Nestled in the Virginia Range Mountains atop a land pockmarked with abandoned mines is a vibrant hub for art. Today, St. Mary’s Art Center is filled with creative minds and various exhibits. But the 19th-century building wasn’t always so lively.
The main building was constructed in 1875 as a hospital for miners. It opened in 1876 as the St. Mary Louise Hospital. Up to 70 patients could be crammed within its 36 rooms. It was a fairly luxurious hospital—for $20 a week, patients could have their own private room complete with food, medical attention, and both hot and cold running water—but by the late 1890s, the local mining population had dropped significantly. Though the hospital struggled in the gold rush’s waning days, it managed to stay in business until the 1940s.
After it closed, the abandoned building was left to rot and decay. That is, until 1964, when Father Paul Meinecke and Louise Curran joined up with a group of artists to breathe new life into the place and open it as an art center. More than 30 people attended its first painting class, and business continued to boom thereafter. The art center became a thriving retreat for artists, who transformed the old hospital into a stage for their creative endeavors.
Now, you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the historic space. The public is welcome to explore the art center, and it can even be rented out for various events and functions.