Nationally recognized folk artist Eppie Archuleta is weaving again in her San Luis studio. The octogenarian, who comes from a long line of weavers, abandoned her loom a short while ago. She was depressed after the recent deaths of her husband and her mother, Agueda Martinez, who passed away at her loom at the age of 102.
But Archuleta, whose craft has been the literal warp and weft of her long life, has proved resilient. One of four subjects of Treasures, a new half-hour documentary produced by Denver Center Media, the film-and-video wing of the Denver Center for Performing Arts, the octogenarian weaver seems to have rediscovered her muse since returning to her abandoned studio with film interviewer/director Carol Bryn. "It was a little bit iffy whether she'd even do the interview," Bryn says. "But her daughter Norma thought it would be best for her to do it, to help her get out of her depression. And she really came around once she started talking."
The talking, it seems, was easy for Archuleta, just as it was for the other Colorado seniors chosen for profiles: actor Archie Smith, dance-school maven/philanthropist Florence Ruston and composer Jean Berger. Says Bryn, "I didn't have to do much. I just asked the question: 'What has your life been like?' And they would just go off." The resulting life stories -- as well as the priceless regional antiques they describe -- can be seen Tuesday at a premiere screening at the Seawell ballroom.
Of course, people with such rich lives must automatically have a lot to talk about. Smith, a latecomer to Colorado (he arrived sixteen years ago to work with the Denver Center Theatre Company and the National Theatre Conservatory), acted on Broadway and in Hollywood before coming to roost here. Ruston's famed dance school was the largest between Chicago and California, and at age 85, the former hoofer is still a boardmember for eleven charitable and arts organizations. And Berger, 92, still oversees a music-publishing business and travels to Europe for performances of his choral and instrumental music.
"They each lived through so much," Bryn observes. "Most of them lived through a couple of world wars and the Depression, and all of them maintained their art through it all. They stuck to it mostly because it was what they had to do: Their art was so much a part of them that to do anything else was unthinkable." That linking sense of purpose among the culturally disparate group is nothing less than inspirational, Bryn adds: "I really see them as mentors for people who want to make a living in the arts."
Bryn says she could easily have done a full-length feature about each of her subjects. She also admits the film's odd quartet forms the proverbial tip of an iceberg. Though no additional profiles are in the planning yet, they could easily become a lifelong project. "I do have a list of others -- people from the symphony, painters, other actors. I'd love to do Tony Church -- what a story that would be."
And what a breeze it would be for Bryn to work with an endless procession of "joyful, intelligent, positive and wise" elders such as the four chronicled in Treasures. "They're totally in love with life -- all of them," she says. "And they've all been such an inspiration to me. If I can be that way when I'm their age, I will have succeeded."