“Greeters,” by Connie Spurgeon

by Bob Bahr

Ken Shanika, the Rose Award winner, artist, and key SKBer known for tutoring teen artists toward award-winning careers, put out a call for entries for two fundraisers this summer in Colorado. The response was rapid.

“The minute I asked Wanda [Mumm] and Heiner [Hertling] …I didn’t even finish my sentence before they said, ‘Sure no problem,'” Shanika reports. Seven more SKB artists heeded the call. The first fundraiser was held July 28-30, and benefitted Friends of Mueller State Park. The second one is this coming weekend, Aug. 11-13, at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument’s auditorium, in the visitor’s center. Those who drop in for this fundraiser have a chance to pick up an original Mort Solberg. Plenty of smaller works, generally under 11″-x-14″, will be on display and for sale.

The reception for the Mueller State Park fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Marmot Ridge Photography

The Friends of Mueller State Park was the beneficiary for the first fundraiser. This non-profit group fills the gaps that the park’s budget fail to cover, helping with things like trail maintenance, signage, and the replacement of broken items. More than 30 paintings were sold in just two days plus a short pre-show sale, with about 160 pieces on display.

Lee Cable was the featured artist for the Mueller State Park fundraiser. Cable contributed seven paintings and gave a talk at the Friday evening pre-show, then greeted collectors on Saturday and Sunday. “He was the one who invited me to the very first SKB workshop,” says Shanika. “So I thought the first person I thought I should ask to be a featured artist was Lee Cable.”

by Mort Solberg

Mumm and Hertling weren’t the only long-distance contributors. Connie Spurgeon drove down from Idaho with several paintings for the fundraiser, including a painting of bears that caught the fancy of collectors. In all 18 artists contributed—nine from SKB, and the rest from the Divide/Colorado Springs area. The non-profit netted 40% of the sales, with the rest going to the artists.

“There were demos under the pavilion, and we had a steady stream of people on Saturday and Sunday,” says Shanika. “It was an experiment and a risk. But it paid off. We were busy, keeping the flow going.” He estimates that more than 200 people attended the invitation-only pre-show, as well. The event garnered TV coverage by the local ABC affiliate, which was interested in Shanika’s connection with the teen artists.

The second fundraiser, for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, will feature many of the same artists, but because of the smaller venue, only 60 pieces will hang. “Mort Solberg did five paintings for this one, right before his heart situation turned critical, and one piece is already sold.” [Mort is successfully convalescing currently.] This is the second year for a fundraiser benefitting Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds. Last year, 25 pieces sold.

Ken Shanika

How did Shanika get mixed up with this? “My wife is a volunteer at Mueller State Park,” he says. “They asked me because I have a reputation for doing this kind of stuff. They know I ran a gallery for years, have students, and I’m easy to work with. I recruited the artists. It was a juried show; unfortunately, we had to turn a lot of artists away.”

The success of the Mueller State Park fundraiser bolstered Shanika’s confidence about this weekend’s event. “The first one was a first-time show, so there was some stress, but this one is just a run to the finish line,” says the veteran artist.

by Ken Shanika

Contributors to the fundraisers Shanika organized also included SKBers Bill Curtis, Janeice Linden, John McGraw, Susan Noyd, Peggi Severini, Martha Heppard, Jeanne Mackenzie, new teen artist, Jared Brady, and Shanika himself.

For more information on this weekend’s fundraiser in Florissant, Colorado, click here. Ω

by Ed McKay