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Display of Mesa Verde watercolors opens at St. Barnabas in Cortez

Former artist in residence opens St. Barnabas display

A Mancos artist opened a new exhibit of paintings inspired by Mesa Verde at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church on Friday.

Jan Wright completed the national park’s artist-in-residence program in 2012, and many of her watercolor paintings, regularly shown at the Artisans of Mancos gallery, depict the ancient pueblo dwellings and natural rock formations found in Mesa Verde. On Friday, she became the seventh local artist to display her work in St. Barnabas’s parish hall since it was renovated two years ago. The collection of more than 20 paintings will remain on display until May, and will be free to the public whenever the church is open.

The exhibit is a mix of realistic, detailed depictions of the national park and more surreal images, including Native American spirits and faces in the rock. But all were inspired in some way by the history and culture Wright learned about during her residency.

“Mesa Verde just really speaks to me,” she said.

Proceeds from the sale of the most expensive painting, “Cliff Palace Magnificence,” which used to hang in the Far View Lodge, will go to benefit the Wild Mustangs of Mesa Verde Sanctuary, a group that is trying to create a new habitat for some of the wild horses that currently roam the park.

But Wright’s favorite painting in the collection, she said, is “Luminaria Night Magic,” which shows the sparks from the luminaria candles during the yearly event at Spruce Tree House flying up to the sky and becoming a galaxy of stars.

Wright said she doesn’t necessarily expect to sell her paintings while they’re on display at St. Barnabas, although she did hand out a price list for each piece at the exhibit opening on Friday. Instead, “it’s more about the exposure,” she said. The parish hall where they hang is home to Grace’s Soup Kitchen, which the church operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Jan Heyl, a church member who helps run the soup kitchen, said they decided to make the space double as an art gallery as a way to draw more attention to local artists, as well as a way to make the daily lunch a more pleasant experience for guests.

“The idea ... was that we wanted this to just be a beautiful, welcoming place for people to eat that don’t necessarily get to see art very often,” Heyl said. “And it’s a really nice art space.”

The church also hosts a free art program for people who visit the soup kitchen, and sometimes those students’ artwork is displayed in the hall alongside that of the professional artists.

Heyl said the church tries to put up a different artist’s exhibit every two months or so. She said they haven’t completely settled on who will replace Wright in May yet, although at least one person has expressed interest.

If you go

What: Art by Jan Wright exhibit

Where: St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, 110 W. North St., Cortez

When: 8 a.m.-12 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and during Sunday services

Cost: Free

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