Masks at MoA: Carrying on Traditions of NOCO Art

Masks at MoA 2021; art by Mark J Rosoff (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt


I remember Horizons Gallery.

It was a small, but stylish haven for art on Oak Street when Fort Collins was only about one-fourth the size it is today.

Specifically, I was there in the summer of 1983 for a “mixed media performance” created by Wyoming writer and photographer Jim Weis, featuring the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Taro Yamasaki.

The event illustrates how even a small art gallery can become a de facto cultural center.

Horizons Gallery of Contemporary Art didn’t stay small for long thanks to the vision and activism of founder Roz Spencer. She was a force of artistic nature with the drive and moxie to make things happen.

Horizons soon moved to the old Fort Collins power plant to become the Powerplant Visual Arts Center. The new space offered the opportunity to not only feature up-to-the-minute regional art in a cool environment but also made room for more events — like a multi-media, multi-conceptual event called “Blastogenesis.”

I also remember one warm summer evening relaxing with my young daughter on the Powerplant lawn, listening to a local band.

The ambitious art scene Spencer had stirred up found a permanent home with a move to the old Fort Collins post office building — and a name change again to One West Contemporary Art Center.

Again, this naturally became a cultural center that featured art and events. One West was the very first gig for my performing group, TVS and two fingers, for the very first First Night celebration. It was packed with art lovers.

The building situation settled, One West eventually made a name change to Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, then to its current moniker, Fort Collins Museum of Art. No matter what it’s called, the line points directly back to that nice, cozy gallery where it all started, just a stone’s throw away from its current proud home.

Masks at MoA 2021; Photo by Tim Van Schmidt

It’s 2021, and the Fort Collins Museum of Art continues the traditions started at Horizons so many years ago by featuring regional art. In fact, there is no better time to see the wide breadth of northern Colorado artistic creativity than now.

The current show is the 17th edition of the museum’s signature event, the “Masks Fundraiser & Exhibition.”

Blank masks were distributed to area artists to create art with and 219 have been collected together into an exhibit that highlights, piece after piece, just how imaginative NOCO artists are.

The masks are an open door for artists to express themselves as well as a money-maker for the museum. The pieces are donated by the artists and are up for auction to help the museum’s efforts to display art, host events as well as provide educational opportunities. You can bid on stuff online or go to the museum for an in-person visit.

Fort Collins Museum of Art hosted a show of Andy Warhol prints in 2014; Photo by Tim Van Schmidt

I went in person and was glad I did. Every mask has a different texture to it and how they stand out from the wall, how they catch the light, how they look in the midst of a colorful crowd are all hard things to get from a photo.

I was struck by the wide diversity of expression — dreamy, humorous, insightful; about the virus, current events, social issues; fantasies, abstractions, and just general artistic tinkering.

I noticed a strong natural element to the exhibit as a whole, as in nature seems to call to many of the artists, who weave in grasses and feathers, bamboo, wood, and wool as well as feature animal and floral, tree, and leaf imagery.

It was great to see all of this in one place — stunning, really.

Stand out pieces for me — and this is just me, right? — included:

Joyce Crane’s “Corona”

Renee Giovando’s “Choose Hope”

Cam Elvheim’s “Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut”

Bob Coonts “Blue Legged Horsetooth Crab”

Mark Rosoff’s “2020”

Danny Feig-Sandoval’s “Stick With It”

Sandy Arvidson’s “2020 Vision”

Lily Jordan-Marweg’s “Vibrant Shatter”

Jane Barber’s “Resilience”

Debby Widolf’s “Stand with Us”

Anne Marie Martinez’s “The Mad Hatter 2020”

Angela Goldfain’s “Spring Hope”

Is it unfair to make these shout-outs? Absolutely, but I want these artists to know I particularly enjoyed their work. There’re lots of other great pieces as well and you can vote for your favorites by checking it out yourself. It’s a rich and provoking experience.

Get more info at Yes, you have to wear a mask to visit the mask exhibit. Here are the COVID Guidelines at MoA:

-A 50 person max limit in the museum at any one time.

-Masks are mandatory for all visitors.

-No time slot registration required.

The bidding on the masks continues until June 20.

Vintage Horizons Gallery flyer circa 1983

What started at Horizons Gallery so long ago is at the apex of the regional art scene today. The “Masks” show is Exhibit A in terms of how much support it has — hundreds of artists and a place to make them come alive.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Explore his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”


Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

BONUS - Donors get a link in their receipt to sign up for our once-per-week instant text messaging alert. Get your e-copy of North Forty News the moment it is released!

Click to Donate