Art co-op is in works in Meeker

Jill and Dale Dunbar, on the right, address a gathering of folks interested in the establishment of a Meeker artisans’ cooperative gallery on Main Street in Meeker. The group, which met Nov. 19 in the proposed space, included former Meeker Mayor Steve Loshbaugh and his wife, Avis, now with the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, on the left. The Smoking River Studio Arts Gallery is expected to open by May 1.

Jill and Dale Dunbar, on the right, address a gathering of folks interested in the establishment of a Meeker artisans’ cooperative gallery on Main Street in Meeker. The group, which met Nov. 19 in the proposed space, included former Meeker Mayor Steve Loshbaugh and his wife, Avis, now with the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, on the left. The Smoking River Studio Arts Gallery is expected to open by May 1.
Jill and Dale Dunbar, on the right, address a gathering of folks interested in the establishment of a Meeker artisans’ cooperative gallery on Main Street in Meeker. The group, which met Nov. 19 in the proposed space, included former Meeker Mayor Steve Loshbaugh and his wife, Avis, now with the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, on the left. The Smoking River Studio Arts Gallery is expected to open by May 1.
MEEKER I Longtime Meeker resident Jill Dunbar and her native Meeker husband, Dale Dunbar, have been dreaming and traveling. In their travels, they’ve investigated several small town artisan co-operatives that seem to be doing well and which promote and sell largely local works of art and fine crafts.

Such an enterprise in Fairplay—Coyote Creek Arts—was their original inspiration. Jill says she wants to “re-invent” herself by developing a similar member-owned co-operative outlet here and perhaps drag a little bit of the town of Meeker along with her.
The Dunbars, along with Diana and Mike Jones and Cindy and Dick Welle, hosted a group of other interested folks at the planned store space on Nov. 19. They announced the name they’ve chosen for the gallery to be Smoking River Studio Arts.
The Dunbars have visited with and have developed other contacts with those in similar undertakings in several other towns in addition to Fairplay, including Gunnison, Cedaredge, Palisade, Montrose, New Castle and Silt.
“We’re also definitely considering the studio would offer many types of classes,” Jill said.
She says she’s “so excited about their plans that I don’t sleep at night. My brain is reeling with all the possibilities we can offer.”
Dunbar reports that the consensus from their mid-November gathering was, “Yes, this is an idea worth pursuing. There was so much energy from those who attended. We are taking baby steps—this is a process—but we are a determined and committed group. There’s much yet to be done.”
She also said she believes “this will not only work for our very talented artists around the area and Western Slope, but will also be a boost to downtown Meeker.”
Anyone who is interested in participating one way or another with the studio is urged to call, text or email Jill at 406-690-4255, jillnorcrossdunbar@gmail.com, or Diana Jones at 970-260-7361.
Dale Dunbar told the group on Nov. 19 that they are thinking, at this point, about an annual fee of $180 for artists wishing to provide works for sale. The group plans to have artworks accepted for sale only after a juried approval process.
Initially, the studio will be dependent on a volunteer director and staff. Out-of-town artists or others who cannot man the studio a few days a month, usually pay a higher membership fee. Or, in lieu of hours in the gallery, members may make alternate contributions which may be monetary, marketing expertise ad design, covering printing costs, etc.
“We will want to ensure that every member contributes to the health of the co-op in some form or another,” Dunbar said. “A target opening date of May 1 has been set.”
The site for the studio, which is currently being re-done to accommodate studio functions, is 627 Main St. between Meeker Drugs and Meeker Realty. The space most recently housed Kacey’s Kloset, a second-hand thrift store.
Over the years, the location has been home to a grocery store, abattoir and butcher shop, numerous retail endeavors, including ladies’ wear and furniture.