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Meet Beth Riser

Written by Anne Vickstrom on .

Ask folks in Evergreen if they know Beth Riser and you’ll get a variety of answers. “Yeah! She’s the president of the Evergreen Artists’ Association.” “Yep! She’s that fabulous photographer.” “Of course! She’s a wonderful mother!” “Oh, Beth? Yes! She’s the new owner of The Evergreen Gallery!” Beth is all of these and so much more!

The youngest of six kids, Beth was born in Winchester, Virginia. It came naturally to respect, if not love, football. “My father was the University of Maryland quarterback, and went on to the nationals. He was recruited by the Green Bay Packers. Back then,” she added, “he was earning something like $500 a year.” Then, the Baltimore Colts considered him, but that was when Johnny Unitas showed up.” Beth rolled her eyes and smiled. “He really admired Unitas!” Her father left football and went into custom furniture design, “mostly for athletes – they needed larger and deeper design.” Her mother was a stay-at-home mother “until my father built a gift shop in an apple orchard. I was about 8 years old and I learned to do inventory and run the cash register.” That was the beginning of Beth’s learning the skills of how to run a business.

She went on to study English and Studio Art at the University of Virginia. Asked what influenced her choice, she said, “My dad was big into interior design, galleries and museums. My mother, at her shop, was really into display. I’ve been surrounded by design. Every holiday was incredible at our house. I still have some of the decorations.”

Her studies in Studio Art emphasized photography. “At 10 years, old I picked up my dad’s camera. We lived out in the country; I had to entertain myself. I’d go out into the fields and take photographs.” At 12 years old, “I was given my first Nikon.” Beth’s high school “had an amazing dark room. I did my own developing.” She added, “I still have my own dark room equipment.”

After graduation, she worked for a photographer for two years. “Robert Llewellyn is still in business. They do stock photography and they publish books.” Beth added a fun fact from that time, “Dave Matthews (The Dave Matthews Band) worked at Miller’s Bar across the street from Llewellyn’s, I used to go listen to him for $5.”

In 1992 Beth moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming with a friend. They stayed for 4 years and then moved to California. Her future husband, Clay, was also stationed in California. Beth was set to move to Santa Fe, “for the art” but needed help moving. She asked Clay if he would help her move. In the end, they became roommates for two years in Santa Fe. “I worked at an advertising research company; it was really successful with clients including IBM, Intel and Unilever.” While there, Beth won an Ogilvy award for research.

In 1998, the roommates decided they were more than that and married in Albuquerque. As a retired Colonel in the Air Force, and having earned an Engineering degree from Virginia Tech., Clay was offered a job with Raytheon in Denver. “We moved to Littleton and had our daughters Chloe (2001) and Phoebe (2003).” Beth smiled from beneath her own halo of red hair and said with a giggle, “They’re both redheads.” In 2008, Raytheon sent Clay to west London for two and a half years. They made the most of it, traveling to Egypt “to see the pyramids” and places including Morocco, Venice, Rome, Paris, Provence, Spain and other sites.

In 2010 they returned. “I wanted to be near my family in Virginia,” but her husband was set on Colorado. “He said, ‘There’s this artist community called Evergreen,” and that sealed the deal. They moved to the “top of Witter Gulch. I was terrified of lions, bears and switchbacks,” she laughed.

Atop that mountain that first winter, “I had nothing to do, so I started taking photos of snowflakes.” Today, Beth is known for her snowflake images applied to aluminum canvases. “I wanted to be in a gallery, so I joined Main Street Gallery that was just starting in 2011.” She joined Evergreen Artists’ Association and volunteered with the annual Evergreen Fine Art Festival. She has now served as president of EAA for 3 ½ years and has overseen the festival. Beth also has been a part of the Evergreen Downtown Business Association for the past two years.

Last fall, while attending a Boogie at the Barn event, in which she is also involved, she was asked if she would be interested in purchasing The Evergreen Gallery. “I wasn’t looking to buy a gallery.” She was enthusiastic and willing to continue the practice that founder Meryl Sabeff started by featuring only Colorado artists in the gallery. “I remember when I was still living in Littleton, a friend brought me up to Evergreen. We went to The Wildflower, The Evergreen Gallery and Tall Grass.” It’s funny how things turn out.

Beth looks to continue with the same employees. “They’ve been there for years.” Beth believes in empowering others to take action, as she has practiced as EAA president. As for the future of the gallery, “I want to build relationships with all the businesses in downtown. I want to strengthen the Friday Art Walk by bringing in musicians and having all businesses work together. It helps to work cooperatively.”

Beth will once again work to make the Evergreen Fine Arts Festival (August 26/27, 2017) at Heritage Grove another great success.

When changes happen in our community, it’s wonderful when they involve people as talented as Beth.