Turn on the record player. Cue up the Springsteen. Let’s get this party started!
360 degree view of “The Garage” — watershed’s classroom space
It’s Monday, August 15th. If I were still a teacher at Hinsdale South High School back in Illinois, I’d just be finishing up my first day of school with a new group of students and an old group of trusty colleagues.
But I’m here–in Buena Vista, Colorado, all alone at a desk. Well, that’s not true. I’m all alone in our classroom sitting in my childhood kitchen chair working at Katy’s childhood kitchen table. You can still see where some Welter child’s blue-green marker accidentally slipped off the paper and onto the butcher block.
At any rate, like a good teacher, I’m here reflecting on Saturday night’s open house.
1. Planning and Prep Work Pay Off:
The back classroom is ready for business. Renovations to the front room will take place in early September once the rafting season (and the Colorado Surf Factory) are done with the space.
Like any first day of school lesson, tonight’s goal was to build excitement, trust, and community, to listen and understand, and to control the chaos with a little bit of structure–hence the Springsteen, the adult beverages, the whiteboards, and the stations.
The basic layout of our property. Red lines indicate fall changes.
As people worked the room, they saw our ideas and shared theirs (purple post-its). We all shared a warm greeting and a comfortable connection to the building. I have a good feeling many will be back–especially when they see their ideas in action!
While I hunkered down in the back most of the night, Katy, Micah, and Douglas bounced between the back and the front, bringing people in off of Main Street. After all, it was a Second Saturday, a Gold Rush Day, and a beautiful night! Town was bustling. The streets were full of animals! Talent in all forms was everywhere!
CO CREATIVE owner, Ashley Ahlene is the brain child behind both the concept and the graphic design of Second Saturdays. 13 miles later–still smiling!
An old fashioned standoff went down at the jailhouse. Shots were fired. Nobody was hanged. Muddy, on his throne. Still a little unsure about burros being on Main St. Salida. On a westward journey. They, like us are ready to explore the valley!”/> One of our favorite couples of the evening. From Arkansas –> Salida. On a westward journey. They, like us are ready to explore the valley! The music during Gold Rush days was incredible. Mark’s Midnight Carnival Show put on a heck of a concert at The People’s Stage and again later at the Deerhammer Distillery across the street. Down at the Lariat Bar, Otis Taylor gave us an unforgettable night and a little taste of the big city blues.
2. The Town Of BV Is Taking To Our Creative and Collaborative Approach:
A couple weeks after we settled into Buena Vista, we started getting this. . .
Them: “So, what are you going to put in there?”
Us: “What do you think should go in there?”
Them: “You bought the place but don’t know what you want to do with it?”
Us: “We have the concept. But we don’t want to assume to know what kind of business the town needs. We’re going to feel things out for a bit.”
Them: “Huh. That’s interesting. Well good luck.”
Yes, it is true that neither Katy nor I have ever opened our own business. But, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. I have been a science teacher and a behavior interventionist for the last fifteen years in the suburbs of Chicago, and a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) during the summers for the last five. Katy has been an attorney, a policy analyst, and a federal and state grant writer and manager for both big government and small businesses. Though we may have very little experience owning and operating a business, Watershed’s business model is tailored to our strengths–supporting business, and educating the community. In time, you will see that the space and services Watershed provides will abide by these core concepts.
The people we’re looking for. The space we can (and will soon) provide.
3. The Watershed Residency Is Proving To Be Creative, Collaborative, Community Focused, And Intriguing
An interactive art display from our first resident Micah Ling. Point of Interest is a 12 piece photo/poetry art exhibit going on display in Watershed Sept 10th.
When we purchased the old ranger station building (last winter via an online government auction), we didn’t quite know what to expect from a building that had been vacant for thirteen years. For one, we had never been inside it. The only pictures I ever saw were from google Earth and Katy’s iPhone (as she peeped on her tip-toes into every window possible). But we knew we weren’t only investing in the potential of Buena Vista’s Main Street. We were investing in Buena Vista’s people–the community. And we knew the community was a good fit. I first found the valley eight years ago when taking a High Mountain Institute Wilderness First Responder course in Leadville. From there, I went south into Buena Vista and Salida. No doubt, BV was the late bloomer of the three cities in the Arkansas River Valley but as we revisited season after season between then and now, we felt at home–at peace. We felt like we could bring our big city skills here to BV and adapt those skills to the community’s personality. And so, as we often do in the cold unusable winters in Chicago, we started dreaming about a new adventure. One of those dreams was what we originally called “the ranger station residency” — now the watershed residency. And it’s up and running in full force.
Part of moving to a small town in Colorado is understanding the seasonality of it. Buena Vista (at this point in its life) is a summer seasonal town. The “river is what brings us together” one local told us upon arrival. (This reminds me, I should thank him for indirectly naming our business.) The watershed residency is meant to address this seasonality and keep the creative bar high throughout the year by bringing in artists, artisans, crafts people and other creative talent from around the country. After all, this valley is a sight to see year round and the mild winter weather of this region (known as the “banana belt”) is a great escape from the traditional mountain winters most people think of. Yet, if you’re looking for mountain winter, a thirty mile drive in any direction will get you that!
In exchange for her creative works, our first resident Micah Ling and her partner Douglas, have been living with us up in Leadville free of charge for the summer–a great escape from the Harlem heat and humidity. Micah’s project, Point of Interest, is a twelve piece photo and poem combo that evolved from the signs she has seen and interpreted throughout the valley while biking and running. On September 10th, Watershed will change over from a storefront (Colorado Surf Factory) and a classroom into a gallery, exhibit, and reading space for the community to enjoy.
In the mean time, expect to see one more interactive photo teaser coming your way. Please continue to contribute. The responses truly remind us of why we came to this beautiful valley–so thoughtful and creative.
Following the exhibit, Micah will be teaching a free creative writing workshop in watershed’s classroom space September 24th in the back room. More details to come.
** If you’re reading this and want to be the next watershed resident, or know someone who might, check out the resident tab on our website and send us an email! Terms and compensation are negotiable.
** If you’re interested in renting our storefront, hosting classes in our back room, or using our empty lot on Main street, send us an email! Buena Vista can be your community too.