Artist's work, and his garden, give back to the community

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By Sara Miller

Don Sahli, a painter who has lived in Evergreen for the past 17 years, was trained in the Russian tradition of Impressionism and over time has combined this distinctive style of painting with his own American roots. The result is a powerful blend of stroke and color that has resulted in an international reputation in the art world.

In 1995, Sahli opened the Sahli School of Art, using his garden and rustic homestead barn as the teaching ground for his students. In the last 13 years, Sahli has taught more than 70 intimate workshops and reached 500 students who traveled from throughout the world to study with this upcoming master.

“Teaching is a critical aspect of the artistic process ee it helps one articulate what one is thinking and doing,” Sahli says. “I have learned from the process, and I am a much better painter since I began teaching. My teacher taught, his teacher taught, and I wanted to keep this tradition alive and give something back.”

Not only has Sahli given back to the artistic community, but his priority has been to give back to the community in which he lives as well.

“Don is very modest. He doesn’t talk about it much, but he believes that his painting is a gift. He spreads this gift to his students through his school of art,” says Kathryn Greene, Sahli’s business manager. “More importantly, he has been using his paintings to raise money and awareness for nonprofit organizations throughout Evergreen.”

Sahli began his philanthropic efforts in 2004 when he teamed with Drive Smart Evergreen-Conifer. Sahli created an original painting depicting fireworks over a frozen Evergreen Lake. The piece depicted the annual Skate the Lake celebration, one of Drive Smart’s largest fund-raising events.

The painting’s deep purples and blues bring to mind a chilly New Year’s Eve, and the warm glow of the Lake House beckons skaters inside for a cup of hot cocoa. The painting is a treat for residents and visitors alike as the excitement surrounding Skate the Lake and the shared winter fun are part of the quintessential Evergreen experience.

Sahli’s painting was printed in a limited-edition run of 50 “giclee” prints made available for sale. To date, 30 prints have sold, and more than $2,000 has been donated to Drive Smart. Drive Smart will continue to sell the prints until all 50 have sold.

The following year, Sahli entered into a venture with the Mountain Area Land Trust to encourage and support land preservation.

“Don met his wife, Cindy, in Texas, and they decided to move to Colorado and have a family here. He’s traveled all over the world, but as a landscape painter he’s continually inspired by the mountains and landscape of Colorado,” says Greene.

Sahli wanted to use his talents as a painter to support MALT’s efforts to preserve the land that inspired him.

Sahli painted on location at many MALT properties. His paintings preserved on canvas the beauty that MALT works every day to preserve. Sahli immortalized the historic charm of a homesteader’s cabin and the sweeping vistas seen from the Beaver Brook Watershed.

The resulting paintings were used to create four limited-edition prints and a collection of note cards. Some $3,000 of the proceeds from the sale of the paintings, prints and cards has been donated to MALT. These prints are still available for purchase.

This year, Sahli was selected to take part in the Evergreen Garden Club’s bi-annual Garden Tour on June 28. Don and Cindy’s home was chosen to be among six gardens featured on this year’s tour.

“The reason that Don and Cindy’s garden was chosen is twofold,” says Evergreen Garden Club president Karla Briggs. “The garden is interesting from a gardener’s perspective because it has a diversified selection of flowers and plantings. It has the added perspective of being an artist’s garden that Don uses as an actual classroom and an extension of his gallery.”

The Sahli garden is a multi-tiered flower garden that the couple have been planting for the last eight years. Every year the couple add to the array of perennials, flowering shrubs and trees. In the background is a custom-built rustic red barn that Sahli uses as his studio and indoor classroom. Throughout the year, Sahli uses his garden as an outdoor classroom, and the garden’s flowers have been painted by numerous students from throughout the country.

“Don uses his garden as a subject for his paintings all year long. It’s a beautiful place, and it’s constantly transitioning. For example, all the spring bulbs have just finished blooming. So we’re going from tulips and daffodils to wild poppies and irises right now,” says Greene.

Garden tour visitors will not only see the space where Sahli paints and teaches, but they will also have the opportunity to tour his studio and gallery. Paintings of the garden and the Evergreen area will be featured. Works by students of the Sahli School of Art will also be available for viewing and purchase. Sahli will make a contribution to the Evergreen Garden Club on any sales during the event.

Although Sahli is always excited to welcome visitors into the space in which he finds much of his daily inspiration, he is especially enthusiastic to have these visits be part of the Garden Tour. The proceeds from the tour support the Evergreen Garden Club’s charitable endeavors.

The Garden Club works in cooperation with Evergreen Bootstraps to provide an annual scholarship to a local senior high school student hoping to major in the sciences. The Garden Tour also supports Forest Heights Lodge, a nonprofit residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys in Evergreen, and works with other organizations throughout the world to assist children in need of life-supporting crops and vegetation.

By participating in this year’s Garden Tour, Don Sahli can continue his philanthropic efforts. It is Sahli’s hope that by sharing his work, as well as his nature-inspired surroundings, his gifts will continue to give back to the community that he calls home.

Details ...

The Evergreen Garden Tour is Saturday, June 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at various Evergreen locations, including Stems Flower Shop, Evergreen Wild Bird Store, Sundance Gardens and Landscape, and All Season Gardener. For more information, visit www.evergreengardenclub.org.

For more information on Don Sahli or the Sahli School or Art, visit www.sahlistudio.com or call 303-670-8615.