ZG ORIGINALS: The Birth of Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Historical Ranch Photo

Anderson Ranch Arts Center is an absolute gem that, for some, flies under the radar in the Roaring Fork Valley. Located in a quiet corner of Snowmass Village, the ranch offers an idyllic setting for art enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels to hone their craft and engage in meaningful dialogue. With a strong focus on creating a tight knit community from international attendance, Anderson Ranch now offers over 55,000 square feet of design space across eight disciplines that include: Ceramics, Digital Fabrication, Sculpture, Furniture Design & Woodworking, Woodturning, Painting & Drawing, Printmaking, and Photography & New Media. But like many things in the Roaring Fork Valley, it was born of humble beginnings. 

Ceramist Paul Soldner, a true ZG Original in his own right, founded Anderson Ranch in the 1960s with the intention of creating an alternative to degree-focused art programs offered at colleges across the country. As he put it simply, “It is a center, not a school. We’re different.” The core values espoused by Soldner and his contemporaries, photographer Cherie Hiser, clay sculptor Peter Voulkos, woodworker Sam Maloof and many others, still carry forth today and include: small class sizes to allow for student-faculty attention and access, 24/7 studio access, a focus on art as a way of life and a professional path and the value of giving more than you take as you create things for others to enjoy.

Paul Soldner Ceramics Workshop


Paul Soldner leading a ceramics workshop

PC: Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Paul Soldner first came to Aspen in the 1950s after serving in WWII as a medic and then earning a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts. As one of the first artists to use clay in a truly creative way, his MFA show put him at the forefront of an artistic movement. Arriving in Aspen at the time the Aspen Idea was really coming to life, Soldner and his wife Ginny were quickly engulfed in the Mind, Body, Spirit movement of the 1950s and 60s. Soldner is remembered by Former Anderson Ranch director Brad Miller as a “creative soul, who is one of Aspen's last true eccentrics.”

When the original developers of Snowmass Village offered up an under-used ranch along Brush Creek, Soldner and his peers jumped at the opportunity to create Anderson Ranch and house it in the empty barns on the property. Over the first two decades, the Ranch continued to collect additional farm and ranch buildings throughout the property, renovating agricultural spaces into purposeful studios and workshops as they added programs in different disciplines. They even physically moved barns and other ranch buildings from other parts of the valley onto the Anderson Ranch property to help create the eclectic setting that still exists today.

Marbrook Cabin en route to Anderson Ranch

The Marbrook Cabin en route to Anderson Ranch

PC: Anderson Ranch Arts Center 

What started with Tuesday Night Potlucks where local artists would come together at the Ranch in the spirit of community quickly led to an established Visiting Artist series. By 1980 the Ranch had evolved from sleepy summer workshops to a dynamic year-round center for the arts and was sending promotional mailers to thousands of people across the country. The ‘80s brought several key milestones including the first Children’s Art Program and the launch of the Artists in Residency Program, bringing Anderson Ranch into the forefront of the international contemporary art scene…