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Gregg Deal, Artist Behind New Telluride Mural Highlights the Importance of Native Representation

By Julia Caulfield

Rise  mural by Gregg Deal

Rise mural by Gregg Deal

Telluride has a new mural on Main Street. The piece, called Rise, was created by Gregg Deal, a Native artist, and member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Deal spoke with KOTO News about the mural and the importance of Indigenous representation in art and culture.

Julia Caulfield (JC): How did you get started as an artist? I know a lot of your work focuses on Indigenous identity and mixing that with pop culture, so I was also wondering if you can talk a little bit about where the inspiration for your work comes from?

Gregg Deal (GD): I’ve been doing artwork forever, to the detriment of my high school career, I spent a lot of time drawing and a lot of time creating, and I’ve been fortunate enough to come into contact with people who have helped me along in figuring out those things. It’s not just the craft, it’s also the message and the voice that comes out in it. As a Native person, those voices are always there. I would even go so far as to say they’re kind of always there for every Native person in one way or another, and so it becomes trying to figure out the way to manifest that into the work in a way that makes sense, and in a way that’s comprehensive for anybody, and how to enact change in the understanding of Native people in our own homeland.

JC: The mural in Telluride is your piece called Rise. It’s a portrait of a young, Native woman with her eyes looking up to the sky and the word “rise” above her head. What was the process like of creating the piece and how did you come up with the production of it?

GD: Well, first and foremost that’s my oldest daughter. She’s thirteen and for some reason when I use her face, or illustrate her face, she’s older than she looks. There’s also some deliberate use in using a woman in those ways as well. The sort of resurgence and understanding of the importance of Indigenous women in our communities and also the way Indigenous women have traditionally and are still often victimized in ways that are horrific, sexual assault, and there’s a huge issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Indian Country right now, and an effort to try to help people understand that that’s a really serious thing that’s happening and affecting our communities. But amidst all that, I wanted to create something that was a little more general, something that anybody could connect with, that is appropriate with the political and social climate of today. Sometimes “rise” could be a political call, but “rise” could also just be something as simple as ‘get up this morning and go do good, do better than you did yesterday, and continue to move forward’. She is Indigenous and there are some aspects of the image that point to that, but they might not be very obvious to other people, and I did that on purpose because I think that it’s incredibly important to sometimes understand that there’s a general message that applies to all these things, that are rooted in Indigeneity, but also can be things that exist amidst other people.

JC: There are people who might not have a lot of experience with Native people, or culture, outside of portrayals that we see in the media. To you, does that change the piece at all, or what your trying to say with it, or the importance of it?

GD: No, not at all. In terms of a white audience, versus an Indigenous audience, the truth is its still Indian land, traditional Indian land, which means that is the homeland of Indigenous People. So, representation and inclusion of Indigenous faces, and Indigenous bodies, and Indigenous issues, it should be, and can be everywhere because it’s something that affects these places. The narrative that has been given to the majority of Americans about our existence is very much rooted in falsehoods, and romanticism, and stereotype and so in my mind to have something that not only is Indigenous, but speaks to modern Indigenous existence, and to put those in plain sight, I think is incredibly powerful.

JC: There’s obviously going to be some people coming through Telluride for the weekend and maybe see the piece once or twice, and then there’s people who live here year round and walk past it almost every day. What do you hope that people get from looking at the piece?

GD: I think it’s a very simple call to action that is ambiguous enough that it can apply to a lot of different things. But I think - just like any piece of art, public art, murals, and even museums that hold art, and galleries that show art - that these become places of reflection and solitude; that there’s a sense of ownership that goes to those things. I hope that folks feel a sense of ownership to that.

JC: Well, Gregg, thank you so much for taking that time to speak with me today about the mural that just went up in Telluride.

GD: Thanks for talking to me.

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Gregg Deal’s Rise mural is part of Mountainfilm and will be up for the next year.

Valley Floor Education Day Pairs Learning with the Local Environment

By Julia Caulfield

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It’s a cool spring morning with a light breeze. Birds are chirping as ninety kindergartners, 1st, and 2nd graders are piling onto the Valley Floor after walking from the elementary school. The forecasted rain and show are holding off for the moment, but by the end of the morning a wintery mix is pelting down, making the whole experience a notably colder one.

The students are on a field trip for the 2nd annual Valley Floor Education Day. Over the course of about two hours, they rotate through four different stations to learn about different parts of the ecosystem – from pond, to river, to willows, to forest. Surrounded by the sound of the rushing San Miguel River, wind blowing through the trees, and birds singing, the banging of construction equipment is the only real reminder that we’re a just a short walk from town.

“The Valley Floor is our backyard, so that’s where we should be educating kids…” says Sarah Holdbrooke, the Executive Director of the Pinhead Institute.

Valley Floor Education Day is a collaboration between the Pinhead Institute, Sheep Mountain Alliance, and the Telluride Institute’s Watershed Education Program.

Holbrooke says, beyond being in Telluride’s backyard, there are multiple reasons to bring kids onto the Valley Floor.

“I mean number one just exercise, right? ... Secondly, my gosh, what a beautiful valley we have, so even if all they do is enjoy the few wild flowers that are growing now, or see the clouds coming in and enjoy that, or notice the threatening weather about to descend on us, that’ll be a good lesson. But boy, we have amazing scientists who are devoting their time...so hopefully the kids will leave with an understanding of what ducks live on the pond, or what fish live in the river, or what you can do with willow branches, or what it’s like to spend a little mindfulness…out in nature” says Holbrooke.

The focus for Valley Floor Education Day centers around STEM learning – that’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And the stations each bring in different elements of the learning curriculum.

At the pond station students get to investigate the wildlife that lives both above and below the water. They look at birds through a scope, and get up close and personal with insects and other small organisms.

Moving on the river station they get to calculate the speed of the river by counting how long it takes for a stick to make it through the current.

Then on to willows where students learn about the Ute people and miners who lived on the Valley Floor in the past.

Finally, the forest station helps students see the connections between a health forest and a health human.

For some, this is their first time on the Valley Floor, but for 1st grader Cooper Zimmermann? This is not his first trip.

“I live here, so, I’ve probably been here a lot” says Cooper.

Cooper says he likes getting to learn about the trees in the area, and learning how to tell if they’re alive or dead. But when asked what the best part is, he says it’s basically everything.

He says, “exploring all of nature and seeing what types of birds and animals there are, and just pretty much looking around.”

Cooper’s mom, Nancy Zimmermann is also on the trip to the Valley Floor. She says it’s important for young kids to come out and experience the Valley Floor because they’ll be the ones protecting it in the future.

“It’s a big part of what makes Telluride special, is this Valley Floor, and the kids growing up here will eventually be the stewards of the Valley Floor when they’re all grown up, and hopefully keep this in perpetuity and pristine conditions for generations to enjoy”, Zimmermann says.

The importance of building a connection with the land is something Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director of Sheep Mountain Alliance, acknowledges as well.

“It’s a real way to both enliven their curiosity about science and nature, and also allow them to develop a sense of place, and develop a connection to the place they’re growing up,” says Tuddenham.

The snow and rain keep the second half of the K-2 students from coming out to the Valley Floor for the afternoon, but don’t worry, they’ll get their chance as soon as the weather clears up.

May 9th is Valley Floor Day. This year celebrates the 12th anniversary of the Valley Floor becoming open space.

Job Fair Attracts Eager Youths

By Julia Caulfield

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The Wilkinson Library is buzzing with anticipation, excitement, and maybe a few nerves. True North Youth Programs – along with the library – is hosting the 2nd annual Teen Summer Jobs Fair. Twenty employers from around Telluride and Mountain Village are in the Program Room to meet with nearly fifty young people looking for work for the summer.

“It’s as much of a teen event as a community event. We’re such a small town it’s really important to have everybody on the same page, so having employers who are willing to participate and help these teens realize, this could be their first job, this is a big deal. While helping groom them for bigger and better things after high school or even college,” says Loren Knobbe, program director for True North Youth Program.

The organization works to help teens prepare for adulthood through tutoring and service learning programs.

“Finding those opportunities for both employers and students in our community is really important, and it’s a great way for everybody to come together and help each other out,” says Knobbe.

But the job fair isn’t only an opportunity for teens to meet with potential employers. There are also a number of breakout session that help prepare them for the job hunt. Sessions include things like a resume building workshop, job etiquette, interview tips and tricks, and mock interviews.

Aiden Ingram is 15, and came in from Norwood for the fair. He’s hoping to work as a life guard this summer and says the mock interviews were especially helpful.

Ingram says, “it was giving me more of an insight on what to look for in an interview.”

Maya Geiger agrees. She’s also 15 and came to the job fair last year as well. She says having the extra workshops has been a bonus.

“I feel like this year is more helpful because they have more ways for you to learn how to communicate with people who are interested in hiring you,” says Geiger.

According to Tiffany Osborn, that’s exactly the point. Osborn works as a service specialist at the library and teamed up with True North to develop the job fair after hearing from teens that businesses wouldn’t hire them.

“And then you talk to employers and they say ‘oh, we hire teens, but they need some training’ … I hope they learn how to have a job and advocate for themselves and be a good employee, and be respectful, and learn how to work. We don’t want them to go to college and go, ‘I’ve never had a job before, and this is the first time I’m ever walking into anything’ or get to college and say ‘oh my gosh, my parents said I need to make my own money, what do I do now’? We want them to have some experience, some experience of talking to people, looking people in the eye, speaking…” says Osborn.

And when all those skills line up, Sue Coons, HR Director for the town of Mountain Village, says local teens can be the perfect employees. She’s at the job fair looking for teens to work as gondola attendants for the summer.

Coons says, “gondola attendants from the high school are some of the best candidates we have because they know the area so well and they’re great at providing guest service for all our visitors, home owners, and guests.”

While the summer job fair is over, True North Youth Programs continues to provide weekly college and career prep support at the Telluride High School. More information is available at truenorthyouthprogram.org.

Local Paramedic Discusses Relief Efforts in Africa

By Cara Pallone

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Tropical Cyclone Idai was one of the most powerful storms to ever hit Africa. Flooding has affected nearly 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe since rains began in early March and Idai struck March 14 and 15. The death toll exceeds 800 people and many more are missing.

Now, as flood waters recede, survivors are struggling to obtain food, clean water, shelter, and medical attention.

One local Telluride woman was dispatched to help.

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Heidi Attenberger has served as a paramedic with the Telluride Fire Protection District since 2004, and she’s also a volunteer with Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon is a nonprofit disaster response organization that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans and first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

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Attenberger traveled on a volunteer mission to Africa last month with hardly a day's notice. She returned April 5. In this interview, she talks about her experiences on the front lines, previous disaster relief efforts she's been involved with, and how one person can make a different. 

Learn more about Team Rubicon and its mission by visiting teamrubiconusa.org.