Art instructor Jeff Roth sets out for Denver on foot
October 9, 2013
Steamboat Springs — When Colorado Mountain College art instructor Jeff Roth woke up Thursday morning in Oak Creek, he laced up his hiking boots, hoisted a heavy backpack onto his shoulders and set out on Routt County Road 16 in the direction of Lynx Pass and Denver beyond.
Roth is planning to cover the roughly 163 miles from Oak Creek to Denver in 10 days of walking and arrive at the Daniels School of Business on the campus of Denver University in time to attend the next meeting of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Along the way, he expects to raise more than $1,800 to support the March of Dimes' work reducing the number of premature babies born in Colorado and the nation.
"Alpha Phi Alpha is the first black fraternity in the country, and my trip winds up at our chapter meeting at DU," Roth said Wednesday. "One of our missions is service to our community. March of Dimes is one of the causes we support nationally. There are more than 600 chapters."
At CMC's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs, Roth is teaching art appreciation and studio, helping students push through barriers and complete projects that could fit into a professional portfolio. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Vermont College of Fine Art.
Shawndra Winter, instructional chairperson for the art department on CMC's Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs, said Roth's dedication has made him a valuable instructor.
"What I've most valued about Jeff is that he's always willing to ask the hard question, 'How does this help my students?' and 'How can I provide that environment in the classroom?'" Winter said.
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Roth's approach to teaching art goes deeper. As a biracial man who grew up in the racially charged 1970s, he has chosen to explore identity issues through his own oil paintings.
"I'm a self-proclaimed identity artist," Roth said. “I'm biracial, and growing up, I became very aware of the associated problems. I've had it from both sides."
He thinks artists should approach their work with intent, knowing all the while that it will be open to interpretation by the people who view it.
Winter said Roth has been able to bring a different perspective to his students and the broader community.
"He's very open about his experiences growing up, the challenges he faced and sharing with students," Winter said.
Through his own work, he has helped his students accept different cultures and even their own biases, she added.
In addition to his work at CMC, Roth volunteers as the art director for It Takes Courage, an outreach team in Routt County that works to prevent bullying among young people.
He also is an outdoorsman who hunts deer during muzzle-loading seasons. So, you can be assured that he was prepared with a good tent, backpacking stove and dehydrated meals when he set out for Denver on Thursday.
He'll travel a mix of paved highways and unpaved county roads as he heads for the Front Range via Lynx, Gore, Rollins and Corona passes.
"I've walked from home (in Oak Creek) to Sixth Street (in downtown Steamboat Springs) a couple of times, and that's 20 miles," Roth said. "The first day I'll have to do 20 miles just to get to the national forest where I can legally camp."
As he set out, Roth could take encouragement from the fact that his fundraising efforts already had surpassed his goal of raising $10 per mile — by late afternoon Wednesday, he already had raised $1,811 through his personal page at the March of Dimes’ "March for Babies" site.
"I'm doing this because it's just a great cause," Roth said. "The March of Dimes does such great work and affects every child born in the country."
A cerebral artist with the willingness to probe difficult questions through his work, Roth also is a man with a soft heart. You have to think that he’ll have ample time on his march to Denver to contemplate his next work of art, and what it all means.