Friday, May 26, 2017

Local authors awarded at 2017 Colorado Book Awards reception

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 1:28 PM

Colorado Book Award winners: - Top row, left to right: Diane Les Becquets, Carter Wilson, Wayne Miller - Bottom row, left to right: Ashlee Cowles, Barbara Nickless, Carrie Vaughn, Mona Awad - ALLYSON FALTYS
  • Allyson Faltys
  • Colorado Book Award winners: Top row, left to right: Diane Les Becquets, Carter Wilson, Wayne MillerBottom row, left to right: Ashlee Cowles, Barbara Nickless, Carrie Vaughn, Mona Awad

Some of the Springs' own local authors were honored at the 2017 Colorado Book Awards, “an annual program that celebrates the accomplishments of Colorado's outstanding authors, editors, illustrators and photographers,” presented by Colorado Humanities. Awards were announced at a reception on Sunday, May 21, hosted in Parker, Colorado.

The award recipients from the Colorado Springs area, who took home awards in three out of 14 categories, are as follows:

Mark Lee Gardner won in the category of “Biography” with his book Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill; Barbara Nickless took home the “Mystery” category with her novel Blood on the Tracks; and Ashlee Cowles won in the category of “Young Adult Literature” with Beneath Wandering Stars.

See below for book synopses and author biographies.

Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill by Mark Lee Gardner (William Morrow)

The first definitive account of this legendary fighting force and its extraordinary leader, Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Riders is narrative nonfiction at its most invigorating and compulsively readable. Two months after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, Congress authorized President McKinley to recruit a volunteer army to drive the Spaniards from Cuba. From this army emerged the legendary “Rough Riders,” a mounted regiment drawn from America’s western territories and led by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt and his men quickly came to symbolize American ruggedness, daring and individualism. He led them to victory in the famed Battle at San Juan Hill, which made Roosevelt a national hero and cemented the Rough Riders’ place in history.

Mark Lee Gardner is the author of To Hell on a Fast Horse and Shot All to Hell. He has written many articles about the American West, and has been a visiting professor in the Southwest Studies department at Colorado College. He lives with his family in Cascade, Colorado.

Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless (Thomas & Mercer)

A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancé, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can’t shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion. In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K-9 partner, Clyde ― both haunted by their time in Iraq ― descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes.

An English degree and a sense of adventure led Barbara Nickless to work as a technical writer, raptor rehabilitator, astronomy instructor, sword fighter, piano teacher and journalist. Now an award-winning author, she spends her free time snowshoeing, caving and hiking the Colorado Rockies.

Young Adult Literature
Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles (Merit Press)

After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend — a boy she has despised all her life. Her brother is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise? An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, Beneath Wandering Stars takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter and friendship, against all odds.

Ashlee Cowles is a high school teacher who grew up an Army “brat,” and subsequently worked with a nonprofit that supports teens in military families. She holds graduate degrees from Duke University and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and teaches literature and philosophy. As a student, Cowles studied abroad in Spain and walked part of the Camino de Santiago.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Music, theater, Territory Days and more from this week's event calendar

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 8:20 AM

24 Wednesday

Falseyedols Album Release

Falseyedols calls itself a "conscious movement of artists," having produced everything from music to visual art to clothing. Their debut album — and tonight's performance — features Stoney Bertz, D Stylz, 2 Fly and eLiMenCe.
Following the release, stick around for a regular Word Wednesdays open mic.
9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Tremors Nightclub, 112 N. Nevada Ave.,

25 Thursday


This is a tough but worthwhile play, following the moral struggle of a woman who captures her attempted rapist. It blurs the lines between justice and revenge, bringing up hard human truths. If you need another reason to go, know that a portion of proceeds benefits Zonta Club of the Pikes Peak Area and Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m., Sundays, 4 p.m.; through May 28, Funky Little Theater Company, 2109 Templeton Gap Road, $11-$15,

27 Saturday

  • File Photo
42nd Annual Territory Days

A local favorite summer festival for a reason, Territory Days has something for all ages and interests. As per usual, enjoy beer gardens, live music, kids' activities, and a huge craft and vendor fair. Things to look forward to this year: live blacksmithing and Wild West gunfights. Yeehaw!
May 27-29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Old Colorado City, free to attend,

30 Tuesday

Tigers & Tuxedos

Before you panic, no you don't need to wear a tuxedo. Just enjoy the food, drink and silent auction. Proceeds benefit the WildHeart Foundation, which works to enrich the lives of animals in captivity. Something neat: The foundation makes toys for captive animals out of recycled fire hose, and they'll show you how. 7-10 p.m., The Pinery at the Hill, 775 W. Bijou St., $40-$50,

Find even more weekly listings in each Wednesday issue of the Indy, and submit your own events here.
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Monday, May 22, 2017

Trifecta bares it all onstage

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 1:00 AM

When Penelope Mais Oui, one of the three performers that makes up Trifecta, told me about the women in her new burlesque collective — queer women over 40 with diverse backgrounds, families and bodies — I knew immediately that their stories would inspire.

The art of burlesque fascinates as much as it terrifies in today's beauty-centric society. Along with the vulnerability of nudity comes the vulnerability of sharing a piece of performance art that is entirely unique to one's own experience. It exposes the very bodies and sexualities society tells people to be ashamed of.

See what Mais Oui, Evangeline Cain, Chairmyn Meow and other LGBTQ burlesque artists have to say about burlesque and the queer experience in the latest issue of the Independent. In the meantime, get to know the women behind Trifecta.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gallery shows, grilled cheese, music and more for the days ahead

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 11:11 AM

Make the most of your weekend — whether it's art, food, sport or music — with this week's choice events.

19 Friday

Jim Van Hoy


Van Hoy has an impressive photography pedigree, with more awards than we can attempt to list here. You may have seen his work at the Colorado Springs Airport, various Pikes Peak libraries and other local galleries. He draws inspiration from both natural and constructed worlds, taking stunning photographs in vibrant color and black-and-white. 5:30-8 p.m.; on display through June 24, G44 Gallery, 1785 S. Eighth St., Suite A,

20 Saturday

Grill Cheese Fest and Craft Beer Pairing


This ain't your mama's grilled cheese — some awesome local chefs and craft brewers have come together for the perfect pairing. Chow down and drink up with live music provided by The LDK Band. What's more, proceeds go to Ascending to Health Respite Care, which — among many services — provides a safe place for homeless people to recover after being discharged from the hospital. 4-9 p.m., Catalyst Campus, 555 E. Pikes Peak Ave., $20, ages 21 and older,

20 Saturday

Vintage Baseball Game


Baseball is all well and good, but baseball played by 1864 rules can be delightful, especially if the players are wearing 1860s-inspired uniforms. After their crushing defeat two years ago, the Manitou Springs Heritage Center Lungers have challenged the Denver & Rio Grande Reds to a rematch. Root for the home team! 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Roger Maestas Field, El Paso Boulevard and Beckers Lane, Manitou Springs, donations support the Manitou Springs Heritage Center,

21 Sunday

The Dear Hunter


The Dear Hunter functions as both the name of the band and the name of the character whose story they tell with each album. Their newest album, Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional, serves as the fifth installment in the hunter's tale. If you want a break from the story, check out one of their coolest albums, The Color Spectrum, a musical interpretation of all colors on the visible spectrum. That's prog rock for you. 7 p.m., Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave., $10.39-$22,

22 Monday

Bikepacking: Conquering the Great Divide


For five consecutive summers, Debra Ackley and Sarah Andrews have ridden a segment of the Great Divide Trail. To put that in perspective, The Great Divide Trail is about 3,100 miles long. These are the gals you want to teach you about bikepacking. Check out this special Adventure on Tap speaker series event to benefit from their expertise. 6-8 p.m., Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort, 2 El Paso Blvd.,

Find even more weekly listings in each Wednesday issue of the Indy, and submit your own events here.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

All Pikes Peak Reads announces theme and titles for this community-wide reading initiative

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 8:39 AM

Each year, Pikes Peak Library District’s All Pikes Peak Reads events engage and connect the community through common literary experiences. With discussions, panel presentations, film screenings and more related to selected titles, this months-long initiative allows readers to deepen intertextual understanding.

The theme and titles for this year’s All Pikes Peak Reads (Sept. 5-Nov. 17) have officially been announced, so community members planning to participate can start preparing.

The theme: “Cultures, Conflicts, & Cuisines,” which, according to a press release, “connects the threads of cultural enlightenment, familial and social conflicts, social and romantic injustice, and the cuisines that make our world such a diverse home for us all.”

Keep an eye on the PPLD website as events are announced. In the meantime, check out the titles and their suggested demographics below:

Adults: Like Water for Chocolate by Linda Esquivel

Teens/Young Adults: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Children: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks

Academic: Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith

All APPR titles are available electronically via the PPLD website.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

UPDATE: ArtSpace survey is now live, calling on creatives to participate

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 2:42 PM

UPDATE: Monday evening, the Colorado Springs Creative Collective and representatives from ArtSpace launched the Arts Market Survey. It is now live online and awaiting responses.

Bob Wolfson of the collective says he hopes to get 1,000 responses from community creatives by the survey's deadline, June 30.

Questions include information about income and household size, as well as what kinds of amenities and features one might want from a creative live/work space.

Interested artists may take the survey online. It takes about fifteen minutes and is best completed on a computer rather than a smartphone.


Artspace's presentation at a focus group, during its preliminary feasibility visit.
  • Artspace's presentation at a focus group, during its preliminary feasibility visit.
Colorado Springs needs to amp up its affordable housing. Anyone who has looked for a home or an apartment in recent years is familiar with the struggle to balance rent with location with accessibility (i.e. transportation) to core areas.

The Colorado Springs Creative Collective, a group of arts-minded community leaders, have been working on a way to mitigate this problem, at least for the area’s artists and creatives. The proposed solution, Artspace, is a Minneapolis-based organization that has created artistic live/work communities in cities across the country, including here in Colorado. Their Loveland development is the only Colorado project currently in operation, but developments have started in Lakewood, Denver and Trinidad. It's possible Colorado Springs will be next on that list.

The process takes a long while — already we’re about two years in — and has multiple phases. The first phase involved Artspace working closely with the steering committee, and included meetings with leaders in the local arts, location scouting, and a public meeting to address needs and hopes for an affordable live/work space.

The next phase requires quite a bit more public input.

The Arts Market Survey, which will roll out on May 15, is meant to assess need and priorities within the artistic community. While in no way a commitment to finalize plans with Artspace, the survey will gather necessary data to inform the collective’s next step. For instance, what kind of monthly rate can you afford as a working artist? What kind of space do you need (studio, performance, retail, etc.)? Do you have any other big ideas?

“This is the chance to make sure our community voices exactly what it needs as far as space and amenities for creatives,” says Claire Swinford, Urban Engagement Manager of the Downtown Partnership. “We have the chance to seize on some energy and some expertise but ultimately where this goes needs to be a reflection of our community, as diverse and inclusive as it is.”
The Colorado Springs Creative Collective asks that working artists participate in this survey, people who might benefit from affordable, downtown-adjacent housing in order to more easily pursue their artistic aspirations.

Those who wish to learn more about Artspace, the Arts Market Survey and what comes next are invited to a launch reception at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center on May 15, 5:30 p.m.
The whole Colorado Springs Creative Collective project team will be on-hand, along with representatives from Artspace, who will take questions. The event will also include a cash bar and free food.

Artspace holding a public meeting during its preliminary feasibility phase.
  • Artspace holding a public meeting during its preliminary feasibility phase.

Swinford says that anyone who is curious is welcome to attend. “This will be a chance to hear from some of our ArtSpace partners directly,” she says, “and get a little bit more of a detailed view of where we are in the development process, and what the Arts Market Survey is meant to do.”

If you are unable to make the launch reception, they ask that you complete the survey online, sometime before the first week of July. If you’re interested in learning more about the project as it continues, you can sign up for the collective’s newsletter.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

UPDATE: Tiny House Jamboree to leave Colorado Springs

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 5:24 PM

  • Courtesy EcoCabins
The National Tiny House Jamboree updated its website today with an announcement on where the event will be moving, as well as a new partnership.

The organizers have joined forces with Reed Exhibitions, who boasts of producing more than 500 events in 30 countries, attracting 7 million people in 2016.

And this year's jamboree will now take place in Arlington, Texas from October 27 to 29.

There's a lengthy explanation of "why Arlington" on the site, related partly to it being "a hotspot for the Tiny House movement" as well as "having the resources to handle this expanding event."

Both educational programming and the amount of vendors and houses will expand as well.

For those needing to change travel plans or get tickets refunded, the organizers have also provided info on those details.

We spoke with Darin Zaruba, President of EcoCabins and the founding sponsor of the jamboree to talk more broadly about the impact of the event leaving, as well as the state of affairs for tiny homes in Colorado Springs.

His best guess — and it is a guess, since his organizers were unable to do an official study during the first two years of the event — is that on the low end of economic impact it brought between $1 and $2 million to town, if not upwards of $5 million.

He says Air Force Academy folks who assisted with last year's event reported attendance in excess of 60,000 people over the weekend. Hotels in a wide radius were sold out, as were such things as ice machines, he says. Impact would of course factor in restaurant and bar sales and other periphery expenditures from both locals and tourists.

We'll share more of our chat with Zaruba in next week's paper, particularly his thoughts on what's needed for C. Springs to become more progressive and tiny home friendly.


Despite Colorado Springs now being home to tiny home builders like EcoCabins and Tumbleweed Tiny Homes, the largest tiny home manufacturer in the U.S., it has never really been poised to be the "tiny housing 'capital of America'" as this Gazette article would have us believe.

While more progressive cities like Portland are testing programs such as tiny houses for the homeless, the Springs relegates them to RV parks, with building and zoning requirements not currently allowing for them to gain a foothold inside the city as residences.

As we detailed in our article last year on a program calling for a similar solution as Portland's, here's the central problem:
There's a way around minimum square footage requirements if you build the home on wheels, call it an RV and register it with the state through the DMV. But then you run up against another pesky roadblock: You can't live out of an RV parked on a residential lot as a permanent residence.
Regarding regulations and tiny homes, there's a lot you need to know, city by city.

What's especially going to not make the Springs the tiny home capital of anything is news that we're now losing the Tiny House Jamboree. This is a popular annual event in August each year that was reported to draw more than 50,000 visitors last year.

Here's the beginning of what they have on their website:
We have very exciting news coming over the next few days, with even bigger plans for the future! As this movement and industry continue to explode, it is clear our grassroots event was getting too big for Colorado Springs, the venue, or our Jamboree group to handle alone. Therefore, we are postponing the dates, changing the venue, adding professional resources, and have temporarily suspended ticket sales and vendor registration. Check on our website on our Facebook page or newsletter for information. We will post updates as soon as they are available.
And a little more on their Facebook page:
Doug Price, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, says he's unable to gauge an accurate economic impact on what losing the Jamboree means. The calculators used for such data need inputs such as how many attendees came from out of the area and stayed the night in hotel rooms, etc. It's not data his office has for this event.

We have reached out to the organizers of the Jamboree for more information and will update this posting if we receive any.

What Price did feel comfortable saying, was that if somehow all of those 50,000-plus weekend attendees were only locals (they weren't) economic impact would still exceed $60,000 a day, bare minimum.

We aren't in the guessing game here at the Indy, either, but we'd feel comfortable wagering that the event probably carried an impact well into the six digits, if not low millions. It's a shame to lose it.
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Drag and body paint parties for your nightlife, sports and more for the weekend

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 1:00 AM

13 Saturday

  • Chris Pike

Body Paint Palooza

See models in intricate body paint and get gussied yourself for no extra charge. Some highlights of tonight's event include live music, art booths and dancing tunes spun by DJ Gravity. Food and drink specials go all night, including $2 shots, so you might want to get an Uber lined up. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Royal Castle Lounge & Grill, 2355 Platte Place, $15-$20, ages 21 and older,

13 Saturday

  • Shutterstock

Disney Show

Snow White eat your heart out! (What, bad joke?) These queens are the fairest in the land. See your favorite local drag queens and kings in some magical Disney-themed performances tonight. Bonus: The United Court of the Pikes Peak Empire donates proceeds to various local organizations. 8-10 p.m., Club Q, 3430 N. Academy Blvd., donations accepted,

15 Monday


Tin Soldiers Skate Session

The Adaptive Skate Kollective and Sk8-Strong are inviting local skaters to shred alongside these amazing athletes with disabilities while getting a first-hand look at adaptive skateboarding. Today's special guest is paralympic medalist and X-Games gold medalist Keith Gabel. After the session, enjoy a screening of Tin Soldiers at Ivywild, so you can learn more about the adaptive sports scene. 3-6 p.m., Memorial Park Skate Park, 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave., free,

19 Friday


Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival

Audubon enthusiasts rejoice — this is a weekend filled with all things bird. Check out lectures, workshops, bird hikes and a keynote speech by Bill Schmoker, a leader and educator in Colorado birding. We recommend grabbing your camera, clipboard, birdseed and binoculars so you can get birding! May 19-21, registration required by May 15, various locations,

Find even more weekly listings in each Wednesday issue of the Indy, and submit your own events here.
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Vintage Grooming Company offers boutique facial hair products

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 2:48 PM

  • Brienne Boortz

Derwood Willhite is an engaging shopkeeper, make no mistake. His wife, Megan, confirms that customers tend to hang around the store and chew the fat while making a purchase — half an hour isn't unusual. The Willhites own the Vintage Grooming Company, a maker of nationally distributed craft grooming products for men. They specialize in hair care — hair pomade, shaving oil, shaving soap, beard oil, beard balm, and moustache wax.

The idea behind the company goes back to 2010, when Louisiana native Derwood finished his time in the U.S. Army. After years of razor burn, he decided it was time to grow out some serious whiskers.

"When Derwood was first growing out the beard, I bought a couple of the products that were out on the market, but they broke out his skin," says Megan, herself a North Carolinian. She did some research and, with Derwood as her willing guinea pig, formulated a gentle beard oil that worked for her husband and his hirsute biker buddies.

"I didn't want anybody looking greasy or oily," says Megan of her recipes. She uses jojoba oil in most of their products, popular in moisturizers and cosmetics and useful in the dry Colorado climate. For fragrance, she uses essential oils, which she says are gentler on skin than mass-market fragrances, as well milder-smelling and thus less likely to irritate the wearer's sense of smell. Their beard balm adds beeswax, which helps tame curly and unruly beards. Both function as leave-in conditioner.

Megan and Derwood started the company as a web-only store in 2014, after moving to the Springs. In January 2016, they opened a brick-and-mortar location at the corner of Nevada and Austin Bluffs, allowing their local customers to avoid paying shipping.

"With all the veterans around here, we wanted to be a part of the community," says Derwood. And they've been successful there, too. "I started in one space and took over the whole building."

With products like theirs, the Willhites confirm that they educate a lot of their customers. They offer pine sap- and beeswax-based moustache wax to men accustomed to styling their 'staches with everything from hairspray to glue.

"We even had a gentleman come in who used maple syrup to style his moustache," says Megan.

But the biggest assumption they work against is that their products are strictly for people with beards — and big ones at that.

"It's not about the size," says Derwood. "It's not about how big it is. It's about how it makes you who you are."

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Chris Vestal's maker mentality

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 1:37 PM

  • Todd Jones

Chris Vestal, founder of the Pikes Peak Makerspace (735 E Pikes Peak Ave,, grew up with a love for technology and design, eventually getting hired by General Motors right out of college to work on prototyping and fiber optics. He’s also been 3-dimensional printing since the ‘90s, and has taken his love for making to the Pikes Peak Makerspace, a cooperative work space based on creativity, technology, and community.

“The Pikes Peak Makerspace is definitely focused on helping out our community and including the technology and equipment that our community in this area is interested in,” Vestal says.

“Makers” are born problem solvers, but they may be harder to find in the future if a particular problem isn’t addressed right now — the lack of trade skills and workshop classes in schools. Vestal, an entrepreneur and maker based in mechanical design, sees PPM as a way to begin filling this void. The Makerspace is Vestal’s fifth startup, a space for beginners and advanced makers alike to come and use the software and machinery provided for a small membership fee. With 3-D printers, a CNC mill, plotters and laser cutters, and classes teaching the safety, proper use, and software needed to use each machine, Vestal is inspiring the mentality of a true maker in all who come through his doors.

Vestal says, “Our core thing is this in an excellent place to come in, have 24/7 access to these tools, and if you don’t know how to use these tools, we have training.”

He continues to get excited about the community built around the Pikes Peak Makerspace and the people of Colorado Springs. He gets invigorated by the energy of newcomers and the expertise of seasoned veterans and looks forward to seeing what exciting things get created through the Makerspace.

“My favorite thing that keeps me rolling with the Makerspace is the community. Everybody’s coming out with a new challenge or new talent and seeing what we can do with that,” Vestal says.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Artwork, Star Wars and unique cultural experiences make for an interesting week

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 1:00 AM

4 Thursday

  • Wikimedia Commons
Let the Wookiee Win: A Star Wars Quiz

Because we needed to include something for May the Fourth Be With You day. Defend your nerd cred and test your knowledge of the “five good theatrical Star Wars films” — no extended universe necessary. While we don't have an insider information as to what they're going to ask, we have a feeling “Who shot first?” may come up. 7-10 p.m., Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub, 21 S. Tejon St., $5,

5 Friday

  • JayCee Beyale

Artists JayCee Beyale (Navajo) and Michelle “Milo” Lowden (Acoma Pueblo) incorporate their Native American heritage into their art. Beyale says of their work: “We both have our own individual ways of modernizing what has been done for a long period of time.” Lowden founded Milo Creations, specializing in hand-painted Pueblo jewelry; Beyale runs a local screen printing shop. 5 p.m. to midnight, The Modbo, 17C E. Bijou St.,

6 Saturday

  • Courtesy Cottonwood Center for the Arts
Under $100 Spring Art and Gifts Sale

For the thriftier art-lovers among us, this is a good opportunity to purchase less expensive pieces from some of the area's best artists. Tour more than 30 open studios for a different kind of shopping experience, and pick up some gifts along the way. Extra perks include make-and-take workshops for the family, giveaways and prizes. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado Ave.,

6 Saturday

  • Shutterstock
Equestrian Skills Course Grand Opening

Celebrate the horse course that’s been long in the making. The event will include activities and entertainment, including the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard and an original 1800s wagon to explore. Good for saddle clubs, individuals on horseback or your general equestrian enthusiast. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Bear Creek Regional Park, 245 Bear Creek Road, 377-2697.

7 Sunday

  • Shutterstock
Africa Day

Enjoy the diverse and unique culture of Africa with entertainment, food and educational opportunities. If you come from Africa, or if you’ve ever visited, this is a good opportunity to share experiences. While particularly valuable to students of the diaspora, the event’s open to the public for a reason — go have fun and learn a little. 3 p.m., CC’s Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave.,

Find even more weekly listings in each Wednesday issue of the Indy, and submit your own events here.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Pikes Peak Whittlers celebrate skill of woodcarving

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 1:00 PM

John Armstrong started out as a small-time crew member. First, he was taking a pocketknife to sticks. Then, instead of a single cigar box, he needed an extra-large case for his tools. Soon, he was initiated as one of them, a member of Pikes Peak Whittlers, that is.

“I kind of got hooked on what [the Pikes Peak Whittlers] were doing,” he says. “They slowly sucked me in.”

Seven years later, Armstrong has served as president, vice president, secretary and librarian for the Pikes Peak Whittlers, a local club that celebrates and promotes woodcarving in the area.

That extra-large case now holds Armstrong’s many carving tools, evidence of his passion for the craft.

“Most of us became carvers because we liked wood to begin with,” Armstrong says. “You have to work with it to learn how to do something with it.”

“When you think of whittling, there’s this image of a cowboy sitting on a front porch. There’s something to that. Carving allows you to escape for a while.”

An arc that members of the Pikes Peak Whittlers created and donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado. Each animal pair was completed by a different club member. - PIKES PEAK WHITTLERS - JOHN ARMSTRONG
  • Pikes Peak Whittlers - John Armstrong
  • An arc that members of the Pikes Peak Whittlers created and donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado. Each animal pair was completed by a different club member.

  • Pikes Peak Whittlers - John Armstrong
  • Trout by Ernesto Norte.

Armstrong had made a hobby of making and playing Native American flutes when a club member discovered him and invited him to a meeting as a presenter. He’s whittled everything from sticks and gnomes to more southwest style pieces.

“You get interested in different things as you go along,” he says.

Founded in 1982, the club has around 30 active members, with between 50 and 60 in total. $20 a year gets you a family membership.
A Friendship Stick made by Pikes Peak Whittlers members. The project was led by vice president Kristine Harris. - PIKES PEAK WHITTLERS - JOHN ARMSTRONG
  • Pikes Peak Whittlers - John Armstrong
  • A Friendship Stick made by Pikes Peak Whittlers members. The project was led by vice president Kristine Harris.

“If you show people how to carve, you’re more likely to get them to interact,” Armstrong says.

To help counter the idea that woodcarving is seen as a dying art, Armstrong says the club looks to get young people involved by showing them what can be done with wood.

“We’ll often give (kids) little knick-knacks,” he said. “And maybe a week from then, they’ll see it again and think ‘I’d like to do that.’”

But why, with all of today’s technology, pursue whittling as a hobby?

“For me, it’s the carving itself,” Armstrong says. “And if you get to a troubling place, you can show it to five or six other people and get their ideas on how to solve the problem.”

“We’re very supportive of each other. You’ll probably get more tips than you actually need.”

Construction Workers by Steve Gurnett, which has won both Peoples' Choice and Carvers' Choice awards. - PIKES PEAK WHITTLERS - JOHN ARMSTRONG
  • Pikes Peak Whittlers - John Armstrong
  • Construction Workers by Steve Gurnett, which has won both Peoples' Choice and Carvers' Choice awards.

While some members are professionals and sell their creations, most become gifts or treasured living room accents.

No matter. It’s passion that motivates these carvers.

“Just because you can buy everything molded in plastic doesn’t mean you have to or should,” Armstrong says. “There’s a lot to be said for wood.”

The 34th edition of the club’s biggest event of the year, the annual Woodcarving and Woodworking Show, is May 20-21 at the Colorado Springs Shrine Club on the west side of town. Around 45 woodcarvers will be there, mostly local carvers but with some from other parts of Colorado and surrounding states, displaying their efforts with some pieces for sale, but that’s just the tip of the chisel, so to speak. Outside vendors will have books and equipment for carving while a professional woodcarver will adjudicate competitions in over 20 categories and Best in Show (along with Carvers Choice and Public Choice), add to that contests and activities for the the whole family, too.

“It’s really one of our ways to interact with the public, for people to come through and see what we’re doing,” Armstrong says.

34th Annual Woodcarving and Woodworking Show; Colorado Springs Shrine Club, 6 S. 33rd St., May 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; May 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $3 for adults, $2 for seniors (65+) and military, Free for children under 12 with a paid adult admission.

Jonathan Toman serves as the Peak Radar manager for the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. connects you to over 4,000 local events, 450 creative groups, & 350 artists — all in one beautiful website for the Pikes Peak region. Jonathan can be reached at

Click here for this month’s events. Click here to see this month’s art walk information. To sign up for the Peak Radar weekly e-blast, click here.

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