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Who needs New York? San Francisco? Maybe Santa Fe? Nope, if you’re a local who craves a vibrant arts scene, all you need to do is dress swag, stroll through the doors of Chaffee County’s SteamPlant Event Center, and prepare to be inspired.

Discerning consumers of the arts this year can choose from the Center’s impressively wide palette of concerts, art exhibits, films, and other events, all within a walk or short drive from home.

Some of those choices this month include performances of modern-day and traditional classical music by members of the Colorado Symphony, an exhibit by cyanoprint artist Wendy Mitchell, a new documentary film on the life and storied career of American author Patricia Highsmith, pop concerts by the student-led Rok Skool bands, and a festival of feature films chronicling Colorado’s pristine back country.

Creative Mixer and Artist Reception

If you’re an artist yourself and treasure the stimulating exchange of ideas you can have in the company of other creative people, the Center will offer an excellent opportunity for that at its first January event–its “Creative Mixer & Artist Reception”–set for 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan.12 at the Center.

In anticipation of the event, sponsor Salida Council for the Arts has issued a special invitation to the mixer to “any artists or creatives working in all genres to attend and meet like-minded people, share influences and news, and soak up fresh ideas.”

The mixer is free and open to the public.

Patricia Highsmith Documentary

“Loving Highsmith,” an intriguing new documentary film over the life and work of American author Patricia Highsmith, is the Center’s first film offering in January.

Based in part on the author’s diaries and notebooks published posthumously in 2021, the film is voiced by Gwendoline Christie (“Game of Thrones,” “Top of the Lake”), and provides an intimate portrait of Highsmith’s unique life and diverse literary output.

Although she is known today as a gay icon after the 2015 debut of “Carol,” a Cate Blanchett-produced movie based on Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt” (1952) about a love affair between two women, the main body of the author’s other work is known for darker themes.

Her psychological thriller, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” reveals her fascination with and exploration of murder, good and evil, guilt, and vulnerability; and her early novel, “Strangers on a Train” (1950), later made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, peruses similar motifs.

“Loving Highsmith” will be shown from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Center. Tickets are $9.

Backcountry Film Festival

Area environmental organizer Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) invites snow sports aficionados to attend its annual Backcountry Film Festival from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, at the Center.

Offered in cooperation with Winter Wildlands Alliance, the festival will showcase documentaries and skiing-themed movies, and will benefit CMC’s conservation outreach, including its Snow Rangers and snow sports advocacy programs.

Open to CMC members and the public alike, the festival is sponsored by Monarch Mountain and Salida Mountain Sports. Tickets are $15 (CMC Members) and $18 (Public).

Colorado Symphony Chamber Music Ensemble

Salida SteamPlant Riverside Plaza. Merrell Bergin photo

A local chamber-music recital by traveling members of the Colorado Symphony is set for 7:00 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, and will feature a wide-ranging program from standard classical repertory to works by more contemporary composers.

The Symphony’s chamber performers are Delcho Tenev and Adrienne Short, violins; Kelly Shanafelt, viola; Danielle Guideri, cello; and Nick Tisherman, oboe.

The evening’s program comprises Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 (G Major, the “Spring” quartet), and his Oboe Quartet (F Major); Benjamin Britten’s “Phantasy” Quartet; 17th-century English composer Orlando Gibbons’s “Fantasia in Three Parts”; and contemporary composer Joan Tower’s “Island Prelude.”
Tickets are $30.

Rok Skool Winter Showcase

Rock fans, too, will be able to hear dazzling musical performances by student players at the Rok Skool’s 11th Annual Winter Showcase from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 at the Center, featuring local band favorites Train Wreck, Hot & Bothered, Late Night Snack, Running with Scissors, and Skoota Wurmz.

The popular student rock program, says Rok Skool Director Trevor “Bones” Davis, focuses on instilling discipline, accountability, self-confidence, and social skills in young participants.

“People should prepare to be impressed when they hear them play,” Davis says. “These are not just cute kids playing onstage. All of them have worked really hard to give a polished performance, and they’ve all also developed a great stage presence.”

Students in the program are divided into groups according to skill, Davis says, with levels including Rookie, Junior Varsity, Varsity, Ladies, and Collegiate. Groups vary in size from duos to 12-piece ensembles.

Davis says the players themselves choose which songs they want to perform, and do both covers of pop and rock hits and band members’ own original songs.

Tickets to the event are $15 for adults and $5 for students. A cash bar also will be available.

Davis invites those interested in the program to email him at

Cyanotype Artist Wendy Mitchell Exhibit

Drop-in visitors who are art fans can view the works of cyanotype artist Wendy Mitchell throughout January at the Center’s Paquette Gallery. Mitchell’s work is also previewed on the Center website.

Mitchell creates one-of-a-kind pieces she calls “contemporary botanicals” using cyanotype printing.

Cyanotype printing–sometimes called “photography without cameras”–employs a mixture of iron compounds which, when exposed to UV light (sunlight) and washed in water, creates images in various hues and values of the color known as Prussian Blue. (Used today by artists like Mitchell, the technique was first formulated by 19th-century astromer Sir John Herschel in 1841 and later popularized by botanist and photographer Anna Atkins.)

Mitchell’s signature exploration of greens, blues, cyan, and related colors has led her to an established, natural, and recognizable style familiar to gallery-goers, and marks many of her previous shows such as “Cyanotypes” (Roswell, Georgia, 2019); “Florals, Faces, and Figures” (Marietta, Georgia, 2018); “Art Fundraiser for Guatemala Medical Missions” (Roswell, Georgia, 2015); “2:10 Foundation Fundraisers” (Woodstock, Georgia, 2014 and 2015); and numerous group exhibitions.

A longtime art instructor, Mitchell has taught her craft at artists’ venues in Georgia and Carmel, California.

To purchase tickets to any of the Center’s events, or to inquire about January’s offerings, contact the SteamPlant at:

The SteamPlant Event Center
220 West Sackett Avenue
Salida, Colorado 81201

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