My husband built a house in Navajo Ranch 25 years ago. We travel there from Denver about once a month. On our visits, we try to support the local businesses: a movie at the Fox, groceries at First Choice, a meal at Tina’s, coffee at Daily Perks, but we had never been to the Museum of Friends (MoF) before last December. That’s when we decided to attend the Museum’s gala to see what it was all about.
On a tour of the upstairs art collection, led by Brendt Berger the Co-founder, we were dazzled by his stories and the quality of the donated artwork. I owned an art gallery in Denver years ago, so I knew the importance of what I was seeing. When he showed us a framed drawing of a tumor on a prescription pad done by his doctor, I realized that Brendt sees art everywhere and I love that about him. He and his wife Maria came here with a big art idea for a small town. Against all odds, they made it work. Perhaps they were drawn by or inspired by the continued passion of the Libre art community, still alive after 50 years.
Weeks after my first guided tour, I invited a friend from Pueblo to come visit MoF with us. An art teacher, she had painted the well-known chili mural on the wall of a downtown Pueblo building. Her standards are very high. When she walked around openmouthed “oohing “and “aahing at the collection and Brendt’s stories, I knew I had not exaggerated the importance of this collection.
Then, I brought a couple of friends from Manhattan, members of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, who also have very sophisticated taste, and they were duly impressed.
My book club of writers and artists then came down for a weekend and I led them to the Museum of Friends. They were also awestruck by the quality of art gathered there.
After each visit, the same conversation ensued. Someone needed to capture the MoF’s story for posterity. It is an oral history of a time and place, the roots of abstract expressionism, a counter culture movement, and a philosophy of art for arts sake. But more than that, it is a story of relationships with people committed to and passionate about art, not about selling, just creating it.
I approached Brendt and Maria with the idea of putting together an audio tour which could expand to an archive. They loved the idea. So began the year of learning how to do something I had never done before, the year of getting to know Brendt and Maria, the year of seeing up close the relationships they have nurtured, the year of watching them give back and pay it forward, the year of observing them, recording them, and nagging them, the year of trying to cut Brendt off after two minutes of recording (If you know Brendt, you will appreciate the arduous task there), the year of hearing Maria’s travails in dealing with one challenge or another, the year of witnessing their kindness, compassion, understanding, and commitment to their community.
While recording their stories, I have laughed and been brought to tears. This audio tour will not be like any other museum tour; it will not be just about the artists or an interpretation of the piece, it will be about relationships, people, connectedness, friendships, and love.
Brendt and Maria brought this passion to the people of Walsenburg years ago and continue to do so today. Marias art classes for children inspire a love for art and creating. I know this has not been easy for them financially. Constantly chasing after grants and funding, they face many obstacles. Even so Maria and Brendt have never lost sight of their vision or their mission.
I am proud to be a part of this educational and informative project that we hope will bring more folks to Walsenburg, to appreciate art in all its guises, and the beautiful community and Colorado landscape here.
Museum of Friends is a museum of beautiful and unique art, located in a rural community, Walsenburg, Colorado. The passionate owners have dedicated themselves to provide a state of the art facility for generations to come. We partnered with the Museum of Friends (MOF) many years ago. Our partnership began with a desire to work with children and their families. MOF provides unique opportunities for children to explore and learn about art. An example is the beautiful garden boxes which are displayed within the community showcase the children's ideas. In addition, they host beautiful art shows; which are unique, local, diverse and beautiful. If you get a chance, stop by check out the gift shop and the art. You will enjoy a suburb establishment and meet exceptional people.
What superb growth the Museum of Friends has made as it has now become central to the community of Walsenburg Colorado! Beginning with the improvements to a large historic building on Main Street, every room on both floors is now dedicated to teaching or exhibiting, free art library or meeting space that relates directly to the needs and aspirations of local citizens. This marvelous result came only with their participation and a leadership eager to advance the arts in many capacities that draw the entire community.
A coal town is not the easiest place to introduce an outstanding collection of visual art. The leaders soon realized ways to bring creative expression into the industrial character of Walsenburg. Starting with afternoon drawing and painting instruction after school for primary and intermediate ages as well as showing their work in year-round celebrations, families with little initial interest in the arts gradually discovered the opportunities and relevance of how art could enrich their lives immeasureably. Special holiday evenings brought volunteers to invite friends, dance groups, storytelling and actors to experience a new sense of communal enjoyment. Art pursuits at the Museum of Friends has included mining, the planting and painting of the boxes now standing outside many shops, and one-man shows in all media. Watching this progress has been a joy for all.
Here we live in a small community in Southern Colorado where there are few cultural resources and then Brendt and Maria brought their work and the work of their friends and created the Museum of Friends. The people of this community can be inspired any day of the week by amazing art; original works of art by artists from around the country that could only be seen in famous art galleries in big cities! Against all odds, with very little support available in this second poorest county in Colorado, they have persisted and continue to provide it's citizens with the opportunity to learn and experience the beauty of art.
The staff at the Museum of Friends are friendly, knowledgeable, and dedicated to helping the community. They host free art classes for children and my 5-year-old and 3-year-old were able to attend and paint animals which were then placed on flower boxes that brighten the Main Street in Downtown Walsenburg. Every time we drive downtown our children are so proud that they were able to be a part of their town's beautification. I would definitely recommend the Museum of Friends for anyone who has not been, young or grown it has something for everyone!
On a recent break from the monotony of I-25 we wandered into the Museum of Friends. When we walked in we were greeted by the staff and Brendt gave us a tour of the collection on the second floor of the museum, Brendt had a story for each of the artists whose work was displayed which made the visit that much more interesting and personal. Be sure to see the "Hawaii Room", I will not tell about it here, it is something you have to see and experience for yourself.
This is undoubtedly one of the most unique and surprising art museums I've ever visited. Don't let the ground floor put you off; the real show is on the second floor, which is absolutely crammed full of contemporary art given to the MOF's curators–contemporary artists themselves with impressive cred–over a lifetime. Hence the name Museum of Friends.
The collection is wildly diverse, so there really is something for everyone. By taking money out of the equation with their museum, Brendt and Maria have created a space where the true value of art–the formation of community, memories, and the reflection of a place and time–can be experienced. Plus they're helping to preserve a rapidly disappearing part of Southern Colorado's past, the art communes of the 1960s, which were way more important and significant than I ever realized.
If you're even casually interested in art, Museum of Friends is a place you absolutely must visit.
A wonderful place in Walsenburg to stop and see. The people who run this place definitely know art! I have never in my life seen so many inspiring artists all in one place. Your eyes and your brain will be stimulated for many hours.
Can you believe it?First thing you see when you come through Walsenburg is the flower boxes,when I stopped at Museum Of Friends(,an actual museum with local artist and international),the first thing you hear is about1.)beautification of Walsenburg through local youth support with the adopt-a-box programs.2.)The History of the building and what MoF is up to at this point.3.)MOF is the first ever Counterculture of Art in the whole USA.After you are blown away by that information,they prove this statement by taking you on a tour upstairs,which is by far the best museum of art,I have ever seen,not because of the eye candy,it's the stories of about a.the artists(friends of both Brendt and Maria)b.the art and historical value(both the area and Mof itself),so it's more or less a interactive museum.The museum holds more than 600 pieces of art with 600 hours worth of stories (I dare you to find any other museum in USA that has that kind of distinction).Everything is personal and surreal.My proof,be here or be square,the Libre 50th is a plethora of information about an ongoing artist commune and modern to antiquative art slash sculptures.The Libre exhibite runs through September 30th,2018.MOF is worth the nonprofit status.
The Museum of Friends is always a colorful, interesting, and informative place to visit. The staff is indeed friendly and welcoming to local people as well as visitors from far away. I like to go there when I come to Walsenburg, easily accessible from I-25.
The MOF is a stop for my dad every time he passes through southern Colorado, and I finally had the pleasure of joining him on his visit to Walsenburg. The diversity of the collection, hospitality of Maria and her husband, and the strange and wonderful history of the museum makes it a must-visit.
The Museum of Friends has been in Walsenburg for 12 years. On October 28, 2017 they will celebrate the 10th anniversary of delivering quality exhibitions, children's programs, adult lectures, films, artists' series and musical events. As an anchor for the community, the Museum of Friends has encouraged other creatives to move to this beautiful town to enjoy reasonable studio rents, beautiful weather, friendly people and close proximity to the Great Sand Dunes, Lathrop State Park, Cuchara, La Veta and Trinidad. MOF is nationally recognized as the first museum of counter culture art in the United States. In the 1960's Drop City began in Trinidad (38 miles south of Walsenburg) as an alternate artist community that then influenced the founding of Libre (25 miles west of Walsenburg) and many nearby ones as well: Triple A; Archuletaville; Red Wing; the Hog Farm; and others. The museum has changing exhibitions on the ground floor and the permanent collection, resource library and artist in residence quarters on the second. Since opening to the public the museum's mission has been to bring quality of life experiences for youth and adults, for people with disabilities and those who are economically disadvantaged.
The Museum of Friends is a fantastic place to visit. This is a two story building located in the small town of Walsenburg in southeast Colorado. When I stopped in there was an exhibit for Drop City, a commune established south of Walsenburg in the 1960's. There were many artists displaying their work, some of them original inhabitants of Drop City. I then went to the second floor to view the permanent collection and I was very impressed with the variety of art in the collection. I learned the permanent collection was made up of art donated to the founders of the museum by artist friends over the past several decades. The collection contains paintings, water-color, sculptures and photographs and it was a treat to spend time viewing several hundred pieces of art by artists from all parts of the United States. If you are ever near Walsenburg, I'd suggest you stop by the Museum of Friends to enjoy the wonderful pieces they have. In addition to the museum, they have a gift shop featuring artists and crafts made by residents of the community. Take time to stop by the Museum of Friends, it will definitely be time well spent.
I live in Taos, and drive past the Museum of Friends regularly when I visit Denver. This last time, I decided to stop in and am glad I did. All these times I drove by I had no idea what I was missing. This is an amazing Art Museum that has a collection of Contemporary art from many parts of the world. To find such a jewel in Walsenburg, is unbelievable, I would suggest next time through stop in and you will be amazed to. Coleen M
My family owns a second home in a small town called Walsenburg in Southeastern Colorado. The town is located on the I-25 corridor and lies at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the prairie or "High Plains." The town was once a thriving commercial center for coal mining and ranching. Now the town has
been depressed economically for over two decades. A wonderful and dedicated team of artists have opened a local museum called The Museum of Friends. They have beautiful exhibition space and have hosted a number of impressive exhibits per local artists such as Dean Fleming and Charles Parson to name a recent double presentation. The museum also offers art classes to children in the community and has created outreach programs to the local schools. They need financial support. They need people to help them put themselves on the map. Please visit The Museum of Friends in Walsenburg, Colorado. Founded by Brendt Berger and Maria Cocchiarelli. Please visit www.museumoffriends.org and SHARE!