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The May Gallery

There’s a magical place on the ground level of the VPAC that you might miss as you rush into the theater, eyes rightfully fixed on the stunning Chihuly chandelier donated by the Rippeto family in honor of the theater’s 25th anniversary.

The May Gallery entrance is not as readily noticeable as the chandelier, but it’s been welcoming guests for nearly as long as the theater has existed.

A view of the May Gallery.

Funded by Peter and Leni May, the May Gallery has its own history separate from the many performers who wowed audiences on the VPAC stage. The Mays began visiting the high country of Colorado in the 70s and bought one of the original Village Hall units.

“I was a supporter of the area and particularly supportive of building an arts center in Beaver Creek,” notes Peter May, who was interviewed for the VPAC’s 25th anniversary. “I remember when the mountain was just Centennial and Larkspur, and that was it.” Peter still visits Beaver Creek but recently sold his home after he stopped skiing at 80 years young.

He shares that the May Gallery was originally designed as an art gallery. The gallery debuted in 1998 with its first exhibition, running from February 8 – March 1, 1998, and featuring pieces and installations from local collectors. Following this exhibition, a Sotheby’s benefit art auction was held at the gallery on March 14, 1998, with proceeds benefiting the Vilar Center. Donations to the sale included works by renowned artists like Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Dan Daley and many others.

The door to the May Gallery, as seen from the inside.

Visiting artists also displayed their works, which quickly became an expensive proposition. “It was difficult and time consuming to bring in a rotating display of art,” May says. May himself lent many drawings to the gallery, including one display that featured great concert halls and opera houses from around the world.

From its beginnings as an art museum, the May Gallery morphed slowly into less of a display area and more of a gathering place for patrons. People began to meet and socialize there, bringing a different energy to the space.

Former executive director Duncan Horner said, “The patrons I got to know by spending time in the May Gallery became like extended family. There were many weeks I spent more time there than I did with my own family.”

The May Gallery underwent an extensive remodel in 2019. The gallery had looked much the same aesthetically since it opened. Peter May noted the upgrade was beautiful in its evolution from the original look.

The May Gallery saw multimedia and audio systems installed in 2019, supporting receptions, meetings, conference calling, intimate presentations, and chamber concerts. This created an event space well equipped for hosting community functions. Video conferencing was added to the May Gallery 2021.

While many things have changed, the important things will remain the same: the May Gallery will continue to be a central meeting point for people who love Beaver Creek and the arts.

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