News from the Events Design Festival and our Partners

2023 Grant from National Endowment for the Arts

Rocky Mountain Arts (RMA) is pleased to announce it has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to receive a Challenge America award of $10,000. The grant will support a Community Build Sculpture Project for youth. This grant is one of 262 Challenge America awards totaling $2.62 million that were announced by the NEA as part of its first round of fiscal year 2023 grants. We look forward to working with the NEA to finalize the grant details and appreciate the agency’s support.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects in communities nationwide”, said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “Projects such as this one with Rocky Mountain Arts strengthen arts and cultural ecosystems, provide equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, and contribute to the health of our communities and our economy”.

“Rocky Mountain Arts is honored to be recognized with this NEA award that will allow us to reach youth in our region to collaborate with local sculptors, artists, and experts for this sculptural creation”, said Chris Myers, Board President.

Community Build Sculpture Project Details
Rocky Mountain Arts is creating a community sculpture build this year with the help of professional artists, architects, and builders. “We will work to inspire, teach, build self-confidence and offer all a place to express themselves during this creative process. Our goals are to reach the under-served communities in San Miguel and the West End of Montrose Counties to come together in the creation of a large-scale sculpture,” Explains Erin Ries, Executive Director.

This sculpture will ultimately be on permanent display. The plan is to obtain participation from youth and adults in Telluride, Norwood and the West End School Districts.

This program is free to all and RMA will provide all tools, materials, safety gear and lunch each program day. Additionally, RMA will provide  lodging and transportation for those who wish to participate but may be too far away for the commute.

Key Partners, Collaborators, Artists, Experts

True North Youth Program (TNYP)
True North serves the teen population in the rural San Juan Region. TNYP programs are available to all teens in the Norwood, Telluride and West End school districts and are free of charge. True North offers five year-round programs: (i) Workforce Preparedness and College Access including Scholarship Awards, (ii) Positive Youth Development through Outdoor Recreation, (iii) Community Service Learning, (iv) Academic Tutoring and Support, and (v) Rising Stars Summer Bridge Program. TNYP will work to help promote the program to teens as well as participate in a few of the build days.

Telluride Middle/High School (THS)
The Counseling Department at THS is collaborating on this project with the help of Alex Jones, High School Counselor. The school will offer the program to students, encourage participation, and provide outdoor space for the finished sculpture to be on display for a portion of the year.

Located in Naturita, CO, CampV’s mission to connect people, art, and community to ignite a spark in the historic mining town of Naturita fits with our vision for this project. The setting is the perfect place to complete the build and display the completed installation. CampV will help us bring together the surrounding rural communities to inspire connection and creativity.

CTC Communities That Care
Communities That Care (CTC) is collaborating on the project through resources they can contribute such as Spanish interpretation and translation, funds for childcare, food, and more. Said Ben Marshall, CTC Administrator: “This project fits with our mission to work alongside youth to develop programs to promote healthy and drug-free living.

Keith D’Angelo
Keith is a local artist who has produced many larger-than-life wood and interactive, propane fired sculptures for many of the previous Telluride Fire Festival. His public art installations are located in Aspen, Telluride, Carbondale, and Breckenridge. Keith is uniquely qualified to be one of our supporting artists as he has spent countless hours volunteering with underserved youth for his Master’s Degree.

Niel Ringstad
Originally from NYC, Niel is distinguished as a 35-year Telluride local, living for his first 10-years in a ski-bum shack of 72 square-feet. Niel is a graphic designer, an accomplished painter, and builder. He has built six towering sculptural works for the Telluride Fire Festival, which were cornerstones of the event. Niel is also deeply committed to giving back to his community. His community involvement has led to taking time out to help build a house in Norwood with Habitat For Humanity. His skills as a builder and artist make him perfectly qualified to be on our team.

Sherri Harvey
Sherri Harvey has 25 years’ experience in architecture. She has a Masters of Architecture degree from The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, which is the oldest independent school of architecture in the UK and one of the most prestigious and competitive in the world. Her Bachelor of Architecture degree is from Penn State University. Sherri has two teenagers living with her in Telluride and believes in giving back to her community. She has served on the Historic & Architectural Review Commission for Telluride’s National Historic Landmark District for many years.

For more information on other projects included in the NEA’s grant announcement, visit


New Sculpture to be transformed by fire, Dec. 3

See Impermanence transformed by flames at Resurrection Dec. 3!

From an array of reclaimed and stripped old deck boards, Impermanence is well on its way to fruition for the Telluride Fire Festival. “This project has been a welcome creative challenge, and I can’t wait to share its transformation from a completed sculpture, to a flaming beacon, to ashes in the wind,” Says Cie Hoover

More about the Artist
Cie Hoover lives and creates his art in Ouray, Colorado. He’s had a passion for visual arts since the days of his youth. Cie worked in the Nashville music industry for over a decade, then toured full-time in North America with You Knew Me When. Afterwards, Cie immersed himself in the visual arts. His artwork is based in utilizing various types of wood to create wall-mounted and large sculptural works with depth and texture. Along with several public art installations throughout the state, Cie’s art can be found at Slate Gray Gallery in Telluride. Check out his creations on Facebook and Instagram.

Hex Machina: Gigantic, Interactive “Lantern”

Nate Robertson and Garrett Briones will be bringing Hex Machina, an interactive propane fire “poofer” or “boosh” effect. Essentially, this is a gigantic, interactive lantern: Visitors can push a button to release a burst of fire within the large steel hexagonal lantern which is seated above a 22 ft hexagonal steel framework. This flame effect is a high pressure propane system, utilizing structural steel fabrication to create a safe, stable fire sculpture. See and interact with Hex Machina Saturday, December 3.

The entirety of the supporting frame is composed of carbon steel 14 gauge-⅜in. thickness of materials. Six sections of fabricated 2’x1’x14 ga. square tubing supports connect from the bottom ⅜” thick, hexagonal baseplates, to a hexagonal plate connection plate at the top, forming a solid steel, monolithic structure.

About the Artists

Nate Robertson has a passion for sustainability when creating art. That sentimentality drives his creative process. Hey is experienced in building tiny homes, van-builds, shipping container builds, skoolies and off-grid applications, which inform and influence his art creations.

Nate started building at age seven for family businesses. He completed a welding certification program in 2012 and has spent the past decade incorporating all he learned into fabrication methods and processes, building everything from roller coasters to 60-ton stainless steel pressure vessels and everything in between. Nate connected with the NM’s Burning Man Regional in 2019, and fell in love. Now, he’s a Board Member! He says, “I’ll never stop making large scale fire art until the day I die if I have anything to say about it.”

Garrett Briones started woodworking with his father as a child. A knack for things running smoothly also inspired his degree in Flowology, focusing on making sure every aspect of life and work was streamlined for success. His true passion for fabrication began when he discovered tiny living, especially school bus conversions.Ccurrently, Garrett helps with SunBurn, NM’s Regional Burning Man. Garrett leads the DPW Dept. and creates large scale art for the event as well. Making art is his passion and always will be.

true north workshop participants from 2021

Free Teen Sculpture Build, Oct. 1 & 2!

Rocky Mountain Arts will collaborate with True North Youth Program to produce a wood building sculpture workshop for teens through support from Alpine Bank. The completed art installation will be on display on December 3 at the Telluride Fire Festival. All students will be invited to attend the event in December.

Oct 1 & 2: 10am-4pm each day
Snacks, lunch, tools, and all supplies provided both days.

Text or call 970-708-1986 to sign up!
Only 10 spots are available!

Thanks to Alpine Bank’s generosity for helping to make this workshop a reality.
Alpine Bank believes in creating strong, long-lasting relationships and giving back. When they are not working in the bank, you will find them volunteering in the community, attending local events and enjoying the many outdoor activities Telluride offers.

Partner Hooping, Dec. 3

Learn how to hula hoop with a partner. In this workshop, you will learn how to make isolation shapes with 2-4 hoops and a partner that is pleasing for performances or just plain fun. Hoops Supplied.

Aerial Acrobatics, Dec. 3 & 4

Come get your feet off the ground with Alpine Aerial Acrobatics! In this hour- long workshop you will learn the basics of aerial fabrics (silks), aerial hoop (lyra) and hopefully get upside down. Classes for adults and youth.

tree of life

Spectacular, fiery “Tree Of Life” at Telluride Fire Festival

This fabulous interactive sculptural “tree” created by David Mechtly,  has 18 flaming leaves. Guests will delight in the ability to actually make the tree spew fire into the night sky.

Originally created for the Denver Regional Burning Man event, Apogaea, this elaborate sculpture will travel to Telluride for the December 3 outdoor finale at the end of the box canyon.

Inspiring, spectacular, and fantastical…the Telluride Fire Festival will take place from December 2 -4, 2022.

More about the family-friendly event his year…

Rocky Mountain Arts will produce the fiery, three-day event with new and returning fire artists including: Nate Robertson, from Bernalillo, NM; Dave Mechtly, from Denver; Fort Collins LED/fire artist, Casey Moore; and from Telluride, Keith D’Angelo and Niel Ringstad.

Free flow arts workshops will be taught by Ashley Higgs from Durango, Stephanie Brown, and Beth Henshaw from Denver. A variety of fun one-hour workshops in partner hooping, aerial silk, lyra and more will be offered. All workshops will be located at the Wilkinson Public Library’s Program Room The workshops will be for youth and adults. No experience required.

Want to stay up-to-date on our event schedule and artists participating? Sign up for our enews.

Casey Moore LED Trees

Dec. 2-4: A Multi-Sensory Experience Of Epic Proportions

The annual gathering of flame-inspired art is going to be bigger than ever thanks to Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado Arts Relief Fund. The grant has made it possible to attract more artists with larger, more fantastical installations. One such installation is slated to be 48 feet wide by 16 feet tall, which will create an extraordinary transformation when on fire.

Rocky Mountain Arts will produce the fiery, three-day event December 2-4 with new and returning fire artists including: Dave Mechtly, from Denver; Fort Collins LED/fire artist, Casey Moore; and from Telluride, Keith D’Angelo and Niel Ringstad.

Free flow arts workshops will be taught by Ashley Higgs, from Durango and Stephanie Brown, and Beth Henshaw from Denver. A variety of fun one-hour workshops in partner hooping, aerial silk, lyra and more will be offered. All workshops will be located at the Wilkinson Public Library’s Program Room The workshops will be for youth and adults. No experience required.

Expect over-the-top fiery art shooting flames high into the night sky at the finale event at the end of the box canyon. The family-friendly, outdoor event will enchant all with interactive, flaming sculptures, fire dancers, music and a cash bar.

Free Teen Art Installation Workshop October 1 & 2
This year we are teaming up again with the nonprofit True North Youth Program.  Additional support will be provided by Alpine Bank for this free weekend workshop to create a wood art installation. The focus for this workshop is on obtaining participation from the rural San Juan region teens who have limited access to resources and opportunities. These students will learn how to use all types of tools and work as a team to create their vision, which will be showcased at the December Festival. All students will be invited to attend the Festival as well.

Other events for everyone
Thursday evening will unfold with a reception at Slate Gray Gallery featuring local artist, Dan Gundrum.
Dan Gundrum specializes in immersive digital art though projection mapping, lasers and special effects through his company Pivotal Effects. He regularly shares his talent through artist workshops and holds an annual welding workshop through Rocky Mountain Arts.

Friday evening, the Festival will present a dance and acrobatic performance at The Palm Theater in collaboration with Homestead Circus Productions out of Paonia, CO.

Colorado Arts Relief Fund Grant Awarded for 2022!

Rocky Mountain Arts has just been awarded a Colorado Arts Relief Fund Grant through the Creative Industries Division of the Office of Economic Development (CCI). This is a funding initiative passed by the State of Colorado Legislature during the First Extraordinary Session of the 72nd General Assembly from the Small Business Relief Program created in Section 4-48.5-316, enacted by Senate Bill 20B-001 and amended in the 2021 Regular Session with House Bill 21-1285. This amendment directs up to $15.5 million for relief payments to eligible artists, crew members and organizations like ours. We are deeply grateful…and beyond thrilled to be able to make this announcement.

The grant will enable us to pay our artists, performers, and staff for the December 2-4, 2022 Festival as well as hold more free programs for youth throughout the year.

Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint

At the Festival, fire takes center stage as the dynamic force that it is. We know that what we are doing here (and each and every day of our lives) has an impact. For us, focusing on fire brings it back to the conversation, so we can recognize its power and see that it can both transform and destroy.
With this understanding, the Festival is committed to ACTION to make significant changes in the way we live every day, and you can do this, too. This year, the Festival has purchased 1,000 trees to help restore our national forests that have been ravaged by fire. Trees, and in fact, all plant life, clean our planet’s atmosphere by removing carbon (from the combustion of fuels) and transforming it into oxygen. This is but one small step that each of us can take to help restore that which is essential to life.
In addition, we are committed to the two most important of the 3-R’s: REDUCE and REUSE. Most of the clean, chemically-untreated wood burned in the artistic fire cauldrons and art installations has been salvaged from construction dumpsters. Much of the event decor has been “rescued” and reused, and the stages (and many informational signs) have been made out of salvaged hardware, lumber, and plywood. In addition, the Festival purchased an all-electric vehicle in 2018, which goes farther (and faster) than a gasoline- powered vehicle, further reducing the amount of fossil-fuel “fire” we use.
May the fire at the Festival inspire you to face your use of fire and ACT to make important changes in your life every day.