When Stargazers Theater music ended, lockdown brought a colorful art world | Culture & Leisure

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After the music died at the Stargazers Theater on March 16, 2020, co-owner Cindy Hooton picked up her brush.

During the year of top-to-bottom COVID-19 lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions for small audiences, she and her husband John first ‘painted, patched and repaired’ in the large event center and the concert hall they have owned for 12 years. During those years, about half a million people had come and gone from this now empty building, three or four nights a week.

The couple also had time at home to do some creative work at the charming Timber Lodge log cabins in Manitou Springs that they’ve owned since 1988.

And Cindy set up an easel.

“I never even thought I could do art,” she recalls, but that changed years earlier because of one of her twin sons, Chase, who suffered a stroke at his birth 30 years ago. There were “a lot of different therapies” while he was growing up. When she saw an art book on “drawing on the right side of the brain,” she wondered if it might help her see how Chase sees the world. A class from the Bemis School of Art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center honed this skill and showed her how.

His art continued. Cindy started with pencils and moved on to pastels and watercolors and now to bright, ‘cheerful’ acrylic colors. It was the perfect time to bring his love of flowers, succulents and gardening to the canvas, his pastorals and mountain scenes. And the ardent animal lover has plenty of dog and cat models to paint at home or on the pets of staff and friends.

Being surrounded by walls of shiny art rubbed off on John, who had studied commercial art. Cindy encouraged him to set up an easel next to hers for his project, the sights and sounds of Stargazer’s musical world: the musicians, the people, the music, “the feel.” John, who has played guitar and been a songwriter since he was a teenager, has plenty to work with with his “hundreds of photos” from the Stargazer years.

Maybe, the couple wonder, they’ll even have a Hooton art exhibit as Stargazers opens up to wider audiences in its 500-seat theater. At recent pandemic levels, it was only 10 people and eventually 50 people allowed; in mid-February, it finally became 50% capacity unless the number of coronavirus cases climbs again. They receive letters and messages of support.

This couple’s partnership has been strong since they married 37 years ago in June. They shake their heads and laugh, remembering that they were part of the big business world back then. “We were living life,” says John. “The big house, the big hair, the big car, the big cities.” They worked for the same big company and moved from California to places like Flagstaff, Arizona, and then Dallas.

A visit in 1988 with John’s mother, who owned a motel in Colorado Springs, turned their lives upside down in the best possible way. Why not buy a small motel, The Timber Lodge, for sale in Manitou? she asked. They left the spirit of big houses, big cities and big businesses to make beds, rake yards, do laundry and welcome tourists. They never looked back, loving the mountains, small town life and Cindy happily walking her dogs in Garden of the Gods.

“We took what we learned in the corporate world and used it for a family business,” John said. And, yes, they were both “working more hours than we ever thought possible” when they became the subjects of a Gazette-Telegraph business article about “yuppies moving in the slow lane.” “.

In 2008, son Evan, who even as a teenager was fascinated with music production and lighting and is now co-owner of The Gold Room and a new bar in Pueblo, had the perfect plan for his parents. This large, round, empty theater on Pikes Peak Avenue was for sale. It had started in 1969 as a movie theater, UA Cinema 150; became the Colorado Country Music Opry Hall; changed to heavy metal Colorado Music Hall; then was the Global Evangelism Church.

Evan’s musician dad wanted him, mom not so much. Until Cindy sees stars at the top of the domed ceiling and says, “Stargazers.” That was it and their second family business, an event center and concert hall, was born. Famous musicians could perform here and popular tribute bands, but it would mostly feature local talent, they knew. “So much talent lives quietly here and there can’t be an honest music scene without local live music,” said John.

Their experience of lodge hospitality would serve them well here too, they thought. And that’s the case. Cindy prepares homemade meals for grateful musicians. The Hootons support non-profit organizations, providing a site for fundraising events. John’s songwriting skills are the origin of ‘Songwriters’ Circle Under the Dome’.

For now, however, Stargazers is not yet at full speed, after a few virtual events and the popular livestream, which could be an integral part of the concerts. The small staff, considered family-based, was retained with the help of grants and business loans. “Now we are ready to be all together, the more the merrier. We miss our life as we knew it,” John said. And it will be filled with lots of new Hooton artwork.

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