Lauren Merrill (Owner/Director/Teacher) grew up on Long Island, New York, where she first began to explore the idea of opening an arts center. Lauren says, “At that point, the arts center was just a dream I talked about with my family at the dinner table. But I kept coming back to the idea, and it inspired me to become an art major in college.” Lauren attended the University of Michigan, School of Art and Design, and became well versed in a number of art mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, scientific illustration, and graphic design.
After college Lauren accepted the K-12 Art Teacher position at Vail Mountain School (VMS), allowing her to move to beautiful Vail, Colorado which she soon began to call home. Lauren taught art for five years at VMS. “Working with children at all levels and all ages was such a unique experience. Their growth and self-discovery is incredible to observe, and it helped me to grow as an artist as well.” Lauren’s love of teaching, connections with families throughout the valley, and role on the board of EVAA (Eagle Valley Artists Alliance) sparked the idea to open Alpine Arts Center for the community. She is thrilled to finally realize her lifelong dream and begin this new journey at Alpine Arts Center. Lauren’s Portfolio
Debbie Bolon-Feeney (Ceramics Instructor) has lived and worked in the Vail Valley for 32 years. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Ohio University with a major in painting, however, realized in her final quarter that her passion was really ceramics. From graduation on, she pursued ceramics beginning with work in a small pottery studio on the upper west side of Manhattan. Eventually, she began teaching pottery classes, entering her work in art shows around the city and finally became one of the founding members and owners of the 78th Street Pottery Coop in New York City.
In 1976 she attended a summer workshop at the SummerVail Art Workshops, where she studied ceramics and fell in love with Colorado. She accepted a position with the SummerVail Art Workshops as ceramics assistant, and moved to Vail. Debbie says, "It was an inspiring summer and I continued to work for the Workshop for several summers, in addition to teaching pottery classes at Colorado Mountain College’s two facilities in Vail and Eagle." She produced a line of dinner ware in her East Vail pottery studio, and her pottery was sold in galleries in Vail, Minturn, and Glenwood Springs, as well as numerous art shows and festivals throughout Colorado, including Vail Arts Festivals where she won Best of Show several years running. In addition to her ceramics career, Debbie has been teaching Art at Red Sandstone Elementary School for the past 23 years. Debbie's Portfolio
Claire Lenz grew up in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin. She received an Art degree from St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI. After college Claire lived in Milwaukee and Wilmington, but recently moved to the Vail Valley in search of new experiences and to pursue a more creative and outdoor lifestyle. After a week she found Alpine Arts Center and got the job of her dreams. She couldn’t be more excited to have found a career in an art related field!
Claire's favorite mediums are painting and photography, but after recently discovering the pottery wheel through Alpine Arts Center she may have found a new passion. Claire says, “I have always been a very strong believer that everyone can do art. I picked up a pencil my third year of college and started drawing, and that’s when I knew I couldn’t live without it.” Claire’s advice to all aspiring artists is, "As long as you are willing to be patient and take your time, you’ll be able to create something amazing!"
Aubrey DiDonato grew up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has always loved creating, from paper mache cheetah’s to hand drawn maps and made up worlds to tie dye t-shirts, she’s been making things as long as she can remember. She took her first printmaking class in 2009 at West Chester University and instantly fell in love. This pushed her to transfer to The University of the Arts in order to explore the medium further. Since graduating in 2014 with an BFA focused in printmaking she has been involved with artist residences in Sicily and Philadelphia. She worked at a non-profit printmaking shop in Philadelphia and took on many small art related jobs on the side in order to stay as involved as possible in the Philadelphia art community.
Aubrey recently moved to Colorado after visiting and being too inspired by the mountains to leave. She feels very lucky to have found Alpine Arts Center where she is able to share her skills in drawing, printmaking, painting, design and 3D. She is very happy to have the opportunity to pursue her creative dreams, discover her love for teaching, and experience art with people of all ages at the center. Aubrey's Portfolio
Tara Marsden grew up in the small Village of Ferndale located in Upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She studied Art Education at Pennsylvania State University with a concentration in Oil Painting. She also has a strong interest in Photography and Stop Motion Animation Film. Recently Tara moved to Avon, Colorado to work on the mountain at Beaver Creek while snowboarding and helping guests. The experience of living in colorful Colorado inspired her to apply to Alpine Arts Center, and after getting the job she is beyond excited to share her new ideas and projects with her students.
Tara has always loved the outdoors, expressing her feelings through art, and dancing to music. She is a practicing artist and has had paintings displayed in various art shows at Penn State. Abstract oil paintings and surreal worlds are her specialty; however, she loves painting portraits as well. Tara enjoys teaching students how to express individuality through art and being as fun and weird as can be! Tara believes that there is an inner artist in every child and it is her job to make that inner artist grow. A quote by Pablo Picasso that inspires Tara’s teaching methods is, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. Tara's portfolio
Robin Nash has called Colorado home for over 2 decades, the mountains are her muse. Robin earned her Bachelor of Fine Art,Studio Arts Degree from the University of Colorado, graduating with honors. While at CU her concentration was painting, with a minor in ceramics. After graduation Robin moved back to the valley and became a yoga instructor, while being an active in the art community in the valley. She enjoys sharing her passion for art with all ages.
When not in the art studio she can be found refilling her creative well playing outside in the mountains, doing yoga or roller skating with the local roller derby league.
Becky Kiser is from St. Louis, MO where she received a Master’s degree in Art Education from Webster University. As part of her studies she attended International Summer School in London, England and traveled around Europe. This ignited her desire to travel more learning about diverse cultures and their art. Her undergraduate degree
is in history from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. After teaching elementary art for six years in the public schools in St. Louis County, Becky decided to become certified in Special Education and then worked with special needs children for four years. But her love of teaching art beckoned her and she went back into the elementary art room, this time teaching for six years in a private school in Clayton, MO and two summers at Summer Art Camp. Becky had often skied and vacatio
ned in Colorado and missed the mountains. Ten years ago she moved and made the Vail Valley her home. The active lifestyle of skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing plus all of the cultural happenings, sporting events, and volunteer opportunities was fulfilling for a period of time. When Becky discovered Lauren at Alpine Arts Center, she realized how much she missed the fun of teaching art to children and the excitement of stimulating young minds and fostering their creativity. Currently, Becky enjoys volunteering at Alpine Arts and continues to pursue her own art along with taking classes at CMC and experimenting with different materials and techniques. Becky's Portfolio
Cz graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Miami University - Oxford, Ohio. She has also participated in numerous short courses in London at Central St Martins School of Art, The Royal Drawing School, The National Gallery, The Royal Academy and Camden Arts Centre. Her children's multi-media canvases hang on the walls in the lobby of the Beaver Creek Children's Ski School lobby. Cz is excited to unleash your child’s imagination and creativity, with the added bonus of learning about famous artists and their works. She expects a fun time to be had by all!