Sweethearts of the Arts

February 9, 2017












Ed Bolster

Debra Greenblatt

Jeannie Wheeldon

View the 2017 Tribute Booklet!

2017 Honorees

Ed Bolster | Visual Artist, Educator and Craftsman

Debra Greenblatt | Founder/Director, Dumpster Beautification Project

Jeannie Wheeldon | Performer, Songstress and Arts Supporter

As the hub for quality arts experiences, the Durango Arts Center is enriched in its mission through the dedication of individuals and businesses that advance the arts, creativity and culture. Every year we celebrate “SweetheARTS” who make noteworthy contributions benefiting DAC, as well as the cultural landscape of the entire community.

This annual gala is a signature fundraising event benefiting the Durango Arts Center’s visual and performing arts experiences that serve thousands of children, youth and adults each year.  The creative engagement of community members, such as our 2017 Sweethearts, truly elevates DAC’s impact.

Born and raised in Southern California, Ed grew up swimming and scuba diving in the ocean. Breathing a lot of heavy smog, he sought refuge and relief hiking in the mountains, particularly the high country of California’s Sierra Nevada. Born with a fair amount of wonderlust, he eventually solo backpacked almost all of the John Muir Trail, accessed one obscure trail at a time. Ed was influenced by Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie, he hitchhiked throughout the western United States, a harmonica in his back pocket.

The Los Angeles area provided much by way of exposure to the arts. Pasadena, where Ed was mostly raised, was home to the Green and Green Brothers, Batchelder Tile, and other key players in the early 20th century Arts and Crafts movement. A Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, examples of Mission Revival and historical architecture were found throughout Pasadena. Indeed, there was a Green and Green bungalow on Ed’s paper route. Pasadena at the time housed the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art, later known as the Pasadena Art Museum, now the Norton Simon Museum. Beginning with its permanent collection of paintings by the Blue Ridge Group, aka the Blue Four ( Klee, Kandinsky, Marc and Feininger), and right up to the most current contemporary art, it was a fertile time and place for art, and this made quite an impression on Ed.

Ed’s art career began at an early age. Identified as a likely sculptor for modeling the cube of margarine during family diner, he received much criticism at the time. As a young teen he wandered into an evening ceramics class at a local adult education center. That moment was the beginning of another lifelong passion. Having an affinity for throwing pots, Ed soon began selling his pieces at local flea markets and head shops. Once out of school, he continued as a potter, throwing pots for piecework, making his own work, as well as attending to formal art education at Pasadena City College, the University of Montana, and California State University in LA.

During those days of working as a potter and going to junior college in Pasadena, he helped an artist friend renovate an old house and turn it into a gallery for selling their work. That unlikely event opened a path that would blend multiple skills and interests. The gallery didn’t last long, but much like his experience with pottery, he thrived applying his artistic talents while learning construction skills. Soon he was working as a craftsman in a new arts and crafts revival.

Seeking out the top teachers in his field, Ed studied at the University of Montana in Missoula. While there he was able to meet and befriend such renowned ceramic artists as Rudy Autio, Peter Voulkus, Ken Little and many others. It was also there, while attending a graduate workshop, that he met a particularly charismatic and talented ceramic artist named Debra Greenblatt. Her Majolica ceramic ware was as bright and colorful as her personality.

Together they moved to California. First they established a studio and lived in a small gold mining community in northern California, later moving to the Los Angeles area to emerge into the contemporary art scene. During this time Ed and Debra married and started their family.

Ed attended graduate school at California State University LA, earning his Master of Arts degree. Having been a visual artist and object maker for twenty years, offering demonstrations and teaching, Ed’s aesthetic sensibilities evolved into more conceptual and performance art. Forming an ensemble of fellow artists and musicians, “Easy Eddy and the Smoky Valley Scramblers” created performances centered on the process of making and using ceramics. With thoughts of community and celebration, their Raku firings with a “twist” were special crowd pleasurers.

Debra and Ed moved to Durango over two decades ago, where they raised their two daughters, Ruby and Delia. They have been involved with many community art and service organizations, including the Durango Arts Center, the Dumpster Beautification Project, Rotary international and Rotary Youth Exchange, Adaptive Sports Association, KDUR and others.

Ed has had a varied lifelong career as an artist and craftsman. He has commercial ceramic manufacturing experience as well as artwork in museum collections. He has “slung a trowel” as a mason for Rock Stars in Malibu and worked as a hard-rock gold miner in California’s Northern Mother Lode. He has built homes from the ground up and taught art at the college level. He has shown in numerous shows and galleries as well as conducted demonstrations, workshops and performances. Most recently, Ed has returned to the basics – drawing. He has been conducting weekly figure drawing sessions at the Durango Arts Center and teaching drawing classes. His current work features high-energy extended gesture drawings. For Ed, creative expression is at the heart of his being.

The 1960’s were an explosive time in the visual arts as new forms of art blossomed and grew. It was a time that begat Pop Art, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Photo Realism, and Art Happenings. During this decade social activism was rising both to protest the Vietnam War and to promote such causes as Civil Rights and Feminism. The soundtrack for all this energy was Rock and Roll. Now throw into this heady mix a young girl living in close proximity to the greatest city on Earth, New York City, and you have the recipe for the education of an artist. Debra Greenblatt was raised in this environment by a couple of art appreciators, her parents Belle and Seymour. She and her siblings had weekly culture trips to the city where Debra experienced world class art, ballet, and the symphony. It was fertile ground for a child with a vivid imagination and boundless energy.

Fast forward a decade to a high school class in ceramics. From the first moment of molding wet clay, Debra was hooked and decided to pursue an arts career. This journey took her to Bennington College in Vermont and later to the University of Montana where she studied under the late Rudy Autio. It was there in Montana that she met another visual arts student, Ed Bolster. As a couple they worked both separately and collaboratively feeding their hunger to make art of all kinds – ceramics, painting sculpture and performance art. Looking for adventure and a vital art scene, they moved to northern California where they lived the life of full time artists by finding galleries in the big city to show and sell their art. To be even closer to the world of galleries and art museums, they moved to Los Angeles where they started a family and continued refining their art. LA is a noisy busy city where the car is king and graffiti is everywhere. Murals and public art fueled Debra’s art education while punk music and rap played in her studio.


However good it was to be an artist living in LA, it was difficult to be a parent wanting to raise a family in a safe, clean environment. This brought on a need to reconnect with the mountains and live in a small town so their girls, Ruby and Delia, could flourish. And flourish they did, embracing all the outdoors could offer while being inquisitive and hard-working students. The move to Durango in 1993 changed Debra’s art career. No longer was it as financially feasible to make objects and ship them to galleries and shows. Instead she chose to make less art objects and do more conceptual art and installations. She felt it important to educate the community about all forms of visual art, not just the classic arts. It was during this time that she built a kitchen in the Durango Arts Center because the kitchen is one place many people feel okay to be creative. She and Ed became involved in the arts community and participated in many events including the inaugural Main Avenue Arts Festival (now the Annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival). They held an annual Hanukah party where their friends and neighbors got to witness the magic of a raku firing and the performance of cooking on the pots pulled from the hot kiln. Then 9/11 occurred. As a native New Yorker who had watched the towers being built, their destruction through an act of terrorism had a profound impact on Debra. As art can help one get through the grieving process, she made a sculpture about 9/11 that can be seen in the entrance to the Durango City Hall. It is there to remind us how precious and fragile life can be.

In 2008, public art came calling with a vengeance and she responded by founding the Dumpster Beautification Project. She had remembered how exciting it was for her to see the graffiti art on the NYC subways and the murals in the streets of Los Angeles. She thought about how this kind of art was available for all to see; you didn’t have to go to a museum or gallery. This type of public art was not permanent rather it was ever-changing or painted over. This was a fresh type of art she wanted to share with her community. In the summer of 2009, she and the DBP began painting WCA dumpsters with the help of fellow artists and members of the community. The DBP is particularly fond of working with at-risk kids to give them a legal outlet to express themselves, teach them some design and painting skills, and to encourage them to participate in their community. It is an all-inclusive organization that strives to “bring art to unexpected places”.

Thanks to her family, her community, and her town, Debra flourishes as she lives the life of an artist.

Jeannie Wheeldon, fifth generation Durango native, grew up in an artistic family. Her great grandfather, James Jarvis, made the first motion picture in the San Juan Basin – For Love of a Navajo. Her parents, Earl and Jentra Barker were singers, musicians and actors in the La Plata Players as well as extras in movies filmed in the Durango area including A Ticket to Tomahawk with up and coming star, Marilyn Monroe.

Jeannie was involved professionally with the Diamond Circle Melodrama (DCM) for 30 years. She discovered that the easiest way to be successful as an entertainer was to surround herself with extremely talented, energetic, positive people. Her friends and colleagues from her involvement in the Durango theatre scene include several leading citizens of the Durango Arts Community who have the DCM listed on their resumes; Theresa Carson, Will Casey, Marcia Clouser, Dr. Ginny Davis, Suzy DiSanto, Deehna Geehan, Helen Gregory, Scott Hagler, Ted Holteen, Meredith Mapel, Ben Mattson and Jared Wright, just to name a few.

In addition to the Diamond Circle, Jeannie was a member of the international cast of Up With People in 1975/76, travelling across the US performing while taking courses to complete her first year of college. Jeannie was among the featured Up With People performers at the 1976 Super Bowl half-time show. Jeannie earned her BA in Drama from Stanford University which included spending her junior year studying theatre in London. Jeannie, along with Helen Gregory, Dr. Ginny Davis and Glenda Hensley, formed Early Stages Productions (ESP) to provide an educational theatrical program for Durango’s youth. ESP in collaboration with Fort Lewis Theatre Department produced several shows including “The Miracle Worker.” ESP also presented children’s workshops and Love, Life and Laughter, a musical revue featuring local women singers, including Jenny Fitz, Melanie McLean and Ivy Walker. ESP also presented Helen Gregory’s musical version of “A Christmas Carol” on the Smiley Building stage featuring many Durango locals. Jeannie, along with the multi-talented Eric Hoit, also produced professional “Live Radio Shows” featuring the stories of Louis L’Amour, working with her child-hood friend, Beau L’Amour and Louis’ wife, Kathy. Eric and Jeannie became friends at Stanford and worked together in the DCM since 1988.

Jeannie would like to share this Sweetheart honor with two people. The first is her grandmother, Marion “Oohoo” Jarvis, with whom she spent a great deal of her childhood. Oohoo taught her to sing and play the piano and took her to stage shows, community concerts and symphonies. As a founding member of the Diamond Circle Corporation, Oohoo took Jeannie to theatre rehearsals beginning at age five and thus began her love of theatre. Jeannie would go from “the little kid at rehearsals who learned every line in the shows and every song, joke and dance from the “olio” acts in 1962 to usher, ticket girl, actress, choreographer, director and finally owner and producer from 1993 until the Diamond Circle Melodrama closed after its 46th season in 2007. Jeannie learned her acting and directing skills from the Melodrama master, Orvis Grout. She also learned from and worked with so many talented professional actors and musicians whom she keeps in contact with as she watches their stage, movie, TV and educational careers grow and prosper.

The other honorary recipient of this wonderful recognition would be her husband, partner and best friend, Steve. Jeannie has developed the left side of her brain to help Steve with the administration side of their investment management business, Intelligent Investment Management, since it began in 1996. Steve first saw Jeannie onstage at the Melodrama and has been her financial advisor, Stage Door Johnny, business partner, balloon chase crew chief, line-rehearser, critic and most appreciative audience member for 28 years. Steve supports her creative endeavors but wishes that they could be accomplished during regular business hours, like most people. Late night rehearsals and performances are not his favorites, but with Steve’s support, Jeannie has continually been involved with the arts community, using the right side of her brain.

After the DCM, Jeannie took a hiatus from performing and became a patron of the arts in Durango. She longed to return to performing in some form and found a home on the DAC stage in 2012 in Beehive, the 60s Musical, and again in 2013 in Cabaret. She performed as part of the 50th reunion cast of Up With People at Disneyworld in 2015. She was then very lucky to find herself cast as Sonia in the Merely Players / DAC collaboration of Vania and Sonia and Masha and Spike directed by Mona Wood-Patterson in 2016. This was her first experience working with the great team of MWP, Charles Ford and the talented Merely Players team. This role earned her a Best Actress in a Play nomination from BroadwayWorld Denver theatre awards.

In her ongoing attempt to “teach an old dog new tricks” and to keep her hand in the arts, Jeannie now finds herself several times a week at Stillwater Music. She plays piano and sings in the folk group, Animas Roots and is learning how to sing A Capella with the DurangoTones adult vocal group. She is also happy to take on the role of “wise grandmother”, NeeNee to her 8-year-old granddaughter, Kyla, who is learning about music, art, dance and theatre just as Jeannie did from her grandmother, Oohoo. Jeannie takes Kyla to her Stillwater youth music classes and rehearses with her at home as well as taking her to as many theatre events as possible around the area.

Community involvement has always been important to Jeannie. She is a 20-year member of Durango High Noon Rotary. She and Steve are still working in the investment management business, they have a small horse farm, spend part of the winter in Tucson and travel often to watch baseball games and see theatrical productions around the country. Jeannie plays tennis, golf, skis and rides horses with her granddaughter. A children’s book is in the early stages as well. As she looks for more outlets for her creativity on stage and maybe the small screen, Jeannie and Steve continue to support performing arts and music programs benefiting children (of all ages) in the Durango area. Jeannie feels it is especially important that arts education is a component of every academic program, with well-documented, immense benefits for the young and young-at-heart. Music and theatre will always be a part of her life and high on her charitable donation list. Jeannie is honored to be recognized by the arts community of Durango and she hopes to continue to live up to the challenge of making our small town one of the best arts communities in the country. Stay tuned!

Durango has many glamorous events, but few are both as elegant and heartfelt as the Durango Arts Center’s Sweetheart of the Arts. — Ann Butler, The Durango Herald.

Read the 2017 review by Ann Butler in her Neighbors’ Column.


The Durango Arts Center is grateful to our community of supporters who made this special event possible by providing food, beverages and entertainment.  In addition to the businesses shown below, DAC acknowledges the contributions of Cathy Alfandre, Allison Andersen, Ted Holteen, Jen Anderson, John Edens, Mark Garcia, Jerry McBride, Marta Snow, Brande Thorpe, Christa Turnell, Wink Winkler, Lisa Mackey, Sydney Morris, Alison Dance, Doug Lashley, Helen Gregory, Laurie Dickson, Jim Duke, C. Scott Hagler, Helen Kunz, Melanie McLean, Brian Simmonds and Caprice Fox.

2016 Sweethearts

Judy & Don Hayes
Debra Parmenter & Terry Bacon
The Ballantine Family
Ann Butler
Durango Friends of the Arts
Stanton Englehart
Friends of the Art Library:

  • Mary Ellen Long
  • Deborah Gorton
  • Louise Grunewald
  • Leesa Zarinelli Gawlik
  • Barbara Tobin Klema
  • Jane Steele

C. Scott Hagler
Gemma Kavanagh
Mary Ellen Long
Linda Mack
Rochelle Mann
Sandra Mapel
Meredith Mapel
Maureen May
Judith Reynolds
Carol Salomon
Mona Wood-Patterson