Rio Costilla Studio Tour showcases diverse talent of the area


Photos by Diane Drekmann Artists from San Luis, Garcia, Jaroso, and Costilla opened their galleries to the public during the Rio Costilla Studio Tour on Sept. 23-24. Some of the artists were set up in the newly renovated theater of the San Luis Cultural and Heritage Center. Karen Alhgren is one of the founders of the Rio Costilla Studio Tour. She has been painting for 34 years. Sarah Welch, who lives in Jaroso, has a pottery studio, and participated in the Rio Costilla Studio Tour on Sept. 23-24.

COSTILLA COUNTY — The arts were featured the weekend of Sept. 23-24. Crisp sparkling fall weather welcomed those interested in the 23rd Rio Costilla Studio Tour.

Artists from San Luis, Garcia, Jaroso, and Costilla opened their galleries to showcase their work and bring attention to the wealth of talent in the San Luis Valley.

San Luis Town Manager Susan Sanderford, herself an artist, organized the event this year, along with one of the original founders of the event, Karen Ahlgren.

Ahlgren met the other founding member Anita McDaniel of Jaroso in 1998. Together they discussed having an art tour. McDaniel has since moved away. There was no tour in 2020 because of COVID-19. Ahlgren organized the tour by herself in 2021 and 2022. She was approached by Sanderford for this year's tour. The tour began in San Luis. Sanderford is also spearheading an art co-op the last Saturday of each month.

Several artists were in the newly renovated theater of the San Luis Cultural and Heritage Center. Elizabeth Keefner works with watercolor, oil, and acrylics. This is her first time on the tour.

Ulamaguta Astraea or Ula makes unique macrame pieces.

"I like using barbed wire, reclaimed wood" and uses those pieces to create wire jewelry, farm photos with bits of barbed wire with frames made of reclaimed wood, Ula said. "It makes it unique and gives it character."

People seem to like his "earrings and photo magnets. Here in San Luis since June 2022, Ula is a welcome addition to the growing art community.

Cindy Connetto, who also paints acrylics, is one of the original members of the art co-op.

Helen Ashby plies a different art — the art of massage. She offers massage therapy on a sliding scale. Recently moved from New Mexico, Ashby hopes to be in the building Darryl Garcia is restoring.

Ashby hopes to have a yoga studio, spinning classes, as well as massage therapy.

Bonnie Gehrig had beautiful, unusual mosaics. She hails from Wild Horse Mesa outside of San Luis.

Jacales Fine Art Gallery in San Luis, owned by the Maestas family, was also part of the Rio Costilla tour. They will have their grand opening from 3 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 30. Their gallery features artwork from the Maestas family and work from local artists.

Ahlgren is well known for her colorful paintings of animals. Ahlgren always loved animals, drawing and painting.

"I dedicated my life at 13 or 14 years old to protect animals and give them a voice," she said. She worked in the movie industry for 13 years.

Ahlgren spent her spare time painting. One day a man bought a few unframed paintings and brought them to an art gallery.

"The gallery owner wanted me to do a one woman show," she said.

It was then Ahlgren decided, "I want to be an artist. I didn't know anything. But I gave up my union card. I had to make it. (34 years later) I'm still painting and loving it."

She prefers watercolors and using gouache — a technique using paper — "the color changes a little bit, stays the same wet or dry."

Sarah Welch lives off the beaten path in Jaroso but has a successful art studio specializing in pottery. Her husband, Michael Schraud, makes musical instruments, including an unusual harp-like instrument called a kora.

Welch felt, "Susan Sanderford did a good job organizing (the event)."

Welch sells her wares mainly online through sites like Etsy. She also sells wholesale to stores, restaurants, and bars. They go to a big arts festival in Oregon each year. Their work can also be found in an art gallery in Taos, N.M.

Steve Gomez came from Taos, N.M., six years ago and found a 100-year-old house in Costilla where he displays his landscape paintings. This was his first time on the Rio Costilla Studio Tour. He has been painting part-time for about 20 years. Now retired, Gomez spends his time painting and renovating his house.

Christina Hernandez Feldewert does straw applique to create unique pieces of art.

"You cut ribbons of straw into long strips. Then you flatten the straw, crosscut to get the diamond shape,” she said. She combines straw and wood and then attaches it to a tin frame.

Hernandez Feldewert added, "that it is an old Spanish craft."

She had been a tinsmith for 28 years and started incorporating straw in 2006. Her work can be found in the Spanish Market in Santa Fe, N.M., and in contemporary markets.

They live in Santa Fe, N.M., and have property in Amalia and were invited by Ahlgren to be part of the Rio Costilla Studio Tour.

"It was a wonderful experience,” they said.

A lady named Hannah opened her house to Hernandez Feldewert and two other artists for the tour.

Rounding out the tour were Cordy Lujan does acrylic paintings; Georgia Venne's specialty is photography, as well as acrylics; and David Satrun and Nancy de Herrera Crochet.