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Scenes from the Valley light up downtown Denver

Westcliffe artist Andy Mast was present on Friday evening, December 30, for the preview of his images for Peace in Solitude being projected onto the historic Daniels and Fisher Tower on Denver’s 16th Street Mall. “This has been a yearlong project,” Mast told us last week; when he finally saw the rather monumental display of his pencil art pieces, he says “my heart almost stopped!”

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His images take about three minutes of the eight minute projected exhibit, cycling every Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight for the month of January. The unique show is in conjunction with the Western Stock Show and Rodeos, which opened this week and runs through January 22.

Mast, who works only in pencil, quietly in his studio in Westcliffe’s Grandma’s House, modestly says that adapting his work to this highly technical medium “wasn’t easy.”

He credits his business assistant Robin Sweet for bringing the project to fruition—from having presented his work to the Night Lights Denver directors, to designing his work to fit the mask of the tower wall. Sweet’s expertise in photography, design, and the appropriate technologies used in the projection was the element needed to fit his usually gallery-wall-hung renderings to the mask of the 325-foot slender tower, with all its nooks and crannies, and meeting “the very high criterion” for the show. “It took some time to get it right,” Mast says, with a smile—for example, he didn’t want a horse’s eye to be lost to the viewer by falling into a window well.

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Even though the preparation for the month-long projection was demanding of new creativity on his and Sweet’s part, Mast says, “It doesn’t feel like ‘work.’ ” It has simply been part of his ordinary passion, although now shared in a rather extraordinary staging.

Mast’s project has garnered notice on a wider scale than the 16th Street Mall; he and his tower images have been the subject of recent news articles in Art of the West and Western Art Collector. In April, he will have a full spread in Western Art and Architecture. While he gains more attention, Mast remains grounded in his immediate Amish community here and in Ohio, and in the local community support that has gathered around him here in the Valley. “I wouldn’t be where I am just by myself,” he notes; “I am very grateful to the community, and give God the glory…each and every one has enabled me to do what I’m called to do.”

Fittingly, a member of the local community dropped in to join us in Mast’s studio while we were exploring this current, massive project. Luke Hooks, one of the owner operators of Factory Fitness (cf. page six), came in to reminisce with Mast about their connection seven years ago or so, when Hooks served as a driver for Mast and other Amish families here. Hooks had visited with Mast in Ohio, staying on the farm with his family, and saw one of his better known pieces, “Spirit of the Valley,” when it was a work in progress there after Mast’s first summer here in the Valley. Hooks mused on how his friend had “come a long way.”

A long way, indeed. About 700,000 folks are expected for the Stock Show, and Night Lights Denver is hoping many of them will take in the nightly tower projections. Some of the viewers though, will be from other cities with similar projection art projects; it is possible that Mast’s work may be of interest to these directors as well. His is the first pictorial work to be projected in Denver; previous shows have been graphic and/or abstract designs.

Mast’s hopes for the show are more modest. “I know a lot of local people go to the Stock Show, so I hope everyone of them takes time to go to the 16th Street Mall for the projections.” He is modest by nature, even while engaged in what the project director regards as “pioneering” in American Western art. “Well, yes,” Mast assents, “this has never been done before, and it is trailblazing in Western art…” And then he again expresses gratitude for his Amish roots and community, acknowledging that it is new for them as well, while they have nurtured him along the way to this benchmark event in his career. “There is so much of God’s glory everywhere,” Mast concludes, “and it’s so easy to miss…I’m striving to highlight some of these moments.”

If you can’t get to the Mall these January evenings, at least drop in at for an overview of Mast’s spectacular show; his work is on view of course in his Westcliffe gallery and studio, as well as on his personal website

– W.A. Ewing

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