2014 Essay | Anderson Ranch: Mentoring Artistic Excellence

2014 Essay | Anderson Ranch: Mentoring Artistic Excellence

Anderson Ranch: Mentoring Artistic Excellence

By Doug Casebeer

  Doug Casebeer
Above and Below
stoneware, cast bronze, wood, metal
14 x 12 x 10

The Aspen area has been a hub of creative thinking for over 70 years.  That feeling of artistic vitality nurtured a community need that helped establish the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in the late 1960s. Two important Aspen organizations, The Center of the Eye and The Center of the Hand merged to form the Anderson Ranch. The humble beginnings of the Ranch were rooted in photography and ceramics. The two pivotal artists were Cheri Hiser and Paul Soldner. After several years of bringing his graduate students here for the summers, Paul invited his close friend Sam Maloof to set up the wood shop. In 1971, David Ellsworth became the first artist in resident; working in the wood shop.

Our special exhibit celebrates artists that have been participates in developing artistic excellence and artistic merit at Anderson Ranch. They embody the creative community and spirit that is the roots of Anderson Ranch.

As anyone can imagine, the Ranch was loose and free in the late 1960s and early 70s. Paul Soldner was chosen by community planners to pick one of the seven working Ranches in the Brush Creek Valley of Pitkin County, Colorado, where arts activities could happen.  When I asked Paul about the choice, he would refer to the remarkable views and studio potential from the old Anderson Ranch log buildings.  Artists moved in and never departed.

David Kimball Anderson
Idaho Sunflowers and Lupine, 2014
bronze, steel, paint
31 x 14 x 7

Scandinavian farmers and ranchers settled the original homesteads in the late 1880s. These hearty settlers were brought here to support the mining industry. Since the beginning and to this day, creative problem solvers have been raising families and making a life on the Ranch in its old log structures.

Anderson Ranch moved in and out of several operating models in the 1970s before landing on the current model of summer workshops, artist residencies and visiting artist projects. In 1984, with a very active and involved board of directors, Brad Miller, the Executive Director, set in motion a direction for operation that supported year-round studio activities and staffing. The early team of Artist Directors was Jim Baker, Peter Korn and Doug Casebeer. As the studios were renovated and spaces were added, programs were developed in printmaking, painting, sculpture, photography, furniture design, critical studies and children’s programs. Architect Harry Teague designed an intentional creative environment where artists of different media could move freely from studio to studio.

The 1980s saw tremendous growth in workshops and artist projects. The enrollment grew from 200 students in 1986 to over 1,000 in 2014.  The Ranch vision was to get the best and brightest artists to come teach and make art.  Our artistic programs were designed to inspire and nurture the creative soul.  We believe that to create is to be human.  The Ranch strives to celebrate that innate artistic ability in everyone.

Michael Sherrill
Old Man’s Beard
ceramic, steel


All artists are on a journey. The creative process of discovery and risk taking is valued highly in each Ranch experience. Summer workshops allow artists to have short, intensive experiences while our Residency and Visiting Artist Programs allow for more time to work through ideas. The Ranch studios are supported with staff and expertise that spans both the traditional studio skills to more contemporary digital techniques and media. Our studios have the latest technology and the most up-to date equipment.

In 2014 we offered over 145 workshops in ceramics, photography and new media, furniture design and woodworking, sculpture, woodturning, painting and drawing, printmaking, and for children and teens. Students leave their workshops aware of their own creative ability and transformed by their Ranch experience. Many students come back again and again to be part of Anderson Ranch.

Anderson Ranch has a robust Visiting Artists and Critics Program that compliments Ranch workshops and artists in residence. Visiting Artists have been the core spirit of daily life at the Ranch, providing unparalleled mentorship and creative energy. Visiting Artists and Critics are invited to the Ranch to create art, meet with students and present free public talks and slideshows about their art. Selected examples of the Ranch’s Visiting Artists and Critics include: thirteenth generation Karatsu potter, Takashi Nakazato, ceramic legend, Peter Voulkos, pioneer woodworker, David Ellsworth, photographer, Cindy Sherman, Simon Johan, Judy Pfaff, Vic Muniz, Robert Irwin, Richard Tuttle, Martin Puryear, Oliver Herring, Elizabeth Murray, Liza Lou, Terry Allen, John T. Scott, Red Grooms, Doug and Mike Starn, Benjamin Lira, William Morrow, Glenn Adamson and many more. All artists, beginner to experienced, share in their love of creating art at Anderson Ranch.

The Anderson Ranch Artist in Residence Program is designed to foster creative, intellectual and personal growth for emerging and established visual artists. Since 1985, the Ranch has hosted nearly 400 resident artists from 43 states, 19 countries and six continents. This bi-annual program consists of 14 working artists per term (28 per year) and provides mentorship and time for exploration and creation of art in a supportive environment.  Ranch Residencies have significantly advanced the careers of emerging and established artists, including Emily Jacir, Daniel Naude, Emily Ward Bivens, Christian Rex van Minnen, Rick Parsons and Pelusa Rosenthal, among many others. The Program is also an important launching pad for longer term relationships between emerging and established artists, who often return as return as faculty, visiting artists, and more.  Their impact is catalytic throughout Anderson Ranch and Colorado community.


Jason Schneider
Wonder Wheel (Spinning Table), 2010
corrugated cardboard, cherry, milk paint
16 x 40

Each summer our Featured Artist Series hosts world-renowned artists and curators who visit the Ranch to present, perform and discuss their work. Participants also engage in roundtable discussions, interact with students and faculty and attend receptions with supporters of Anderson Ranch. With more than 1,500 in attendance each year, the Featured Artists Series has quickly become one Anderson Ranch’s most popular public programs.  Select featured artists include: Marina Abramović, Barry X Ball, Sanford Biggers, James Casebere, Wendell Castle, Nick Cave, Willie Cole, Petah Coyne, Charles Gaines, Theaster Gates, Ron Nagle, Catherine Opie, Angel Otero, Tom Sachs, Xaviera Simmons, Bill Viola and more.

This past summer we introduced a new Symposium Series. The Symposiums provide expansive forums for critical dialog with thought-leaders of the contemporary art world. The series included a panel discussion titled, “The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium,” with authors Eleanor Heartney, Helaine Posner, Nancy Princenthal and Sue Scott, along with photographer Catherine Opie. We finished up the summer with a two-day symposium titled, “Making the Change They Want to See” with keynote Speaker Steve McQueen, artist, filmmaker, and Oscar-Winning Director of 12 Years a Slave.  Anne Pasternak, President and Artistic Director of Creative Time curated the series with panelists: Mel Chin, Holland Cotter, Pedro Reyes, Superflex and more.

Anderson Ranch’s mission is to provide transformative experiences that celebrate artists, art making, creative dialog and community. We do this by mentoring artistic excellence. We strive to create an environment where artists have the resources they need, are exposed to contemporary and master artists in their fields and have support from our skilled staff.  There is a magical spirit that embodies all who visit our campus. Anderson Ranch is a center for artistic education and inspirations.


Alleghany Meadows
Flora Tea, 2013
stoneware and porcelain
7 x 20

The Ranch alumni accounts for over 25,000 students, 4,000 faculty, 400 artists in residence and several hundred visiting artist projects. Ranch alumni have gone on to teach at top art schools, are included in major museum collections and receive prestigious grants and awards. Ranch artists have been included in the Whitney Biennial, received Fulbright and National Endowment of the Arts awards and become MacArthur Fellows.

On an annual basis over student body has over 40 percent returning artists. The Ranch family extends around the world; from pottery outreach projects in Nepal and Jamaica; to resident artists from Brazil, Chile, Japan, Iran, Taiwan and Europe. Anderson Ranch embraces the artistic spirit and the need for cultures to connect through art making.

Anderson Ranch is a national recognized art center that mentors the artistic excellence of our students, artists in residence, visiting artists and critics, staff and supporters. In the year 2016, Anderson Ranch will celebrate 50 years of life changing artistic programs!


Doug Casebeer, Associate Director/Artistic Director for Ceramics, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass, CO.

Published in conjunction with the SOFA CHICAGO Special Exhibit Anderson Ranch: Mentoring Artistic Excellence curated by Doug Casebeer.

Featured artists include: David Kimball Anderson, Christa Assad, Vivian Beer, Andy Brayman, Andy Buck, Doug Casebeer, Sam Chung, Eddie Dominguez, David Ellsworth, Julia Galloway, Andrea Gill, John Gill, Chris Gustin, Sam Harvey, Randy JohnstonGail Kendall, John Lloyd, Matt Long, Andrew Martin, Alleghany Meadows, Brad Miller, Brad Reed Nelson, Jill Oberman, Mark Pharis, Sara Ransford, Ralph Scala, Jason Schneider, Mark Shapiro, Michael Sherrill, and Susan Working.

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