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Steamboat Magazine

The Creative Side of Steamboat Springs

06/01/2021 11:39AM ● By Rachel Miller

The historic First National Bank/Rehder Building is home to the Steamboat Art Museum, which showcases rotating exhibits by renowned artists of the West. Photo by Rod Hanna.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Art is everywhere in Steamboat Springs. The town’s founder, Margaret Crawford, planted the first artistic seeds more than a century ago, and today they have blossomed into one of the nation’s foremost small-town arts communities. 

Dance, theater, music, painting, murals, sculpture, writing, architecture, photography and film all have a passionate presence in the Yampa Valley. Plan to spend a day soaking in this creative energy. 

Begin your tour at the Art Depot on 13th Street on the northwestern edge of Old Town. Once the shipping hub of Northwest Colorado, today this building, which is on the National Historic Register, is the center of the arts community. Rotating visual arts displays showcase the range of styles – from classic Western to avant garde contemporary – mastered by regional artists. The newly remodeled caboose parked alongside the depot is a studio, occupied by a visiting artist. Flowers surround the red brick building, and big boulders along the neighboring Yampa River invite a moment’s rest along its shore. 

A saunter along the 7-mile Core Trail, which passes in front the Depot, takes you past numerous public art pieces. One favorite: the mural of the Yampa River on the southeast side of the ambulance barn, about ½ mile southeast of the Depot. 

More than a dozen galleries are located in Old Town, stretching from the Depot to Third Street. Sidewalk cafes, riverside dining and lots of adorable shops make strolling along Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street especially delightful. 

The Tread of Pioneers Museum, located at 800 Oak St., is a Queen Anne-style Victorian built in 1901. One of the museum’s current exhibits is “Inspiration – Four Seasons at Perry Mansfield,” which features artwork created by local painter Chula Beauregard during a year of study at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp. Photo courtesy Tread of Pioneers Museum.


 One downtown highlight is the Steamboat Art Museum, housed in the historic building at the corner of Eighth Street and Lincoln Avenue. Four of the West’s foremost plein air painters – Matt Smith, Ralph Oberg, Skip Whitcomb and Dan Young – are hosting a 30-year retrospective of their work at the museum throughout the summer. In fall, SAM hosts a week of plein air workshops, followed by an exhibition and sale. Admission to the museum is free. 

But the arts certainly don’t stop in Old Town. Strings Music Pavilion stands at the entrance to the mountain community. The Strings building is a work of art in itself, with a central ceiling beam shaped like a violin bow and a setting in the midst of lush gardens. The annual music festival runs throughout the summer and features nationally renowned classical and contemporary musicians, including hand-picked orchestral musicians from across the U.S. and performers from a multitude of genres. Strings also organizes Music on the Green concerts at Yampa River Botanic Park throughout the summer.. 

Up the road in Ski Time Square are galleries, wine bars and jewelers, so worth the visit to this tucked-away destination at the ski area base. 

The oldest and most revered arts destination is a 10-minute drive from downtown. Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp was founded more than 100 years ago and has been training dancers, actors and playwrights of international renown ever since. Agnes DeMille, Dustin Hoffman, Martha Graham, Julie Harris and Isadora Duncan are a part of the school’s legendary history. The campus consists of historic cabins and performance venues; check the concert schedule for up-to-date information. 

Inspiration, creativity and arts education: Steamboat’s arts scene is a lively one.