Alma Shoaf

    Nestled in the North Fork Valley, to the west of the draped wound of the Rocky Mountains, is the town of Paonia. It is well over a mile in elevation, has a population under 2,000, and it is surrounded, cut and besieged by railroads, fruit orchards, coal mines and cattle farms. While it’s possible that the botanist Terence McKenna may have opened a vortex (of what kind, no one seems aware) in the basement of what once was the General Electric building, now the home of Elsewhere Studios, it is certain that mountain lions, bears and coyotes do walk the mesas in watchful hunt… although, to a visitor like myself, they are very nearly as invisible as McKenna’s alleged vortex.

 I had never visited Colorado, although as a huge fan in college of the “Denver Music Scene”, I had a great want to. Those seem now like childish fantasies filled with Stetsons, whiskey swigging, and crooning to Jay Munly’s off-beat banjo thrashing. In contrast, my one-month residency in Paonia was very real, and perhaps one of the most sobering and grounding experiences of my increasingly adult life. I found the kind of solitude that a recluse like myself only dreams of, and was able to weave connections with a thread that I believe will continue to send vibrations in every direction for a long time to come.

 Arriving for my residency took a tad bit of effort, as I hate flying and knew that I would miss my cat terribly (and my partner, too). It took me a good bit of the first week to quell my anxiety and wiggle into my space, ripping the first few pencil lines out of myself like a baby tooth dangling on its last thread of flesh. But, of course, it got easier. And easier. Until I found myself trapped in the studio past midnight by my own newly-industrious hand (I am not normally a night worker). By the end I had created one of my favorite drawings I’ve ever made, I think. It will, no doubt, become one of those incongruencies in which my assertion of its quality will be met with a resounding breath of indifference at best, perhaps a universal “meh”, but so it usually goes.

Since returning home, I find I am still staring down the lengths of ditches and creeks, noticing rocks and the odd plastic bag skipping with a sense of dubious freedom down the road. All the quiet, unnoticed things that I collected in my camera, sketchbook and mind in Paonia are also here, and are everywhere. The human beings that walked these same valleys long before this country was and – despite the past’s undeniable maliciousness – still do; coal miners and their memory carried into the future by their children; bones, trash, breath, metal, the most fragile, sleeping flowers – they make up the great, strange composite of America, of its history and tragedies and of the odd success along the way. It can make me sad, as my walks along the train tracks sometimes did, but in a strangely pleasant and hopeful way. It can be recorded; it can be deconstructed, reconstructed, constructive. If an artist residency is meant to give space for creation, Elsewhere gave me that in both an external and internal landscape that I hadn’t seen yet.

And I really, really, really miss Tomatoes.

Ellie Schmidt

Paonia's Potluck Season

When I first arrived to Paonia in the dark I was greeted by the holiday lights and nativity scene at the top of the hill. The town seemed sleepy but alive, the Hightower Cafe lit up from inside, people puttering around in cars and on foot. However several people during my first few days here called Paonia a "ghost town" in the winter, making me imagine summer days filled with tan people on bikes, drinking fresh juices, farm workers and migrant artists mingling alike. 

Every day during my residency I tried to escape the cozy 20 ft radius that I otherwise lived in-- I would put on my boots and wander around town, or to the river park where I would look for interesting rocks and admire all the dry and dead winter foliage. My inner self seemed to take on the spirit of my surroundings; I felt very quiet, observational without judging. In a way I felt invisible, because my stay here was so brief, but I also made it a point to say hello to everyone I passed on the sidewalk. I felt deeply free and happy, but still on the surface, maybe like a stream below a frozen crust. 

"Ghost town" as it felt during the day, Paonia came alive for us at night. I went to several potluck-style events during my month here, and people cook as if competing for an amazing prize. The food seems to be totally organic, local (if not from people's own gardens), cooked with a huge variety of creative flavors, and in stunningly copious amounts. I could almost feel the robust food heal all deficiencies from my body instantly. 

And beyond the piles of world-class food, the potlucks of Paonia introduced me to the equally high caliber and colorful humans of the area as well. I loved to see both very old people and very young people attend en masse all the potluck events-- I've never experienced this trend in a community, but how wonderful! There was sometimes dancing, sometimes games, but always meaningful conversation and a willingness to ask a stranger about her life and brief stay in Paonia. 

At the end of the potluck events in Paonia that I attended, I returned to my bunk feeling full in every sense of the word. Although I would love to experience the bustle of Paonia in the high summer, I wouldn't have traded potluck season here for anything. 

Winter Ross

Like some residents, I came to Elsewhere during a transition in my personal life. (Break up with
your partner and become homeless in the process – you know the drill!) I am grateful that Elsewhere was able to accommodate me and even graciously extend my residency at short notice. I appreciated the staff's flexibility and support. Having a home base gave me the time to plan the months ahead. This is not to say I didn't also do creative work: I'm learning to paint again after a long career as a graphic designer and fiber artist; I wrote a new piece and organized a short story collection, just as I'd proposed. I made a point of networking with other artists in Paonia and Hotchkiss. I loved the Meet and Greets to “show off”, get feedback and just plain party, which relieved the isolation one needs for studio work. I read good books, took river walks and had fun going to every cafe and creative function I could afford. And of course, I fell in love with Paonia. I also saw, up close, the challenges of funding and running a residency and despite that, I'm determined to try it myself back where I came from.

Thank you, Elsewhere, for the “home” and the inspiration.

Donna Cooper Hurt

After Being at Elsewhere Studios for a week I was tipped off by a local about the aspen trees on Kebler Pass located on the way to Crested Butte. My drive took me on a climb to over 10,000 feet. There were many places to pull off the road and take photos over the pass.  When I saw the white bark of the trees and the blazing yellows of the foliage I knew I had found an area to sink into and work. Here are a few images from my trip that day.

I was lucky to have been at Elsewhere in the month of October and experience a mild Fall with temperatures in the 60's during the day. Paonia, and the areas around did not disappoint. The landscape in this part of CO is beautiful and gave me many places to work and focus on my  performative photo series, "Communions."

Thank you Elsewhere!

Aaron Morgan Brown

One day in early September 2017, I impulsively searched for audio clips of Terence McKenna on YouTube. I was vaguely familiar with his philosophical explorations and legacy (being interested in altered states myself), and I wished to deepen my understanding of what he was about. One of the first clips I listened to, a segment taken from one of his lectures, was titled “Nature Loves Courage.”

A couple of days later, I went searching for a short term artist residency. I had a block of time to fill, and on such short notice, I didn’t expect to find anything. On the first page of my Google search, I found an unexpected opening for October at Elsewhere Studios. I applied immediately, and was accepted. By the end of the month, I was on my way to Paonia.

Shortly thereafter, I learned that Terrence McKenna was born in Paonia. I also learned that he had been involved with Elsewhere, and had actually spent time at the house. On the day of our orientation tour, Daniel took us to the community garden, and on the side of an adjacent building was a painted quote, in red letters: Nature Loves Courage. One of the ideas I had brought with me seemed to fit the moment seamlessly, so when I finished the painting (more or less), I titled it thus.

Meant to be? Call it sychronicity, call it a coincidence — I call it a nice affirmation. Elsewhere is like that. :)

Janet Thornburg

It’s been almost two weeks since I left Elsewhere, but vivid impressions from that magical place pop into my mind throughout the day. A few leaves turning yellow here in the Santa Cruz mountains take me back to the gorgeous aspen leaves we saw on our trip over Kebler pass. A friendly clerk in the bookstore reminds me of the conversations I had with Michael and Kata in Heart of the Dragon. Healthy dinners call to mind the berries and tomatoes and avocados Daniel chopped and cooked and shared with us in the venerable kitchen with the sliding spice door at Elsewhere.

We lived in a cornucopia of art: Charlie’s stories, Karli’s paintings, Laura’s life-size treasure box of charmed objects, Daniel’s thrift-store-sourced Flintstone costumes for our grape-stomping venture. At the open studio a couple of days before I left, sharing my short story about a 40-year class reunion in a small town was deeply satisfying—I have never read for a more responsive audience.
Thank you Paonia. Thank you Elsewhere. Thank you, everyone who makes Elsewhere possible.


Laura Hopp

My best friend down in New Orleans once wrote that she could feel the angels crowding her, probably growing up from the cracks in the sidewalk like bastard flowers and whispering close behind like 7th graders sent from Heaven. Now I can feel them too, not only in the garden and the mountains and the alley but also in the stale afternoon room with a “go” and more often, “stay” perched on their holy lips, their presence a reminder that beautiful things lurk wholeheartedly in the most mundane: the tea kettle and cleaning supplies and morning thoughts of not again not today not ready. These are the places they thrive like children running in the playground of my heart. merry-go-round riding and sliding and swinging slowly saying “praise the silence, even the boredom, especially the sadness.” Hold it softly to your body like a newborn baby and say to It All,  “Thank you, infinitely.” They ask me, have you been saying this daily, but the moment, in all you do?” and we laugh together in love at how much I have to learn. They hold me closer.

Charlie Schneider

A dense canopy of leaves overhangs the back of Elsewhere. They protected me as I sat, day after day, in the window nook of the common area. They were my shield and my sundial—the world was behind them, somewhere else, and its changing colors reflected on their faces. Sometimes I caught myself staring at them. The occasional breeze reminded me I needed to work.
And work I did. I came to Elsewhere hoping I’d be able to write a short story in my time there, and within about a month, I had a draft I didn’t hate—a first for me. I also took copious notes, revised several stories, and began a new one. I couldn’t have done all this in a place that didn’t so accommodate my rhythms; I read in quiet all day most days, and wrote with dim light and no-see- ums for company most nights. Daniel, the residency manager, kept us supplied with tomatoes, and Tomatoes, the cat, rested on my legs whenever Daniel’s weren’t around to rest on. In my experience, the only tithe Elsewhere demanded once I got there was to be paid in affection for Tomatoes. I’m allergic, but Tomatoes wouldn’t be denied. Soon enough, there on my window seat, my legs felt bereft without him curled between them. Elsewhere reminded me how far one can travel without going anywhere. I went to Germany, Dallas, Wales, Soviet Russia, Ontario, Florida, Trieste, Chicago, and Vietnam. All I needed were trees in the window, a cat, something to write on,
and time.

Karli Mogen

Elsewhere is an experience in and of itself. The town of Paonia is alive, and it knows what you need. Tomatoes the Cat is the guardian of this place which breathes in its own consciousness. Make art, take a walk, sit by a creek, see the town, and experience that Paonia is the "Elsewhere" away from the distractions of daily life, transporting you into an atmosphere rich in inspiration.

Ray Martinez

My wife and I set out on a journey after three years of living in the Washington, D.C. area. We knew that we needed to do something other than going directly back to southern Colorado where we had met and spent the previous twelve years together. We love Colorado but knew a transition of some kind was needed. That is how we ended up at Arts, Letters and Numbers, (ALN) in upstate New York. A one month stay making art, surrounded by amazing people, at an artist in residency seemed to be an excellent way to transition away from Washington, DC.  It turned out to be the perfect beginning to an amazing journey.

 So here we are almost six months later as we begin to transition from being on the road back to southwest Colorado. Our intentions are to continue living the same purposeful life we lived during our travels as we continue forward. Looking back on our experiences we decided an artist residency to end our travels made perfect sense. Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO has again given us the opportunity to make art in an amazing space surrounded by great people.

But much like ALN the best part of Elsewhere Studios is the sense of community shared in Paonia. When meeting locals in town one mention of Elsewhere and you become one of them. Everyone invites you to events happening around town and are willing to help out any way they can. Many of the residency alumni have relocated to Paonia to become part of the community. One of the funniest traditions in Paonia is the "gifting" of zucchini squash. Since everyone has a garden and the fertile land of the valley all but guarantees a bumper crop each year of zucchini they are in abundance. So in an effort to pass them on to neighbors zucchini are left on the front seats of any vehicle in town found with the door unlocked. We have been very diligent in keeping our doors locked.

We have been to concerts, rodeos, community dinners and barbecues and each time we go, we encounter someone we have met previously. One of my favorite places to visit is the Old River Road Trading Post. This place is a combination fresh produce market, restaurant and community meeting place and are the people behind the Farm to Table movement in Paonia. Every Sunday an amazing meal made from locally grown foods is prepared for a community lunch. Anyone and everyone is invited to enjoy the food and the company of neighbors and travelers. The meal is served buffet style with salad made from vegetables grown in gardens and farms throughout the valley. Amazing desserts made from fruit of the many orchards are usually the big hit of the day, peach cobbler and apple crisp being on the top of the list. The meal is always contribute what you can and draws a diverse mix of diners.

At first glance Paonia seems like a sleepy little town with a valley full of farms and orchards. But it is a town that is rich in arts and culture boasting free concerts in the park with world class musicians, galleries, a clay studio, and artists of many genres creating work throughout the valley. It is also a town reliant on the past and looking to the future.

 At one time Paonia was a coal town with several large coal mines operating in the North Fork Valley. Today only one mine remains operational with fears and rumors of its closing. Mine closings have had a great economic impact on businesses in the valley. Along with jobs many natives to the area fear losing it heritage as well. The town is also home to one the largest educational organizations dedicated to renewable energy sources. Emphasizing solar energy methods the organization is dedicated to training individuals in renewable energy sources.

The memories created in Paonia and Elsewhere Studios will be with always be a part of our amazing journey.


Heather Martinez

It's been a long journey since leaving the East Coast this past spring. Elsewhere Studios was the best possible bookend as it gave me the time and space to be in the Flow state as I focused on building a bridge from my commercial work to my fine art.

Inspired by the community, the event of the eclipse, and concepts I have been exploring for years, I worked with both fine art materials, the tools I use in my commercial work, and glass in the house available to me. Each piece included text or letterforms I have been studying while experimenting with materials to capture years of ideas jotted in my sketchbook that I had not had an opportunity to work out on paper until the residency.

Within the first few days of being in Paonia I found myself graphic recording at a Farm to Table meeting at the Old Trading Post where my husband, Ray and I enjoyed weekly meals and meeting the locals. By the end of our time at Elsewhere, I was teaching local students about the value of visuals through sketchnoting and graphic recording.


Robin Arthur

Being a professional artist can be a solitary life due to the private nature of the practice. One of the main reasons I applied for the Elsewhere residency was in order to be around more people. I’d been working alone in my home studio for years with my pet portrait business, I was craving critique and camaraderie from other artists and to see original work other than my own. At Elsewhere, I achieved those goals easily and immediately. It’s a warm, friendly environment that attracts interesting artists and artisans from all over the world.

Not only did I make life-long friends with many of the other residents during my three month tenure, I also easily found many friends and connections in the good people of Paonia. So many, that I decided to rent an apartment right off the main drag and stay a while. While at Elsewhere, I shifted my subject focus from pet portraits to farm animals and wildlife. I typically paint several custom portraits per year of dogs and cats, but being in Paonia’s rural setting has inspired
me to paint roosters, chickens, Jersey cows, Highland cows, yaks, foxes, goats and cow skulls. I also launched an Etsy shop ( to sell giclee prints of my originals, and have hired local printer Brian Maul ( to produce my prints.
My time at Elsewhere has been more than I expected. Not only did it provide me with a beautiful space in which to work and live, but it also inspired new work and brought wonderful new people into my life. I will continue to support this special organization as long as I live and work in Paonia.

Claudia Bokulich

Previous to my arrival at Elsewhere, I was developing feelings of stress and uncertainty about my decision to attend the month of July as a resident. This was my first residency, so I was nervous about what to expect, but I could not have chosen one as warm and relaxing as Elsewhere. The house is such a beautiful and unique place to stay, and my lovely studio made it very easy to work every day. The structure is laid back, which I enjoyed. There are weekly meetings, and I managed to have a few informal critiques a week with fellow residents. I was lucky enough to befriend a couple of incredible and talented residents during my stay, and also many people living in town. I was surrounded by good vibes, good people and a plethora of activities to take part in. At times I felt that my immersion in the community and frequent social interaction was a distraction from what I traveled there to do, which was to be alone and focus on my work. But I learned that these people and experiences served as a muse, as my paintings are based on people and social interaction. I was not expecting to fall in love with small town Paonia, but it has an incredibly special place in my heart. 

Sima Schloss

 “My time at Elsewhere was really special. Being in such a beautiful place with such great people where I was able to create was an amazing experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life"

Rhombie Sandoval

When I arrived in Hotchkiss I saw the 9 mile sign to Paonia, then began wondering if I had made the right decision. Coming from Los Angeles there wasn’t much at initial glance, but I quickly realized I was wrong and was greeted by a town that would allow me space to breathe. I spent two months at Elsewhere, where my last month’s focus became centered around setting up the requirements for me to return in August. I photographed my first stranger as I was unpacking my car. He said, “You don’t find Paonia, Paonia finds you.” A statement I found to be true and revealing of what was in store for me. My intended project was to photograph farmers, but I also began to photograph the locals in town with an emphasis on the strong women within the community. 

I am thankful for my time spent at Elsewhere as it introduced me to the next town I will call home. I look forward to returning to Paonia to continue working on my projects.


Nature Loves Courage. -Carol Flueckiger

Nature Loves Courage.  This is the sign painted on the community garden building at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO.  I passed this sign every day - took several pictures of it during my month long artist residency in June 2017.  Bold red cursive words floating on a strong blue background stripe that stretched across a white painted brick wall.  It’s like two lover’s names carved into a tree.  I kept envisioning what Nature looked like and what Courage’s voice sounded like.  Nature looks like the beautiful North Fork Valley.  Courage sounds like the dynamic engaged community.  I like to think Nature and Courage built Elsewhere Studios so they could grow community.  As you walk past the sign, you see the garden, an old building, piles of compost, bikes for use, stacks of wood, work tables, coils of hose, a large ceramic wall filled with pieces of tile and the big green building that houses the studios.  You hear the funky beat of tunes from the shop and see people working.  The environment dares you to grow.  To pick up something, think about something, look at something.  And grow.    

In this environment, I grew my project Solitude of Selfie a visual revision of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 19th century speech,Solitude of Self.  This poetic musing considers self in relation to family, community, country.  Using a blend of drawing and cyanotype, compositions are a game of quasi feminist paper dolls that have been washed with history at the speed of a spin cycle. 

While conducting Solar Powered Painting Workshops with groups from Solar Energy International, High Country News, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Bike Co-op and Elsewhere Studios, I grew my understanding of the lovely community that was grown by Nature and Courage.

Solar Powered Painting Workshop, Elsewhere Studios, Paonia, CO, June 2017

Elsewhere Studio, Daniel Fonken, Residency Manager

Solar Energy International, Kris Sutton, Director of Operations

Citizens for a Healthy Community, Andrew Forkes-Gudmudson, Associate Program Director

High Country News, Brooke Warren, Associate Designer

Bike Co-op & Elsewhere Studio, Carol Flueckiger, Artist in Residence


When I arrived in Hotchkiss I saw the 9 mile sign to Paonia, then began wondering if I had made the right decision. Coming from Los Angeles there wasn’t much at initial glance, but I quickly realized I was wrong and was greeted by a town that would allow me space to breathe. I spent two months at Elsewhere, where my last month’s focus became centered around setting up the requirements for me to return in August. I photographed my first stranger as I was unpacking my car. He said, “You don’t find Paonia, Paonia finds you.” A statement I found to be true and revealing of what was in store for me. My intended project was to photograph farmers, but I also began to photograph the locals in town with an emphasis on the strong women within the community. 

I am thankful for my time spent at Elsewhere as it introduced me to the next town I will call home. I look forward to returning to Paonia to continue working on my projects.

Robin Grearson

Robin was a writer-in-residence during May & June of 2017, thus a photo blog.

Nishant John

It was in January 2017 that I heard from Daniel & Karen at Elsewhere studios saying that I was offered a residency in May 2017 and I remember immediately being extremely thrilled and nervous at the same time. I still had to apply for my visa, and it would be my first time in the United States. Fast forward 4 months later and here I was, 8000+ miles away from home, surrounded by some of the most beautiful people and landscapes. Coming from Bangalore, a city that has a population of 10 million + people right now, Paonia was such a welcome change and I immediately felt at home at Elsewhere.

I lived in the Suite and shared the house with fellow artists Robin, Other Robin, and Rhombie (all of us got along immediately and had many adventures that month!). My medium is mainly video and Paonia had so much to offer. I spent most of my month shooting a lot of footage that I’m compiling now. The town has so much happening (something none of us expected) and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all the fun things to go see and do. Live music, workshops, open mic, movies, open studios, art walks, yard sales, thrift stores, radio shows, parades, and so much more!

One of the best parts about Paonia for me was KVNF. I spent a lot of time listening to the station while I was there and I still tune in from India to shows that I follow. They have such a diverse selection of music that’s really well curated. I was lucky enough to do a show with Ali while I was there and we had a fun chat about the music scene here in India and I also got to share music from some of the artists here.

When you live in a city like mine, and you get everything delivered to your doorstep, you kind of forget about what’s really important in life. I love that so many people grow their own food in this town (that’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I live in an apartment on the fourth floor). I definitely plan to come back here and spend more time (one month went by way too quickly). The community here always has your back and I made some really good friends while I was here. People would go out of their way to make sure that we had everything we needed. I still keep in touch with them and dream about living here someday and I feel like that’s not so far away.  

I learnt so much from my time at Elsewhere and I can confidently say that this residency changed me both as an artist and a human being and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. Paonia is truly a magical place and the community of artists and the people who live there make it so. I’m so thankful to everyone at Elsewhere and so glad to be a part of the family.