Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gypsy Javas Opens in Pueblo's Mesa Junction District

Nathan Harper, proprietor of Gypsy Javas
  The historic Mesa Junction area of Pueblo is experiencing an upswing. With many popular eateries, shops, and events drawing both locals and visitors to the area, the energy is palpable. New businesses are popping up around established institutions such as Taffy’s, The Pantry, and the Broadway Tavern & Grill. Nathan Harper, proprietor of new coffeehouse Gypsy Javas, hopes to establish a niche in the historic neighborhood. Located at 119 Broadway Avenue, its proximity to the Rawlings Library and several stops along the Creative Corridor makes for a profitable location. The cafe exudes urban charm mixed with turn-of-the-century aesthetics. Set inside a beautiful brick building, it features a coffee bar, atmospheric seating, and a sidewalk patio. Although Gypsy Javas opened only one week ago, Harper has plans for the future, including ideas for a featured artist program down the road. With doors opening just in time for summer, Gypsy Javas is ready for business.
Storefront at 119 Broadway Ave.
Gypsy Javas personalized decor sets the tone inside the cafe


Pueblo's Creative Corridor Lives Up to Name

     The Creative Corridor is located in the center of Pueblo’s historic downtown area. It was launched in 2012 thanks to support from Colorado Creative Industries and the Boettcher Foundation. It is divided into three separate areas, Mesa Junction, Union Avenue, and Main Street, and features galleries, museums, street art, caf├ęs and shops. The Creative Corridor also participates in the city’s First Friday Art Walks, which take place on the first Friday of each month year round. The many stops along the route drive both community and tourist business, while supporting local artisans and entrepreneurs.
Mural painted on the back of Solar Roast Coffee
      The Main Street district features an abundance of art galleries, including the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, Gallery 201, Shoe Factory, and the Kadoya Gallery. In fact, the streets themselves have become an open air studio, with sculptures sponsored by Pueblo Art & Soul, panoramic murals, and even an alleyway gallery called the ARTery. Along the way, visitors encounter Solar Roast Coffee, a local gathering place with a social conscience, and Bingo Burger, a unique build-your-own burger bar. The Main Street District is also home to the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and Legacy Bank. The Pueblo Creative Corridor Headquarters is located at 101 N. Main St., along with the Pueblo Arts Alliance offices, which manages the project in partnership with the City of Pueblo and the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority.

Central Plaza Gathering Place and Kadoya Gallery
El Pueblo History Museum
Walks Among the Stars by sculptor Dave McGary

View of the Riverwalk from Union Ave.
     The Main Street District funnels into the The Union Avenue District via the ARTery. This district boasts a variety of experiences and businesses, with the Pueblo Riverwalk at its heart. The first stop in the Explorer's Guide is the El Pueblo History Museum, an impressive glass and steel structure that houses regional history and artifacts. On the same site is Sister City Plaza, which features a fountain and sculpture both dedicated to the city of Pueblo by our sister cities. Along Union Avenue are several art galleries, including Steel City Art Works, the John Deaux Gallery, the Turf Exchange Gallery, and Artcorp. Many boutiques and specialty shops also line the street. Local businesses such as Bellezza Design Boutique, RazMaTaz, and the Golden M Southwestern & Indian Art offer original and one-of-a-kind items. As far as entertainment options, visitors can take in a show at Memorial Hall or the Steel City Theatre
Golden M Southwestern & Indian Art
Company. Throughout the year, seasonal events take place along the Riverwalk, from live bands to farmer's markets, in addition to excursion boat rides during the summer months. For local fare, Angelo's Pizza Parlor offers patio seating on the Riverwalk, while Hopscotch Bakery is known for their homemade ice cream and unique baked goods. Many more distinct businesses have addresses on Union Avenue that are not marked in the Explorer's Guide, so visitors should take their time to go off the map.

Sister Cities fountain
A customer's order waiting to be taken home
Hopscotch Bakery's Mary Oreskovich
Sculpture garden outside Latka Studio
   The historic Mesa Junction District features some of the most unique experiences in Pueblo. Following
the Explorer’s Guide, visitors can tour the Cup and Bowl and Latka Studios, two businesses nestled in  a residential area rooted in tradition. Next, follow the route to Colorado Avenue Antiques, the Fire Place, SAGE Art Academy, and the Broadway Cup 'n Cork. The last stop along the corridor is Grupo Folklorico del Pueblo, a local studio which integrates traditional dance with cultural history. Due in part to the Creative Corridor, the Mesa Junction District is once again thriving with business, old and new, as foot traffic increases. Just last week, Gypsy Javas, an urban coffee house, celebrated its grand opening (see the post above for more details). While following the map, make sure to explore the environment between landmarks for more aesthetic surprises. Discoveries not marked on the map include several public sculptures, a community garden, and an ambitious mural painted on a concrete retaining wall.

The Cup & Bowl at 116 Midway Avenue
Ceramics for sale in showroom

Community garden at private residence on Midway Ave.

Wall mural across from Rawlings Public Library

Courtesy of Pueblo Arts Alliance

     The Creative Corridor is best experienced on foot in conjunction with the Explorer’s Guide. The guide is provided by the Pueblo Arts Alliance. The guide is a free publication, which may be picked up at the Welcome Center inside the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center. View a map of the Creative Corridor here for a comprehensive overview of all landmarks, as well as the corridor’s physical boundary lines.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Colorado Smelter Site Makes Superfund List

Decommissioned site used by CF&I, now property of EVRAZ Pueblo

           Long gone are the glory days of industry, when the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company was the number one employer in Pueblo. Built in 1881, CF&I produced railroad supplies and fuel for the Denver and Rio Grande Railway Company. The steel mill continued to drive industry in Pueblo until its decline in the early 1980s. Following years of bankruptcy claims, it was purchased in 2007 by the Evraz Group. In addition to the steel mill, Pueblo was home to five ore smelters, including the Colorado Smelter which was recently named a Superfund site by the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA).

Neighborhood effected by slag contaminants
Over many years the waste slag produced during the process or ore refining was dumped into a ravine located between Santa Fe Ave. and I-25. The waste contains hazardous materials which threaten public health. Although early investigations in the 1990s revealed cause for concern, official tests were not conducted until 2010. Ground samples from the slag pile and the neighboring residential area were found to contain elevated levels of lead and arsenic. Both contaminants are linked to health problems -including neurological damage and cancer- and pose a higher threat to children.

Playground where elevated levels of lead and arsenic were discovered during investigation
        In 2014, the Pueblo City-County Health Department applied for and received nearly $200,000 in grant funds for community outreach and education. As of December 11, 2014, the Colorado Smelter was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. Rising 30-feet high along the right side of Santa Fe Ave, the slag pile covers an area of approximately 700,000-square-feet. Superfund will oversee the cleanup process, which is expected to take several years to complete. For those interested in learning more about the Colorado Smelter site, a community advisory group meeting is scheduled for June 9th from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm at the Steelworks Museum of Industry & Culture.

Slag pile located between Santa Fe Ave and I-25 which led to the site's inclusion on the NPL

Monday, June 1, 2015

Joyriders Ruin Renovated Park

Sign welcomes visitors to the recently renovated park
New playground equipment adjacent to Hellbeck Elementary School
    Beckwood Park, located next to Hellbeck Elementary on Pueblo's South side has seen its share of tough times. After years of neglect, the park was recently renovated with the addition of new trees, grass, and playground equipment, offering families in the community a safe, clean place to gather. The tranquility has been short lived, however, as Beckwood Park became the second public park to be vandalized during the month of May. Sometime between late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning last week joyriders entered the park via the southern parking lot and destroyed large areas of the newly restored grass. The damage was most likely caused by an ATV, leaving behind visible ruts where the grass has been uprooted.
Joyriders' path visible in the lawn
Public outrage has followed the incident as approximately $250,000 of taxpayer money went into the recent restoration project. Pueblo Parks and Recreation estimates that it will take thousands in additional funds and numerous hours for park workers  to repair the damage, not to mention the months required for new grass to take root. Although the incident occurred at night, there is something unnerving about seeing the tires tracks beyond the new playground equipment as children play under the watchful eyes of their parents. No witnesses have come forward at this time. 

Damage incurred where the ATV uprooted grass

Monday, May 25, 2015

Spring Recital: A Visual Chronicle Following the Final Rehearsal

Aerial view of the Sangre de Cristo School of Dance studio space
    It is late afternoon on Saturday, and all is quiet inside the ballet studio. The Sangre de Cristo School of Dance has just completed their last full rehearsal before the Spring Recital on May 30th and 31st. The room hums with residual energy, as practice gear and ballet costumes have been hastily stored in anticipation of next weekend’s show. Featuring students ranging in skill level from beginner to advanced, the recital marks the culmination of focused practice, sore muscles, and bandaged feet into a polished public performance. The Spring Recital offers a prime opportunity for the community to discover local talent while supporting performing arts.

Costumes planned for the Spring Recital fill the storage closet
A piece of clothing lays abandoned on the studio floor
A box of band-aids sits atop the ballet barre