Toklat Gallery, perhaps the longest-tenured business in the entire Roaring Fork Valley, will begin to celebrate its seventh decade Friday, Jan. 11, with an artist reception from 5-8 p.m. in downtown Basalt.
During that time, Veryl Goodnight, one of Toklat’s featured artists, will unveil “Legends of Ashcroft,” a 26-by-42-inch painting of Toklat founder, Stuart Mace, and his team of sled dogs, which established the Mace family in the Valley in 1949.
The Mace family legacy is a rich one. Isabel Pfimmer Hays and Stuart Mace met at Grinnell College in Iowa in 1941. They married shortly after graduation before Stuart’s draft orders were issued to enter World War II.
Stuart was the director of the Arctic dog sled team at Camp Hale, home of the famed 10th Mountain Division, in 1942, and, when the war ended, he adopted several of the Army’s top dogs and moved to Boulder with Isabel. In 1947, the Maces were personally invited to Aspen by Walter Paepcke to encourage a revitalization of Aspen’s community and culture.
Stuart and Isabel moved their family of four and 20 sled dogs to Ashcroft, where they established the Toklat Husky Kennel and Wilderness Lodge, which offered guests room, board and backcountry dog sled excursions. Toklat is an Inuit word that means “the headwaters of a glacially formed mountain valley.” This describes Toklat at Ashcroft.
Stuart once said, “Life at Toklat has allowed us to mature and to raise a family in tune with the rhythms and responses that surround us in this glorious alpine valley we call home.”
As the years carried on, the Mace family took Toklat in all its forms to other parts of the valley, where it became known for the dogs, the food, the art and the family.
“It was always in Ashcroft,” said Toklat Gallery owner Lynne Mace, the second-eldest of the Mace children and the only daughter. “We had a little store at the Aspen Times building. When I was 14, I went up after school and opened up that shop. Then we had a restaurant where the Hickory House is from ’62 to ’64. Then, we had another restaurant over where the Dancing Bear is from ’64 to ’69 and there was art there. Eventually, it became an art gallery.
“I’ve been in Basalt since 2005 and been in this location for 10 years,” Mace continued. “I came to Basalt on purpose. Basalt was ragingly hot then. There were articles in the New York Times, hot, hot, hot. The place to be. I came down here because I wanted a small community. I love this community. It’s quiet and nice and lovely and wonderful. I just love owning a gallery without having to be in the dog-eat-dog, wondering-how-to-pay-my-rent-every-year, world.”
Lynne took Toklat over after her father died.
“My father died in 1993, which is why I’m here,” she said. “I wasn’t here, then I came back and I stayed. My mother and I ran the gallery together, then she died in 2006. Art has been in my life forever. Mother’s art was her kitchen. My brother, Bruce, inherited my father’s extraordinary skills with a camera, and my brother, Kent, inherited his extraordinary skills with wood. My father’s degree in college was plant genetics and my great love is plants. Art in the garden.”
For Friday’s reception, guests can expect a celebration of the Mace family and Toklat’s history, with some happy surprises.
“It is a great, great honor to have this painting by Veryl,” Lynne said. “In organizing this, I have five new artists coming in for this celebration and I have five former artists who are coming back, several of whom exhibited in Ashcroft and one went and sailed around the world. The collective of artists is what I’m most proud of right now. Michael Kinsley and Doug Graybeal both agreed to bring paintings in from Ashcroft and Castle Creek. There will be photos of my father’s. It’s just going to be a real trip down memory lane and a collection of … good vibes!”
When asked about what it has been like for her to reflect on the 70th year of Toklat, Lynne said revisiting her parents’ lives and her family’s legacy has been the most exciting part of the celebration.
“I’ve had a book in the works since 2004,” she said. “I expect it is going to come into fruition this year. It has been edited and when I was getting ready to finish it, I got a tremendous gift. A great friend of mine and my father’s offered to have all of my father’s images scanned. We are now up to about 5,000, and that’s about half. It’s so much fun looking through them. Seeing my two youngest brothers who are 10 years younger than myself on a burro we used to have in Ashcroft — just seeing all that. Reacquainting myself with the whole scope of the history. […] I love exploring it all.”
The official, 70th anniversary is June 27th. More gallery events, artists’ receptions and celebrations will take place throughout the year. For now, consider visiting Toklat Gallery, 255 Gold Rivers Ct #150, Basalt, on Jan. 11, from 5-8 p.m., to join Lynne in celebrating the new year and her business’ eighth decade.