Coinciding with the largest gathering of outdoor industry leaders in North America, this weekend is an art show and a series of free discussions presented at the small but impactful Understudy artistic incubator. Trade School, as the exhibition is titled, was imagined by Denver-based Something Independent and brought to life by the Denver Theatre District and the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industries. The goal is to add a dimension to outdoor recreation and connect the artists, entrepreneurs, athletes and advocates who not only enjoy the wilderness, but also participate in activism geared at sustaining wild things for future enthusiasts. Though Trade School opened on Wednesday, January 24 there is an entire weekend of scheduled talks and lectures that are free and open to the public.
“Against the backdrop of the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, Trade School connects us to the mindset and motivations of those choosing to carve their path in and around this industry,” said Chuck Sullivan, co-founder of Something Independent. “Their work, the kind that keeps one up at night and gets one out of bed before first light, is inherently personal and often collaborative.”
This weekend’s discussions at Trade School will be centered around inspiring and educating those who are passionate about the outdoor industry. Panelists will include people from a broad range of groups— the founders of Icelantic Skis, members of the Next100 Coalition, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado— and working around the theme “the nature of work,” three artists created a backdrop for the temporary classroom.
All three artists are obviously and deeply influenced by nature and the outdoors— Sarah Uhl, John Fellows and Jack Ludlam. Uhl is a painter and illustrator who channels her love of the natural world into watercolored vistas and slightly abstract landscapes. She has created custom illustrations for REI, Outdoor Research, Prana, American Alpine Club and more. Fellows creates “contemporary folk art” that skillfully blends block printing with collaging, utilizing paper and maps dating back to the 1880s. Ludlam is a photographer who uses film and black rooms to develop images of people who work with their hands, whom he considers “makers.”
Sullivan commented about artists like Uhl, Fellows and Ludlam. “[Their work is] fueled by passion and purpose. You see it reflected in those melding their work and their love for the outdoors. There’s a grit and resilience in their mindset. Their approach to work looks bold, principled and committed. And, there’s a trickle-down effect to this.”
For Trade School, the three artists collaborated to decorate the interior of Understudy, finding similarities in their work with woodgrains, mountains and topography.
Wednesday’s talks focused on “Maintaining Soul through Growth” with Topo Designs, Burton and Oskar Blues Brewery. Thursday’s events included a timely talk with the “Crazy 8” who are heading Outdoor Recreation state offices in Utah, Colorado, Washington, Wyoming, Vermont, Montana, Oregon and North Carolina and ended with a discussion on “Energy and the Outdoors.” With the convergence of the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show and Trade School, Understudy has been bursting at the seams with a crowd more often seen on the slopes and trails, rather than the normal art crowd.
“We all have a deep love of the outdoors. It’s part of what makes us who we are,” reported Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “The outdoor industry is rapidly emerging as an influential voice in important conversations around economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce development, as well as public health and wellness.
Keep in mind that seating is limited when attending one of the events this weekend.
The remaining schedule of events is as follows:
Friday, January 26
8 a.m. Inclusion in the Outdoors
10:30 a.m. – Water in Crisis: Will the Outdoor Industry Take the Lead?
12 p.m. – Millennial Leaders: Not Your Mother’s Panel
3 p.m. – Sentinels of the Shack: The Quiet Work of Patrol with National Ski Patrol
Saturday, January 27
10 a.m. – Prescribe Adventure
11:30 a.m. – Tools of the Trade: A Live Juicy Bits Podcast
1 p.m. – Backstage with Icelantic’s Winter on the Rocks
2:30 p.m. – Shifting Tides: Art + Industry + Advocacy (with artists Uhl, Fellows and Ludlam)
4 p.m. – Beers After School
Sunday, January 28
10 a.m. – Idaho Springs: Mining the Future – A conversation on building resilient communities with RapidGrass Bluegrass Festival, The Argo Mine & Mill and the Something Independent OutPost
11 a.m. – Easy Like Sunday Morning: A Live Acoustic Set with Mark and Sarah Morris
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