Local artist and beloved community member Betty Farson passed away in La Jolla, Calif. on Sunday at age 82 after fighting a year-long battle with cancer.
Farson volunteered at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts since the mid ‘90s, expanding the facility’s offerings and starting the gallery, which curates monthly exhibitions featuring Aspen-area artists. She had a ceramics studio at the Red Brick up until this summer and Aspen City Council proclaimed Aug. 13 to be Betty Farson Day in honor of her involvement with the center and her work as an artist.
Farson was the driving force behind the creation of the center’s gallery and she was on the center’s board of directors for years, said Debra Muzikar, executive director of the Red Brick Arts Council.
She became involved with the art community partly because of her open attitude and love for ceramics, Muzikar said.
“She was so enthusiastic about things and so young,” Muzikar said. “You would never have known how old she was because of her attitude.”
Farson first moved to Aspen in 1963 but left the area after a year for La Jolla. In 1970, she decided to move back to the valley with her two children, who were 12 and 14 at the time.
“She wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle of her life in La Jolla,” said daughter Lisa Maher. “ ... She wanted a change so she decided to go to the mountains and she stayed.”
In Aspen, Farson started her own resort ranking business, which grew from reviewing local hotels to resorts across the country over the past two decades. Although she enjoyed her work, her passion and what she became known for was ceramics, Maher said.
Farson and Maher started taking ceramics classes at the same time about 20 years ago and both became enamored by the art. Over the years Farson’s talent grew and she became more involved with Aspen’s art community.
Farson worked hard and was always in her studio at Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass Village where she took ceramics class, said friend and mentor Doug Casebeer, who is the artistic director for ceramics, sculpture, furniture design and woodworking at the ranch.
“She was always there everyday,” Casebeer said. “She worked hard and really inspired fellow students and young artists with her spunk.”
As an artist, she was always willing to try new things and found her vision when she started creating clay Victorian-era-looking cans. Those pieces were nationally recognized and one was chosen to be displayed at a National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference in Houston this spring, he said.
“Really she was more my mentor than [I was] her mentor,” Casebeer said. “She never stopped trying. I admired her for that.”
Farson’s art work was special due to its range of skill, Muzikar said. One day she made a sushi plate and the next she would be working on the Victorian cans, she said.
When she knew her days were numbered, Farson decided she would write her own obituary to ensure that she was remembered for her passion for ceramics, her strong Democratic political beliefs and her enthusiasm for sharing her love of life with others.
That’s the kind of person she was, Maher said. Farson was a strong woman, who was confident in her opinions, and she shared her passions with others by being an involved member of the Aspen community, Maher said.
One of Maher’s favorite memories of her mother was when the pair took a three-week trip to Kenya. Farson always felt a connection with the African nation and sold everything she could to raise money for the trip, Maher said.
“She sold everything so we could afford to go,” Maher said. “She was hocking jewelry and all the gold she had — she hardly had anything and she never really wanted anything anyway. But that’s how important it was to her.”
Maher plans to take a trip back to Kenya in the spring and will spread her mother’s ashes there, in La Jolla and in Aspen, per her request, Maher said.
The Red Brick’s board of directors will dedicate a studio at the center in her name in December.