By Jeffrey V. Smith
When Greta Balzer’s parents moved to Ward in the late 60s, it had a robust, well-known arts scene. While the town still harbors a population with abundant artistic talents, it has become hidden to outsiders in recent years. Balzer, an oil painter herself, hopes her new Glass Tipi Gallery will revive Ward’s arts scene and bring more attention to the creative people who live in the small town, and throughout Colorado.
“There hasn’t been anything in this town like this in a long time,” Balzer said. “When my parents moved here there was a lot of artists… but it’s been a long time since that artistic feel has been happening.” The artist calls the gallery “just a place to do something,” because not much was happening in town. “The locals are very excited,” she said. “There are a lot of people who didn’t know the folks they see around were artists. They’ll come in and say, ‘I didn’t now they did art.’”
The gallery, which opened last December, is keeping its focus on area residents for now, “because there are a lot of locals that want to get in on it,” Balzer explained. “There are an amazing amount of artists coming out of the wood work. Every weekend someone brings in something new.”
The entire project was “just a wild hair,” Balzer said. “A friend of mine came through a few years ago and said we should start a gallery. I was going to partner with him, and that didn’t work out. So, I was like, ‘I guess I’m opening a gallery by myself.’ I’m very new at this and still even learning how to use cash register.”
The building housing the gallery was purchased by Balzer two and half years ago and was rebuilt by her from the bottom up over a two-year period. “I’ve done a ton of work,” she said. The main floor, now completely open, was five separate rooms and the roof trusses had to be replaced because they were burned from a previous fire. The building, has been a residence, mechanics shop and even an artist’s co-op in the past.
The gallery owner has been interested in art from a young age having grown up with a mother, Carol Jenkins, who’s been a prolific oil painter for more than 30 years and a father, Tom Balzer, who was a photographer for much of his life. Both still live and create in Ward, which has been life-long inspiration to Balzer and her artistic endeavors. “My mom has been a great in-house teacher, and she’s been really wonderful helping with this gallery,” she said.
Now that the gallery is open, Balzer says it’s a dream come true. “I get to meet people from all over the world, all over America just sitting here in a tiny town,” she said. “People usually have no idea where they are, and there are a lot of people… just driving around. They may never come back, but they are really fun to hang out with when they were here.”
Balzer currently has a Local Photography Show on display through May 23 and plans a Colorado Oil Painters Show for June. She is holding multi-artist shows to give as many people as possible a chance to be seen in the gallery. Ultimately, she wants to “keep the quality up,” so including work of varying quality now will allow her to pick and choose who she represents later. “I don’t want to leave anyone out right now,” she said. I want to allow everybody in, just to be part of it, and then get more picky later.”
Some artists showing at the gallery include bronze sculpture by Emma Hardy, oil paintings by Jenkins and Balzer, jewelry by Cheryl B. Goodnow, Heidi Kummli and Eli Roehl, wood furniture by RC Wittenbaugh, photography by Kathy Banich and Karelle Scharff and unique items by Nona Ruth, Joanne Cole and the head of the Chinese Paper-Cutting Institute. “It’s all local, and something from very far away,” the owner said.
Balzer hopes to one day expand into an adjacent garage to have space for “unique treasures” and other items. “It’s hard to do a clean gallery with the funky. It’s a really interesting balance,” she explained. “I’m having a hard time deciding between the two and I don’t want to. I want to leave it open since I don’t know what will work.”
The Glass Tipi is located at 55 Utica St. in Ward. It is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends with additional days in the summer. Visit theglasstipigallery.com or call 720-235-2062 to learn more.
Originally published in the May 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly