Salt of the Earth
Ocean meets altitude at an eclectic gallery in Fairplay.
The Mountain Mermaid art gallery in Fairplay displays the work of thirty artists, most of them local and much of their art sui generis. Inside the cozy Front Street shop are framed photographs (including a striking shot of a three-legged Park County elk known as “Tripod”), paintings, sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and the shimmering ski and snowboard mosaics made by owners and longtime locals Pascal Desilio ( a French-Italian who fells trees by day) and Lisa Eaton (a lifelong artist from California), which are gaining renown across Hoosier Pass.
But among the lot, no piece stands out quite like the oil-on-canvas scene above the salt bar (where, incidentally, you can buy bath salts for fifty cents an ounce). The canvas, titled At Sea, is the work of Fato Wheremonger, a Liberian painter who brings a suitcase of rolled-up artwork every couple of years to sell in Park County. The scene depicts African men working on fishing boats along a beach as shirtless boys play in the ocean and palm trees sway in the background. It might seem out of place in most Colorado galleries, but it fits right in at the Mountain Mermaid, where, as Desilio says, “We like to connect the ocean to the mountains.”
Since opening in August 2012, the Mermaid has gained a unique following in Park and Summit counties, even providing the momentum behind a movement called Fairplay Arts Now, a public-private partnership that envisions Fairplay as a regional arts hub. The Mermaid’s artists range in age from 10 to 83 and include everyone from local miners (who peddle smoky quartz and amazonite) to a Fairplay painter who was turned down by other galleries for being too whimsical.
“I wanted a place that would inspire people to be creative and happy and warm,” Eaton says. “I didn’t want the same old moose carved out of wood.”