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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Committing to the “impossible”

Jan 06, 2020 02:56PM ● By Carole Ann McKelvey

Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center is a world-class arts center built by a community

Building a world-class arts center in the middle of a tiny mountain village may have seemed like an impossible task to most, but not to the community of Cedaredge. Thanks to the town’s talented artists and strong sense of community, the Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center (GMAEC) has become a reality.

An unlikely location

The local creative talent is what made the art and performance center possible in this unlikely setting. At first, it was just a dream of a small group of supporters who admired the Blue Sage Center for the Arts in nearby Paonia. Local musician David Starr and his wife, Cindy, wanted to create a permanent venue to host performing and visual arts in Cedaredge.

As the Starrs shared their vision, a group came together and they started brainstorming and creating plans.

Deborah Shaffer—now the center’s director—led initial group discussions. Shaffer used her experience as a successful operations management and customer relations professional to help bring the vision to life.

It wasn’t long before a mission and vision statement was created, as well as an advisory council. After establishing GMAEC as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, their dreams took the form of a physical building.

“Our mission is to enhance the quality of life and inspire our communities through visual and performing arts, education and advocacy,” Shaffer said. “Our vision has always been a vibrant and thriving arts, cultural and educational center.”

GMAEC acquired a building downtown on Main Street with a rich century-old history. But the most difficult challenge facing the center was the renovations needed to the aging building, which was built in 1904. Tons of local volunteers turned out to redo the interior and make it shine.

Volunteers helped with everything from tearing down walls to installing floors and fixtures. Doorways featuring art scenes and other finishing touches were added.

Because of Cedaredge’s hard-working community and a successful fundraising campaign, GMAEC opened its doors on June 15, 2018. Since then, it has become a cornerstone of the Cedaredge community.

Experience the arts

Grand Mesa Arts and Events Center guitar

GMAEC’s Starr Gallery has a revolving lineup of talented local and national artists. The theater hosts a variety of classes and performers as well as community movie nights. Classes educate both the young and young at heart in music, dance, art and more, inspiring the community to continue to flourish in the visual and performing arts.

For details, call 856-9195 or check out the calendar at