STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Like so many others living in Steamboat Springs, Richard Galusha has lived a life of scrambling through three, four, or five jobs at a time. But what sets him apart is that each job has been a successful and influential career, both separate and connected to each other.
Galusha is an artist, gallery owner, art teacher and museum founder, and he has designed an exhibition representing these varied positions across 35 years of his paintings, which opens Friday, December 6 at the Steamboat Art Museum.
Galusha grew up on a ranch in West Texas, where he loved to draw horses. After serving in the Navy, during which he painted and sketched his voyages, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He arrived at Steamboat in 1986 and landed a job teaching art at Steamboat Springs High School showing a painting he had made of his mother. He taught there for nearly two decades.
Every morning, Galusha would get up at 4 a.m. to paint – vivid colors with an impressionist style, depicting outdoor landscapes, wild animals and portraits – until it was time to head to high school .
For 10 years, Galusha also taught painting and character drawing at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.
“What I would learn in the studio is what I would teach them in the classroom,” said Galusha. “I have always taught what I know.
After school he would come home and do “little things”: read art history in his library of art books, prepare for tomorrow.
“I would always rather be fresh, jump in a painting, than tired and jump in a painting,” said Galusha.
During many years of vacation in the spring, summer and winter, Galusha and his wife, Shirley Stocks, who is also an artist, stayed home and painted rather than taking a vacation. They have organized individual art exhibitions at the Depot Art Center.
They then spent time traveling the world. They painted their way through the Canadian Rockies, through Tanzania and Kenya, through the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini and through the English countryside.
In 1998, Galusha and Stocks first opened the Wild Horse Gallery.
“Because I own the gallery, I practically painted the subject I wanted to paint (rather than just what I thought I could sell),” said Galusha.
He notes that the only downside to owning and exhibiting his work in the same space was that painting time was sometimes interrupted by the need to be at the front of the gallery.
“There are pros and cons – you get the most out of what you have,” Galusha said. “It was living the life of an artist.
In 2005, Galusha retired from teaching, but he didn’t slow down for a second. In 2006, he and Stocks became founding members of the Steamboat Art Museum, with Stocks as the curator and Galusha suspended them.
“I hung all the shows except one,” he said, “when I was in Italy”.
The time and effort that both give to the museum is their way of giving back to the community, said Galusha. The museum will also house Galusha’s retrospective exhibition until April.
“I’m the police station for the last show (Shirley),” Galusha said. “She retired two years ago.
The exhibition features around 80 paintings from Galusha’s entire career, most of them on loan from several private collections across the country. Many show the outdoor scenes around Galusha’s Hahns Peak Village home: wild flowers, mountains, lakes, poplars. Others show Rabbit Ears Pass and Fish Creek Falls. A period of Western art depicts large landscape paintings and a period of travel shows Botswana, Kanmandu, the Caribbean, and Yosemite, among others. Another wall is entirely decorated with portraits.
“(The participants) will see a variety of topics, how I reacted to the landscapes, and they will see things and bits and pieces,” said Galusha.
“(Tuesday), when I walked in on my own to absorb all of the work, I was comforted and delighted,” said Chris Gallion, director of communications and special events at the Steamboat Art Museum. “I felt like I was surrounded by the scenery we all love.”
Next door, in SAM’s Cole Verploeg Youth Gallery, is an addition to the exhibit that instantly adds another dimension to both the past and the future. Framed pieces from a generation of art students at Steamboat Springs High School in Galusha and CMC, collected from the artists themselves and dating back to 1986, hang in the gallery. Several of the artists now have their own successful artistic careers.
“A lot of kids are told they can’t be successful in the art world,” said Galusha, “and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s all there – you just need you grasping knowledge Much of this is outside the classroom.
He recommends that art students also train in the business aspect of art.
“It means a lot to all of us at the museum as one of our very basic and important goals is to provide arts education as well as great exhibits,” said Gallion. “It really comes full circle.”
“The Richard Galusha: An Artist’s Journey” retrospective opens at the Steamboat Art Museum on Friday December 6 and will run until April 11, 2020. An opening reception with Galusha is scheduled from 5 pm to 8 pm on Friday December 6 , with additional events in February and March.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.