Have you ever had an experience where a seemingly random interaction has had a surprising, long-term, positive impact on your life? One such long-ago happening turned out to be a serendipitous occasion for the entire Evergreen arts community.
While conversing with a pretty woman at a cocktail party many years ago, Rome Chelsi mentioned his dream to do some sightseeing in Colorado and that he had always thought about living there at some point in his life. “If you’re going to Colorado be sure you go to Evergreen,” was her strong recommendation.
Evergreen? Rome had never even heard of it, but the description she gave was intriguing, and she was adamant that he would really be missing something special if he didn’t include the mountain suburb in his travels. The conversation stuck in his mind over the years, eventually getting him here, where he even bought a home.
At the time, Rome was at the height of his 30-year career as a successful product engineer in the broadcast television industry. He got into this field after studying industrial design and art in undergraduate school and then going on to earn an MBA. He was often on location in news centers all around the world, including a lot of time in Europe, and thus ended up renting out his Evergreen home much of that time.
In 2007 Rome was back in the United States and rounded out his career doing small business consulting for several years, living in Evergreen on a full-time basis. He had always had an interest in art and planned to pursue those interests in more depth as a recent retiree. But it was probably a surprise even to him how engrossed and invested he became in our mountain-area arts community.
Wanting to develop a studio to practice his art, Rome consulted with Adrian Stone at a local bank regarding financing for his endeavor. Adrian just happened to also be on the Board of Directors of Center for The Arts-Evergreen (CAE) and in her low-key but persuasive manner started talking to him about being on the Board of CAE. He agreed but still didn’t have a clear idea of just how involved he would become in this nonprofit. He jokes that at the time he said 'yes,' he thought he might be volunteering for parking duty at CAE’s traditional festivals and attending a few meetings. But he soon was in the thick of CAE’s dream to build a new art center.
Rome joined the CAE board in 2012 and quickly turned his attention toward the preliminary activities of developing a new art center – spearheading a feasibility study and then chairing a facilities task force committee to find a new facility. His efforts involved countless hours of research, meeting with county officials, lawyers, and local organizations, and setting up the infrastructure necessary to launch a full-fledged building campaign.
He also began developing systems to take donations and transfer securities and set up a vehicle donation program to make sure there were broad avenues for potential donors to consider. In the fall of 2015, CAE launched its Capital Campaign Committee to raise funds to purchase a building to create a bigger and more comprehensive art center that would meet the growing needs of our community.
Rome was at the helm of this CAE board initiative and has competently served as chair since January 2013 of the CAE Capital Campaign Committee. Under his outstanding leadership, CAE was able to purchase the historic former Bergen Park Church in the fall of 2015. Rome is always adamant in wanting to acknowledge the contribution of the CAE staff, including Executive Director Steve Sumner, the CAE Board of Directors, and all the other mountain residents who have volunteered in this major undertaking.
Rome is focusing his current energies on increasing individual and in-kind donations as well as reaching out to the community for additional support and reviewing plans for the proposed art center. He has devoted thousands of hours to this endeavor, and his intellectual quickness, ability to think systemically and dogged determination have greatly accrued to the potential success of this significant endeavor.
Although Rome doesn’t have much free time with all his efforts to complete the new art center, he is truly a multi-faceted person who somehow carves out opportunities to enjoy his varied interests. He loves to ski, likes to race fast cars, expresses his artistic side with delightful charcoal drawings and is also a watercolor painter.
Rome has a wry sense of humor, an appreciation for the irony of life, and a keen intellect which all come in handy in his volunteer endeavors. And the entire Evergreen community has been able to benefit from his tenacity and steadfast purpose, all because of a chance conversation with that pretty lady at a cocktail party many years ago.