What’s happening at the Artisans Co-op?

This coming weekend is very busy. It’s Valentine’s Day and the Reception for the first through fourth graders. Stop by and see what the elementary students have done. You will be surprised.

Young artists: bring your friends by to see your artwork at the reception on Sunday, Feb. 15, from 1-4 p.m We will be awarding first, second and third place prizes to first and second grades and to third and fourth grades. There will be prizes from the following sponsors: DSP Pizza, Shang Hai Restaurant, Springs Resort, Ramon’s Mexican Restaurant, La Tazza, Chato’s Restaurant, Tequilas Restaurant, J J’s Riverwalk Restaurant, Bear Creek Saloon, Junction Restaurant, Moonlight Books and Gallery, The Malt Shop, Artemisia Botanicals Company and Liberty Theatre.

On Feb.1, we started collecting art from the fifth- and sixth- grade students. All middle school students are invited to participate.

Just a reminder to the young intermediate school artists: the deadline is Feb. 28. Contest applications and rules will be at the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op, located in the purple house in the 100 block of Pagosa Street. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-4:. Call 264-2781 for details.

Artist in the Spotlight

It is good to get a glimpse of the people who are influencing our children.  I am so pleased to write about Gail Hershey, art teacher at the junior high and intermediate Schools.  I had heard of Gail over the years, as we both functioned in the art community of Pagosa, but until I actually sat down and talked to her, I didn’t know the vast knowledge and talent she brings every day to her students.

 Gail has taught pre-school through college students for the past 20 years. She holds two bachelor’s degrees in art, the first in fine arts in ceramics and the second in art education. She also holds a master’s degree in educational psychology with K-12 Colorado certification in Gifted Education and Secondary English. 

 Gail grew up in the midwest and graduated with 47 students in Maize, Kans. Gail was not offered art classes until she attended college and after two years in college, Gail took a drawing class and immediately changed her major from elementary education to fine arts. 

 I always find it interesting to learn how people heard about Pagosa Springs and their reason for moving here.  In 1992, when their daughter was 3 years old, the Hersheys were living in Wichita, Kans., and they had just signed on a house with every intention of living there when a call to Gail’s husband, Doug, from Bill Esterbrook, principal of the Pagosa Springs High School changed their lives.  Doug was asked to take the position of special education teacher at the high school. They had always wanted to raise their daughter in a rural area, so they immediately jumped to the call and moved to Pagosa two months later.   Doug taught special education for eight years and is now a high school history teacher. 

 Gail considers art as her first love. Her expertise is in ceramics but she also has training and knowledge in printmaking, drawing, painting and sculpture. At one point in Gail’s career she took a break from teaching and worked with her own art as a freelance artist and was also co-owner in the Cimarron Gallery in Pagosa Springs.  She learned many things in business and enjoyed working on her own art before she returned again to working as gifted and talented facilitator K-6 and eventually GT coordinator K-8.  She just switched back to teaching art in the fall of 08.

 Gail says, “I missed the contact and working with children.  My goal is to teach them a skill that they can do with confidence and to give them the security that anyone can be an artist if they care to work at it.

 “I am excited about a new program that is being developed with the school system. I meet with Tessie Garcia, the art teacher at the Elementary School, and Rebekah Pepiton, the art teacher at the high school.  The program is called ‘Vertical Articulation.’  We are communicating regularly and developing a program that will take the students from first through twelfth grades.  This will give the students a foundation and we are building their art education a brick at a time.  They will learn every phase of art without duplication.”

 I believe it is the love for the arts and her students that makes Gail outstanding as a teacher.  She desires that her students have an awareness of the world and will see things differently with confidence

 When I asked Gail, “Do you miss working on your own art?,” her response was, “I work on it every chance I get, long weekends and the summer months.  The art is always there, as I teach the students every day, I get to talk about what I love to do.”

Life in the Artist’s Lane

Is it my turn yet?

Like an anxious school kid who knows the answer but has been skipped over; with hand raised high, waving, he jumps up and down with excitement, but the teacher doesn’t call on him; so it is with the artist who stands before life’s school teacher and has been skipped over.

The artist who has done his homework, paid his dues, put in his time, contributed to the art industry, been disciplined, honed his craft, made peace with money and the lack there of, has he done enough? Yes, he has, he has been true to himself. He has also learned the uncertainty of the art business.

My student said to me, “This is my year. I played around with a lot of things and what I am doing now is what I should be doing, and I feel really good about it. This year is my time for something to happen.”

Is it the result that makes it our time, or is it the process of learning and discovering ourselves as an artist? I have known artists who find their niche early on; they have a marketable style and they live their 15 minutes of glory early because they have a certain commercial flare. The problem is that it is hard for them to grow as artists because the world clamors for them. The deceitfulness of riches chokes out the tender vine before it has time to develop to its full potential. They will often recline in that place, those glory days and are satisfied.

Several times over the years I have had my fleeting 15 minutes of glory. It has ended as quickly as it came, only to make me thirst for more. I wonder why it was so important that my art and I be validated by the world. Why did I stand with my hand raised high waving hoping to be noticed? It is probably because I was not confident in who I was as an artist. I know now that the attention and recognition that I wanted to embrace would have stopped me from further pursuing my passion.

As I look back over my forty years in the art business, I’ve tried it all, but one thing I have done, I have remained true to my first love, painting. My passion for painting has grown stronger and stronger and as for the fifteen minutes of glory, well ... when it comes I’ll welcome it knowing it has its place in time!

A piece of my new body of work, “The Human Spirit Speaks” sits on my easel, a subject that I desired to paint early in my career, but I didn’t have the knowledge, training or maturity of spirit to accomplish it. Today I do and it is time, it is my turn. Not to be recognized by the world’s teachers or art critics, but by my own validation. I embrace being an artist!

I understand what it means, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven … a time to keep silence and a time to speak, a time to embrace and a time to refrain.”

The final brushstroke, embrace your moment, you do not know when your next 15 minutes will come.

Comments from readers

“I’ve been avidly reading your articles on the co-op. Very interesting reads every time. That ‘Aha’ moment is what drives us all. There’s nothing like that moment of insight or inspiration, but every time it happens, I know I’m in for a ton of work.” CP, Pagosa Springs.

Send your comments to bettyslade@centurytel.net.

Photo courtesy Betty Slade
Gail Hershey teaches art at the junior high and intermediate schools and, besides working on her own art, is currently involved in developing a new art program for the local school district