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PSAC member artist profile: Al Olson

North Dakota native Al Olson’s interest in photography began in the mid-’40s when he was given a hand-me-down, fold-up Pocket Kodak Jr. In those days, not far removed from the Great Depression, film and processing were expensive so not to be wasted. Often a roll of film would last for a year or more.

Then a friend introduced him to the darkroom at the local YMCA. After watching the magic of images emerging in the developer he was committed to the darkroom process. In grade nine he received a 35mm with adjustable focus, aperture and shutter speeds. Later he obtained a Kodak Retina IIIc with the luxury of a coupled range finder and a non-coupled exposure meter. He joined the school annual staff where he used a 4x5 press camera and performed darkroom chores. These activities were consistent with his interest in science and mathematics.

While at the university, Al was invited to take over photo responsibilities for the college annual. For this work he acquired a 4x5 Super Graphic complete with the strobe and heavy battery pack. The school provided the darkroom. He also had a freelance agreement with The Grand Forks Herald, which brought him additional photo assignments. These journalism influences are recognizable in his style today.

In 1960 Olson was accepted for a summer position at Aberdeen Proving Ground where he worked with the ORDVAC, an early, one-of-a-kind computer. Following college graduation he was drafted into the Army during the Berlin Wall Crisis. At this time he married and began raising a family. The Super Graphic was traded for a 35mm Nikon, much handier for recording the activities of his two sons. Kodachrome was the prevailing film choice. It provided color and was cheaper than color prints (which at that time were not of the highest quality).

Following his tour of duty, he returned to graduate school for an advanced degree, taught mathematics for two years at the university before moving to Indianapolis where he developed mathematical models of gas turbine engine geometry and built computer programs to optimize the engineering designs.

Al returned to Aberdeen Proving Ground to build computer programs for war game evaluation of weapon systems. His career continued with a number of operations research positions and then a job at the U.S. Geological Survey where he created a computer mapping system for evaluating coal resources.

It was not until the late ’70s that color print processing became feasible for amateurs. At this time he purchased color equipment and created a darkroom for processing color film and prints.

A hiatus was caused by further moves, where construction of a new darkroom never materialized. A move to Denver in 1982 to join Martin Marietta was followed in 1984 by establishment of his own company to market his micro version of computer mapping to oil service companies. This led to more consulting and maintenance work until 1996 when he moved back to Virginia to join a company started by friends.

Here the powder room of his home was enlarged into a darkroom. It was at this point that he joined four camera clubs. Guest judges were invited by the clubs to critique monthly photo competitions. This was a learning opportunity as well as an evaluation of the quality of his images and is reflected in his winning two Photographer of the Year plaques.

After moving to Pagosa in 2004, a storage area in the loft of his home was converted into a darkroom. Al has been exhibited at the Durango Art Center, the Southwest Studies Photo Show, the Kent Denver Art Show, Shy Rabbit, Open Shutter, the Cortez Art Center,, Daylight Doughnuts, La Tazza, the Pagosa Photography Studio, and the PSAC Gallery. He is active in the Pagosa Springs Photo Club and has been responsible for organizing three of the Photo Club shows at the PSAC Gallery.

Olson works with negative film. His equipment includes all formats from 35mm to 8x10 view cameras. His recent work emphasizes black and white photography, often using infrared sensitive films and the use of large format and medium format cameras. Many of his prints articulate the passing cultures of the Anasazi and the ghost towns of miners. Al creates his exhibition prints in the darkroom where he processes both color and black and white films to produce silver (b&w) and color prints.

Olson is an invited participant in the upcoming Life Stills Four Person show at the Open Shutter Gallery, from May 7 through June 30. His Web site is

Photo Club

The Pagosa Springs Photography Club will meet Wednesday, April 14, in the Conference Room (third floor) at The Club, 450 Lewis St. Join us for socializing starting at 6 p.m., followed by photo critiquing, program and business meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The Pagosa Photo Club is pleased to present this month’s program — “The Art of Framing” by Linda Pampinella. For the do-it-yourselfers, Linda will show the basic equipment needed to set up an in-home framing shop and will demonstrate how to mat and frame your own photos using both a metal and a wooden frame. Be sure that you make this meeting it will be enjoyable.

A monthly photo theme exhibit is held during each club meeting. The two categories are the theme category and the open category where any subject is allowed. This month’s theme is “Spring.” Members may enter as many as three prints or digital images, but no more than two in either category. President T.J. Reynolds will lead the critique of photos. This will be done as a group rather than have specific judges.

The Photography Club meets the second Wednesday of each month during the club year from September through May at 6 p.m. interested photography enthusiasts are welcome to attend at no charge for the first meeting.

Any and all are invited to join for annual dues of $20 for single individuals and $30 for family membership. For more information, contact Reynolds at or 970-731-9681

Greg Coffey watercolor class

One of our member businesses, Pagosa Pottery, will host a watercolor class conducted by Greg Coffey on Thursdays from 6-7:30 p.m. Please call Pagosa Pottery at 731-3311 for details.

PSAC exhibit schedule

Make note that the 2010 PSAC exhibits will be held in The Gallery at Town Hall.

April 22 — Advanced High School Art Students Exhibit.

May 20 — Pagosa Springs Photography Club Exhibit.

June 17 — Seventh annual Juried Exhibit: A Regional Art Competition.

July 15 — All Things Horse.

Aug. 12 — Soft Art: Decorative and Wearable.

Sept. 9 — Art of the American West

Oct. 7 — PSAC Artist Member’s Exhibit.

Nov. 4 — Watercolor: Denny and G

 PSAC workshop schedule

Sculpture and Clay Modeling — Randall Davis, April 22-24.

Palette Knife Oil — Lorraine Trenholm, May 12-13.

Tibetan Clay Masks — Lama Gyurme Rabgyes, June 12, 19 and26.

Youth Art Workshop — June 21-25, Sabine Baeckmann.

Palatable Palette Knife Painting — Kathleen Steventon, July 17.

Tibetan Painted Mandala — Lama Gyurme Rabgyes, July 17, 24, 31.

Peyote Stitch Beading — Carol Schneider, July 24.

Wet Felting Hats — Lois Burbach, Aug. 7.

Live Model/any media — Lavern Burton, Aug. 21.

Wet Felting Scarves — Lois Burbach, Sept. 18.

Collage/mixed media, Altered Books — Dee Pitchon, Sept. 25.

Pastel Painting — Lorraine Trenholm, Oct. 13-14. 

PSAC 2010 Workshop Schedule

Artists’ luncheons

PSAC is offering another great way for artists and Board members to get together, share ideas, inspire one another, and build PSAC together. Join our artists luncheons every third Friday of the month at noon at Nello’s Bistro in the uptown City Market plaza. Our next luncheon will be held April 16.

Call to artists

The Third Annual Art in the Garden Art Show will be held Saturday, Aug. 21, from 3-7 p.m.

The Art in the Garden Festival is a major event for those who enjoy fine art, quality entertainment and gourmet food and wine. The event was begun in 2008 as a means to raise money to be used for charitable purposes within the community. In addition to live music and gourmet appetizers, it is a one-day juried outdoor show of fine art that welcomes applications from artists producing original work in several media. Originality of concept, execution, quality of workmanship and design excellence are the primary criteria used during the evaluation process.

All applicants must submit the following: a signed and fully completed application form received no later than April 14, 2010; three images representative of work to be shown. The following formats are acceptable: professional quality 8x10 photographs or CD (8x10) or e-mail (5x7) of 300 dpi JPEG images. Self-addressed, stamped envelope of sufficient size for the return of materials

Please contact Mary Kay Carpenter via e-mail to receive an Art in the Garden brochure at

Member artists on Web

We’ve made a few changes on our Web site, the most important of which is a listing of our member artists.

We’ve made it easier now than ever before for everyone to get to know the amazing, talented artists we have in our community and surrounding area.

Log onto and click on the Artist Listing button. Visit our site often, as we continue to add artists and new features.atures.

New location for PSAC

The Arts Council office is located in The Club building at 450 Lewis St., B-2. Our phone number is 264-5020. The new e-mail address is Our workshops will continue to be held in the community center Arts and Crafts Room until March 31 and after April 1 they will be held in The Studio at The Club. The 2010 exhibits will be held in the Rotunda at Town Hall thanks to the town’s gracious offer to host these events. So, all in all, we are looking forward to the new changes, new venue and are excited about the 2010 season for the Pagosa Springs Arts Council.

Winter schedule

The new winter hours for PSAC are noon-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can e-mail us at or leave a message at 264-5020. Also be sure to visit our Web site at for additional information.

Plein Air Painters

Plein Air Painters offers a wonderful opportunity for artists and art enthusiasts alike to share tips, ideas and resources. Painters who work in any media are welcome. Our schedule has changed and from now on we will meet on the fourth Thursday of the month. If the weather is nice, the group paints outdoors. If the weather is bad, the group paints in the Ross Aragon Community Center Arts and Crafts Room. Please keep in mind that turpentine-based painting materials cannot be used in the community center. Please call Jean Shah 264-0188 or Jean Smith 264-6647 if you need more information.

Board meetings

You are invited to attend our monthly board meetings and we appreciate your suggestions for future efforts in developing the arts in Pagosa Springs. The board meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Our March 23 meeting will be held in our new location in The Club building, 450 Lewis St. B-2 from 4-6 p.m. in the third floor conference room.

PSAC invites you to join

Started in 1988 the Pagosa Springs Arts Council, a non-profit organization, was conceived and developed to, in part, promote the awareness of the vast array of local artistic talent, provide educational and cultural activities in the community, sponsor exhibits and workshops by local and regional, and encourage and support continued appreciation and preservation of the aesthetic beauty of Pagosa Springs.

If you would like to join the Pagosa Springs Arts Council, please mail your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to PSAC, P.O. Box 533, and Pagosa Springs, CO 81147. You will also need to enclose a check payable to PSAC for the membership rate of your choice.

Membership rates are: Youth-$10; Individual Senior-$20; Individual Regular-$25; Family Senior-$25; Family Regular-$35; Business-$75; Patron-$250; Benefactor-$500, Director-$1,000 and Guarantor-$2,500 and up.