing a collection of abstract paintings the following fall, which is now an annual undertaking. Her last show consisted entirely of selfportraits, even though dabbling in realism was unfamiliar territory for the abstract painter. Although she never imagined pursuing such a controlled style of painting, becoming an artist has opened her to the unpredictable pathways of creativity. There are no boundaries in art, and the finished product is perhaps the only parameter that separates an actual artist from an ideological dreamer. Just ask Hobby: “What makes an artist is producing something that is an expression of yourself,” she says. “You can sit around and plan and talk about art, but the bottom line is you have to produce, whether you know what you’re going to make or not.”
365 days of
The creative process always involves some surprise, hence Ah Haa’s name. Unexpected things happen, such as Crilly’s transformation from graphic designer to a traveling elephant salesperson, having sold several of her pieces at craft fairs. Her latest idea is to write a children’s book called Elephants Have Feelings, Too. Crilly might be onto something, considering the increasing number of kids in town. Ah Haa is all about youth art classes. Just look at the course listings—Kindermusik for preschoolers, Batik Prayer Flags for elementary ages and Teen Project Runway. In 2009, the school offered 85 children-specific classes out of 239 total. That same year, LoomisLee estimates that more than 2,000 locals and visitors—children and adults alike—participated in Ah Haa’s classes, workshops and events. “We provide an amazing array of creative opportunities for young people—non-athletic, after-school and summer alternatives for children and teens,” says Loomis-Lee. And Ah Haa continues to be creative with its curriculum. “Our course offerings are always evolving. This fall, the school is coorganizing the first Telluride Photography Festival, which will bring together at least 500 professional and amateur adventure, action sports, and nature photographers from all over the world.”
the school’s spacious gallery. In the basement, wheels and kilns quietly await an afternoon ceramics class. Stronghouse has similar creative zones. There are several studio spaces, TCAH offices, a dark basement suited for photography and a small gallery, which is open on Thursdays from 12 to 6 p.m. This past winter, Ally Crilly displayed several paintings
The Ah Haa School for the Arts is a community center for arts and culture in Telluride. The School’s overall goal is to nurture the creative spirit. At the Ah Haa School, we believe every person harbors an artistic ability, and that everyone – including the community at large – benefits from exploring and developing that ability. The School is home to the prestigious American Academy of Bookbinding, whose programing runs throughout the Spring & Fall.
visiting artist series The Photography Festival is slated for September, around the same time as Fischer’s fall show. On a sunny morning at the southern end of the Stronghouse building, she is back to painting the abstract and finishing up her latest piece: A wide spectrum of colors fan out like a peacock’s tail, overlaid by dynamic scribbling lines. It’s tighter than her previous abstractions, the result of the increased control demanded during her selfportrait stint in realism. Like the burgeoning arts community here in Telluride, she is on a creative journey. “It’s making me dizzy, but I kind of like it,” she says, stepping back from the canvas. “We’ll see where it goes.” g
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