"Meknes," watercolor by Isa Catto Shaw

“Meknes,” a large watercolor by former Colorado Mountain College art instructor Isa Catto Shaw, is one of more than 50 works that will be on display at “Reminisce: A Tribute to 50 Years of Art,” CMC Aspen’s 50th celebration and art opening on April 7.

Public invited to view ‘Reminisce: A Tribute to 50 Years of Art’ in Aspen April 7

This year Colorado Mountain College is celebrating 50 years of serving the educational needs of people living in the state’s mountain towns. On April 7, the celebration arrives at CMC Aspen. Community members, current students, alumni and employees are invited to a Colorado Mountain College 50th Anniversary Celebration followed by an opening reception for an exhibit of artwork from CMC’s faculty and staff.

The festivities begin at 3 p.m. with a 50th anniversary program focusing on the history of Colorado Mountain College in Aspen, and then the opening reception for “Reminisce: A Tribute to 50 Years of Art.”

“These celebrations are a gift back to the communities that Colorado Mountain College

Photo of Ann Harris, 1979 by Doug Rhinehart

In 1979, Ann Harris was the secretary and assistant to Janet Landry, then director of Colorado Mountain College’s Aspen campus. Harris would be the next campus dean of CMC Aspen, eventually becoing CMC’s top academic administrator collegewide. Photo Doug Rhinehart

serves,” said Kristin Colon, CMC Foundation CEO and vice president for advancement. “Each on-campus celebration is focused on something that makes that particular campus stand out. In Aspen, for example, our art program is such a draw for the community that we wanted to honor the faculty and staff who have shared their expertise with students for decades.

“CMC is here today, educating students and training our local workforce, because of our community members,” said Colon. “We are here because of you.”

The free celebration continues until 6 p.m. with an opening reception for the exhibit “Reminisce: 50 Years of Art,” a survey of artwork by CMC’s western region faculty and staff, past and present, and featuring refreshments and anniversary cake. The exhibit will run through May 9.

“Our students in painting and printmaking are able to take advantage of extraordinary equipment that is rare at many colleges and universities, creating large-scale prints on our new state-of-the-art etching press,” said K Rhynus Cesark, assistant professor of art and gallery director at Colorado Mountain College Aspen, who is organizing the exhibit. “It is also an exciting time for the Aspen ceramics program as students can experiment and create work using our newly acquired 3D ceramic printer, which we have obtained collaboratively with our college’s Isaacson School for New Media.”

John and Carrie Morgridge are the honorary chairs of Aspen’s celebration, selected because of their support of the college and of CMC Aspen’s Morgridge Family Academic Center, which serves as an educational hub for Pitkin County and surrounding areas.

Photo of CMC Aspen staff and faculty, 1977

In 1977, Aspen’s Colorado Mountain College campus opened for classes, sharing the building with the Aspen School District during the days. The building, adjacent to Aspen High School, ended an era of holding classes at various businesses and offices around town, giving Aspen students a central place to take dance classes, first aid courses, and a variety of continuing education and credit classes. Photo courtesy Doug Rhinehart


Colorado Mountain College Aspen circa 1970s: a moveable feast

Colorado Mountain College and Aspen go way back. In 1965, voters approved the formation of the five-county CMC district. Plans were laid to establish two residential campuses, the East Campus in Leadville and the West Campus at Spring Valley near Glenwood Springs.

In addition to these two campuses, CMC administrators realized that more opportunities would be needed to serve the educational needs within the far-flung communities in the 100- by 75-mile-wide district.

In 1967, plans began forming to open a campus in Aspen, and George Stricker was recruited to make it happen. A story is told among early CMC staff that, during a meeting, then-college president Joe Davenport tapped Stricker on the shoulder and said, “George, you’re in charge of continuing education.” Reportedly, Stricker turned to someone and said, “Continuing education? What’s that?”

Stricker soon caught on. It was in 1968, a year after the East and West campuses opened their doors, that Stricker set up shop behind the night desk at the Aspen Police Department. Over 150 Aspenites signed up for such classes as catering, creative design, sculpture, mountaineering and something called “The New Left.”

For a few years, without a permanent home, classrooms and offices were a moveable feast. There was a brief move to the Aspen Ski Company lift ticket office across the street from Wagner Park.

Steve Mills took over from Stricker in 1969 and opened the CMC office in the old Beck and Bishop grocery store in the Wheeler Opera House. Classes met all over town, wherever there was space.

During a typical year in the ’70s, the Aspen campus offered about 20 courses that ranged from belly dancing to business. In 1976, CMC partnered with the Aspen RE-1 school district to build a 14,000-square-foot building next to Aspen High School. The high school used the classrooms during the day and CMC took it over for night classes.

By the ’80s, Colorado Mountain College had come of age in Aspen. The focus was on adult students seeking associate degrees or certificates to prepare them for resort-related jobs.

Enrollment continued to grow, and the high school building was straining at the seams. By 1995, it was apparent that a new building was needed. CMC hired noted Aspen architect Harry Teague to design the light-filled building.

The college launched a capital campaign, receiving seven-figure donations from Jessica and Henry Catto and family and the Morgridge Family Foundation. For the Morgridges’ support of the Aspen campus as well as the support of technology and construction of “smart” classrooms throughout the college, the new Aspen campus building was named in their honor.

On Jan. 3, 2001, CMC opened the doors of the 30,000-square-foot Morgridge Family Academic Center at the Aspen Airport Business Center.

Today, Colorado Mountain College Aspen serves almost 2,000 students each year, including high school scholars, traditional-aged college students, English as a second language students and lifelong learners of all types and, in a nod to the arts- and physical-activity-focused nature of its most popular courses, the campus is home to the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Colorado Mountain College is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2017, thanks to presenting sponsors Alpine Bank, Jim and Connie Calaway, Holy Cross Energy (a Touchstone Energy Cooperative), Morgridge Family Foundation and Sodexo. Support is also being provided by Atlantic Aviation; Terra Energy; Chevron; FCI Constructors, Inc.; Grand River Health; Marble Distilling Co.; Mountain Town Coffee; Obermeyer Wood Investment Counsel, LLLP; Premier Party Rentals; Sopris Engineering and Mountain Temp Services LLC.

Colorado Mountain College Aspen is at 0255 Sage Way at the Aspen Business Center. RSVPs are requested for the reception and 50th anniversary celebration. To RSVP, learn about gallery hours or for more information, please visit or call 970-925-7740.