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CORE & City of Aspen opt for art over ‘doom and gloom’

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By Will Grandbois

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Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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About 30 people from all around the Roaring Fork Valley made the trip to Ashcroft on March 18 and 19 for a public art project with an environmental slant.

Organized by the City of Aspen and Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE) as part of its brand new “High Five” approach, the project centered on the vision of California artist Sonja Hinrichsen. Her collaborative snow spirals have shown up from New York to the Alps and captured worldwide attention, but actually have their origins right here. (xanax)

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“I was really thrilled when CORE approached me about this. It kind of closes the circle,” she said. “This is where the project started, and Ashcroft is just so beautiful and really made for it.”

Hinrichsen was at Anderson Ranch for a residency in 2009 when she began playing around with snowshoe patterns on a nearby golf course. She tried it again on the Yampah River and, after seeing the result from the air, began trying to get others involved.

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“It’s so meditative and a deep nature experience,” she said. “This artwork embeds itself into the environment. It’s about landscape and about art, not just one of them. Hopefully this gets people’s minds going that we need these environments, and the air and the water, and need to protect them.”

The climate-change element wasn’t part of the initial vision, but has crept in as snow conditions have proved uncharacteristically unpredictable almost everywhere Hinrichsen has worked. Indeed, four of five potential sites identified for the current project were free of snow by mid-March, while conditions at Ashcroft fluctuated between too hard to make good imprints and so soft that it made for hard going.

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Shelly Centerfitt was certainly surprised to find it warmer in Aspen than in her hometown of Atlanta, but enjoyed being part of the project nevertheless.

“It’s very calming to only hear the sound of the snow and wind around you,” she said. “It’s been unique. I’ve done labyrinths, but that’s a little different because you’re in a set course. This you can make your own.”

Having set her own course the day before, Kendall Cafritz opted to retrace and enhance someone else’s design that had nearly melted away. She found many levels of meaning in the project — themes of community and isolation, in particular — and appreciated the juxtaposition between the ephemeral experience of the installation and the enduring impact of the photography. Hinrichsen, in Cafritz’s opinion, is “one of the greatest living artists on the planet. … “I love being outdoors and love contributing to what she’s creating on the planet,” she said. “I just hadn’t ever seen anything like it.”

Weather permitting, Hinrichsen and volunteers will be there again on March 25-26.

Meanwhile, CORE and the City of Aspen are contemplating a downvalley environmental-art project and is preparing to officially launch “High 5” at the Aspen Brewing Company production facility at 5:30 p.m. on April 4, and at the Launchpad in Carbondale at 5 p.m. April 7. The goal, according to CORE Marketing Manager Lara Whitley, is to reach beyond Aspen and expand the scope of action.

“It was born out of this idea to involve more people and get them to do more things,” she said.

“We recognized that business as usual wasn’t going to get it done. The kind of doom-and-gloom environmental message we recognized has limits. People tend to shut down. We started looking at creativity and local pride as leverage we can use to get people involved.”

Hear an extended interview with Hinrichsen at For more information, visit and

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 23, 2017. 
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