Will Work for Food: The Ore House Art Collection Story

What do ski bums and art collectors have in common? Well, if it was the 1970s and you lived in Colorado, chances were that these dual passions could easily have existed simultaneously. In fact, this unlikely duo laid the foundation for the Ore House art collection.

Beatle Abshagen, co-founder and co-owner of the Ore House, was in fact a self-proclaimed ski bum “back in the day.” He had a passion for not only fine food but for all things artistic and creative. Given this combo of interests, when he and co-founder Jim Arias opened the doors to the Ore House in 1972, they traded meals at the restaurant for art and other creative endeavors like woodworking and carpentry. Too, they had an interest in the mining heritage found in southwestern Colorado that inspired the name of the restaurant and its collection of numerous artifacts from the bygone era. It was this interest in Old West livelihoods, highlighting cowboys, pioneers, and living off the land, that set the stage for the unique atmosphere found inside the Ore House today.

Long before the concept of ‘local’ was popular, Beatle and Jim supported local artists by trading art for meals at the restaurant. This ‘will work for food’ perspective was a win-win situation as the Ore House wanted decor to liven its walls and artists needed food for their sustenance! Today, over 30 original works by 16 local, regional and nationally acclaimed artists grace the walls. Watercolors, oil paintings, drawings in charcoal as well as pen and ink, and Native American weavings and baskets comprise the collection of western-themed art.