Anderson Ranch Arts Center welcomes Peter Waanders into its creative community.
The ranch hosts more than 100 workshops and 1,000 students annually.
A hub for creating art and critical dialogue, Anderson Ranch Arts Center draws artists from around the globe to its serene Rocky Mountain creative space for in-depth workshops and residencies. Since 1966, artists of all disciplines and calibers have sought out the ranch to examine, discuss and further their craft. “To me, the first step is really to honor the art-making history of the ranch and delve into an experience with that,” says Peter Waanders, who joined ARAC as the new president and CEO in January. “The ranch doesn’t need to be turned around,” he continues. “It needs to be celebrated, to invite in more people to learn and understand what we do.”
Waanders’ résumé is impressive in both the art and business realms. Throughout the 1990s, Waanders operated independent bookstores in the Midwest, including The Bookman, in Grand Haven, Mich., and Waanders’ Bookmark, in Auburn, Ind. Upon moving to Aspen in 1999, he delved into the art scene, working as a partner alongside David Floria at his gallery. In 2011, he joined the Aspen Institute as director for the Society of Fellows. He reflects on his path, saying that he feels this transition to Anderson Ranch is “one very smooth continuum” in his experiences, “… from literature and bookstores to the art gallery, then to the Society of Fellows at the Institute, and now to the ranch.”
Among commonalities between the Institute and ARAC, two venerable Roaring Fork Valley organizations, Waanders notes the sense of community surrounding the arts and culture scene, and being surrounded by people who are passionate about their involvements. It’s vibrant with locals and visitors alike, he adds. “[It varies] from listening to Madeleine K. Albright talk in a big auditorium, to having 10 people around a dinner table really diving into an idea around foreign and domestic policies, or the intersection of art and social justice,” he says.
Continuing that relationship—those conversations and connections—is what he hopes to bring to ARAC. In preparation for his new role, Waanders has enjoyed strolls through the campus, meeting with the artists and getting to know the people who are passionate about the arts center. In an effort to get the full experience and bigger picture of what goes on in the classrooms, he plans on getting behind the easel and enjoying some lessons too.