From its founding by the Crawford Family back in 1875, Steamboat Springs has been an art town. Mother Maggie Crawford brought a piano to the wilderness when they left their home in Missouri and daughter, Lulie Crawford, painted canvases of the beauty she found around her. The Crawfords valued the arts and nurtured art in those who came to join them in this northwestern corner of what would become the state of Colorado in 1876.
Many others have been inspired by the beauty of this place and have, or are now, sharing their passion for the creative arts with the community. Since 1913 – longer than any other performing arts camp in the country – Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp has been setting the standard for excellence in performing arts education and equestrian training. Founded by Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield, both alumni of Smith College, the school has trained many well-known performers, including Julie Harris, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Jose Limon, Hanya Holm, Valerie Bettis, Merce Cunningham, Louis Horst, Agnes de Mille, Martha Clarke, Jessica Biel and Ruthana Boris.
Steamboat is also the home of the premier summer music festival, Strings in the Mountains, offering a large variety of musical performances at the Strings Pavilion near the base of the ski area, picnic performances in the botanic park, and throughout the community since 1988. In addition to the festival, the Strings Pavilion hosts several other special community arts and cultural events, throughout the year.
Fairly new to the community arts scene is the hugely popular Chief Theater, a re-claimed historic movie theater which now serves as the community’s gathering place, offering local theater performances, comedy, musical acts, and Cabaret – the community’s annual spoof on itself, written and performed every Spring, by locals. Check the Chief’s prolific calendar of events to attend one of the many events in this intimate venue.
Since 1972, the Steamboat Springs Arts Council has had the daunting job of corralling the creative juices of the valley. In 1980, the Arts Council established its home in the abandoned Steamboat Springs Depot, where it still is today.
For a small community of only 12,000, the breadth of art offerings is very extensive. The following is a partial list of the different arts and cultural organizations within the community and is not meant to be a complete list, as there are hidden enclaves and individual artists practicing their arts throughout the community. You can pick up the Yampa Valley Arts and Gallery Guide at several locations throughout the community, or go to the link to see it online.
Numerous individual art galleries – check the gallery guide
Functional artists – crafts people, who create art objects to enhance your home and property, like carved doors, ceramic sinks, and ironworks like fences, hinges, and drawer pulls. If you have an idea, there is probably someone in the community who could craft it for you.
Chief Players (Theater group)
Pirates Theater – satirical theater