Firehouse artists-in-residence appreciate Longmont

Nestled on the corner of 4th and Coffman, the Firehouse Art Center houses the studios of five artists who call Longmont home. One of these artists-in-residence, Rick Stoner, says he appreciates the town’s history.

“It has a stately, old town feel to it,” he said. “I enjoy the physical aspect of this town.”
Stoner, whose primary medium is paint, says his childhood in Cortez, Colo., inspired the colors and light in his paintings.

“I grew up in an area where the light is very intense and there’s wonderful bright color and light, so I think that has translated a lot into the way that I see things,” Stoner said. “My colors have always been somewhat vivid versus subdued.”

Stoner says he sees some humor in his place as artist-in-residence at an art center that was once the town’s  firehouse.

“There’s some irony in this because as a kid I loved fire trucks,” Stoner said. “I still love fire trucks. The fact that I’m in a firehouse is kind of fun for me.”

Martha Williams, another artist-in-residence at Firehouse, says she enjoys the communal element of working at the art center.

“It’s very supportive and stimulating to have other artists,” she says. “It’s fun to have a place to show your art work and it’s nice to have a place to work that’s away from home.

Williams is a plein-air painter, which means she does her paintings outside rather than in a studio. A native of Longmont, the nature of her art has kept her in this community.

“This is a beautiful area,” Williams says. “You get so much sunshine and the weather is good. It’s conducive to painting outside.”

Williams uses her space at Firehouse to create artwork from sketches and photos she takes on location, but most of her art is completed outside.

“There’s something special about painting outdoors,” Williams says. “When you’re outside, nature is really your teacher.”

Unlike Stoner and Williams, whose inspiration is found outdoors, Firehouse artist-in-residence Dwayne Wolff finds his inspiration in people.

“For me, my true art is my portraits,” Wolff says.

Wolff has lived in Longmont for almost 30 years. His art career was impacted by the community 10 years ago when he had a show at Firehouse titled, “Main Street USA,” which included portraits of several local people.

“It put me on the map locally as an artist in town,” Wolff says.

This art show and subsequent popularity led Wolff to pursue a position on the Firehouse Board of Directors, which he maintains today.

Lynn Brown, now part of the artists-in-residence at Firehouse, began her time with Firehouse on the board as executive director. Two years ago, when she finished her time as director, Brown moved into a studio above the gallery where she works with fibers of all types: dog hair, yarn, and even engineering wire.

“I don’t consider myself an artist,” Brown says. “I’m more of a fine crafts person. I think the difference between craft and art is that craft is art that has a function.”

Brown’s crafts take many forms, from hats to scarves to baskets. Brown appreciates the calm atmosphere of Longmont, where she has lived since 1980.

“This area of Longmont reminds me of a small town,” Brown says. “I really like that.”
Brown also appreciates her place as an artist-in-residence and says the experience has been one of learning for her.

“One of the first things I learned from Rick – to me, he’s the consummate professional artist – is that just because you conceive it doesn’t mean it’s going to work out. As soon as you conceive of something new, it becomes an experiment.”

Artist-in-residence Mark Montgomery, who uses a scroll saw to make wooden art, says his next experiment will be 3-dimensional wood work called intarsia.

“Being able to create something out of a single piece of wood is what inspires me,”  he says. “It’s a total image.”

Montgomery began working with wood as a hobby and turned it into a livelihood three years ago. He’s the most recent addition to the artists-in-residence and came to Firehouse in June of 2011.

“It was a luck of the draw,” he says. “These are hard places to get and I feel really fortunate.”
Montgomery tries to make his artwork sustainable.

“I like recycling old, used wood if I can,” he says. “I don’t like seeing anything go to the landfill. I’m very conscious about that.”

Montgomery, whose studio is in the hallway adjacent to Brown’s, also says his experience at Firehouse has been educational.

“It has affected my art quite a bit: being around other artists, seeing what they do and how they do it and how they stick to their mediums and perfect one thing,” Montgomery says. “I admire what other people do and it creates a whirlwind of visions that I pick and grab from. It’s been a very good influence for me.”

Published in Longmont Magazine on 2//18/2012.

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