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The History of
Chaffee County Council on the Arts (Chaffee Arts)

Compiled by Kathleene Keidel

December 2022

     THE history of Chaffee Arts (CA) in Buena Vista, Colorado, begins in 1985 with local artists coming together with a vision of hosting an annual open awards art show, offering workshops, and studio tours. The non-profit 501c3 Chaffee County Council on the Arts (CCCA) was formed. Its mission statement: “Chaffee County Council on the Arts is dedicated to enhancing the educational and working environment to assist all artists in pursuit of their careers and aspirations, professional or amateur, contributing to the art, education, and cultural enrichment of the upper Arkansas River Valley.”

     Founding members included Barbara Whipple, Grant Heilman, Toni Evins, Ann Patterson, and Ray and Henrietta Hosford. In a short time, they were joined by John and Margery Dorfmeister, Dwight and Margaret Brookens, Lesley Herzog, Bobbye Campbell, Stuart Andrews, Bob Gray, and many other local artists. Within a year of forming, they hosted their first annual CCCA Open Awards show.

     The first ten years (1985-1995) CCCA focused primarily on the annual art show but gradually began introducing year-round art activities and events. CCCA produced a seasonal newsletter and board members met on a regular basis. Dreams and visions became realities as the organization grew. Art became a central theme in the small mountain communities of Buena Vista and Salida. The High-Country Folklife Festival and local community theatre with High Country Fine Arts Association, though not part of CCCA, reflected the need for the arts to be a broader topic.

     The next ten years, (1995-2005), under the leadership of high school art teacher, Thom Schnellinger, CCCA became more expansive. He explained, “The ARTS began to include performance, stage, music, concert, orchestra, writing and poetry, and more inclusivity with youth programming.” During these years, The Writer’s Exchange and the Pick and Shovel Players formed (both spearheaded by Margery Dorfmeister), along with youth orchestra, community orchestra, and even singing groups all enhancing the explosion of the creative arts in Buena Vista.

     In 2017 CCCA lacked the momentum it had enjoyed for so many years. Fortunately, Lynn Reitmeyer and Denise Mullen took over leadership as President and Secretary/Treasurer.  They said, “Our love of art compels us to help the art community in the valley to flourish.”  Lynn and Denise hosted the 2017 Open Awards Art Show and recruited Terry Stevens to join the Board as Vice President.  In early 2018 Lynn stepped down and Terry took over the President role.  With a newly recruited Board in 2018 the organization was revitalized and is now growing and strong.

     Time has repeatedly proven for the artists of the valley that when like-minded folks come together with a similar vision, wonderful things can happen. Art is so many things and it has “the power to transform, illuminate, inspire, educate, and motivate.” In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Everything you can imagine is real.” Chaffee Arts imagines what can be.

~Kathleene Keidel, July 2021



     One cannot talk about the history of Chaffee Arts without realizing it is synonymous with the history of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, for it is the museum that has been home to most of the open award art shows. Thanks to Suzy Kelly for capturing this very important information included in the history.   Follow this link to read all the details of the history of  Chaffee Arts.

Click here to continue reading our history.

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