Building Relationships Through Art in Greeley, Colorado

As a longtime artist, teacher, and active member of the Greeley community, Colette Pitcher has seen the importance of art in the community—and of community in art.

Born and raised in Greeley, Colette earned her bachelor’s degree in art at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). After graduating she moved to New York, working in Manhattan for a time, including a stint working for children’s book author Mercer Mayer and designing computer games for the Commodore 64.

While in New York she earned her master’s degree in business at West Point through the University of Long Island. After several years in New York, she returned to Greeley. In fact, she moved into her current farmhouse “temporarily—40 years ago,” she says, laughing.

Forty years later, she and her husband Gary live on a farm outside Greeley, and her ties with the Greeley art community reach across organizations and events. She was the gallery coordinator for UNC’s Mari Michener Gallery for four decades, curating exhibits and bringing artists to the gallery to create a connecting point for the UNC community and Greeley. She taught art at UNC as an adjunct professor, has juried national art shows, and written books that include Painting for Dummies and Acrylics for Dummies.

As a board member for the Greeley Art Association, Colette is actively involved in the Greeley Stampede Western Art Exhibition and the Greeley Arts Picnic. Over the years she’s seen the Greeley arts community come into its own and says a lot of the growth started with the development of the Greeley Creative District.

“That really gave some cohesion,” she says, noting the changes downtown. “It’s been great to see it grow and gain momentum. It really has been revitalized.” She added that the Greeley Art Commission, which works to bring art into the community and public spaces, has also helped to energize art in Greeley.

Colette works across many mediums including watercolor, oil, acrylics, pastels, and sculpture. A member of Plein Air Artists Colorado, her love for the natural world and the west comes out clearly in the artwork lining the walls of her classroom in the Showcase Art Center, the 8th Avenue shop she’s owned for about 30 years.

Appropriately, it was a business that began with social roots.

“My dad used to have coffee with Carol Kreps’ dad, and our dads put us together,” Colette said. Carol had been working for Old America, an arts and crafts and framing store, and when it went out of business, Carol and Colette collaborated, bringing their framing and art experience together. The Showcase is now a frame shop, art gallery, art supply shop, studio, and classroom.

During the pandemic Colette pivoted from in-studio classes to online classes. It’s something she continues, and she has produced more than 276 video classes. She works to bring artists in as guest teachers and offers opportunities—like an online national conference in August called “Pastel Live”—to students to broaden their experience.

But the virtual component of her classes doesn’t take away from the in-person community and atmosphere. The Showcase is a space that feels welcoming, creative, and vibrant, and it’s become home to artists who come to learn, socialize, and care for each other. Colette says the group has helped each other through illnesses, loss, and grief, painting cards for each other and offering support.

As Colette explained how her online classes are set up so that both in-person and online students can participate, artist Clifford Bailey stopped in to say hello. Clifford also lives on a farm outside of Greeley, rendering Colorado landscapes that grace corporate offices, collectors’ walls, and galleries. He has a studio at the Showcase and is one of a number of Greeley-area artists who have connected with Colette at the center.

And it’s the social and community connectedness—through art—that Colette says she is most proud of when she looks back at her work.

“It’s the relationship building,” she said. “I love teaching my class. Most of (the students) are retired. Many are nurses and past teachers. And yeah, I teach them to paint, and yes, they’re good at painting. But it really becomes more of a social experience and a friendship group. They look out for each other.”

To learn more about the Greeley arts community, check out the Greeley Art Association, come to Greeley’s 44th Arts Picnic July 29th and 30th, and explore the Greeley Creative District.

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Copyright 2024 City of Greeley  |  A City Achieving Community Excellence  |  Privacy  |  ADA Policy