After the music died at the Stargazers Theater on March 16, 2020, co-owner Cindy Hooton got her brush back.
In the year of COVID-19’s top-down lockdown and ever-changing restrictions on the general public, she and her husband John first “painted, mended and mended” in the grand event center and the concert hall they have owned for 12 years. During those years, about half a million people had entered and exited this now empty building, three or four nights a week.
The couple also spent time at home doing creative work at the charming Timber Lodge log cabins in Manitou Springs that they have owned since 1988.
And Cindy set up an easel.
“I never thought I could do art,” she recalls, but that changed years earlier because of one of her twin sons, Chase, who suffered a stroke. when he was born 30 years ago. There were “a lot of different therapies” as he was growing up. When she saw an art book on “drawing on the right side of the brain,” she wondered if that might help her see how Chase sees the world. A class at the Bemis School of Art at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center honed this skill and showed her how.
His art continued. Cindy started with pencils and moved on to pastels and watercolors and now to bright, “cheerful” acrylics. It was the perfect time to bring her love of flowers, succulents and gardening to the canvas, her pastorals and her mountain scenes. And the animal lover has lots of dog and cat models to paint at home or the pets of staff and friends.
Being surrounded by walls of brilliant art rubbed off on John, who had studied commercial art. Cindy encouraged him to set up an easel next to hers for her project, the sights and sounds of the musical world of Stargazer: the musicians, the people, the music, “the feel”. John, who has been playing guitar and songwriter since he was a teenager, has plenty to work with with his “hundreds of photos” from the Stargazer years.
Perhaps, the couple wonder, they’ll even have a Hooton art exhibit as Stargazers opens up to a larger audience in their 500-seat theater. At recent pandemic levels, this was only 10 people and ultimately 50 authorized people; by mid-February it finally became 50% capacity unless the number of coronavirus cases spikes again. They receive letters and messages of support.
This couple’s partnership has been solid since they married 37 years ago in June. They shake their heads and laugh, remembering that they were part of the big business world back then. “We were living life,” says John. “The big house, the big hair, the big car, the big cities.” They worked for the same big company and were moved from California to places like Flagstaff, Arizona, and then Dallas.
A 1988 visit with John’s mother, a motel owner in Colorado Springs, turned their lives upside down in the best possible way. Why not buy a small motel, The Timber Lodge, for sale in Manitou? she asked. They left the mentalities of big houses, big cities and big companies to make beds, rake the courtyards, do the laundry and welcome tourists. They never looked back, loving the mountains, the life of a small town and Cindy happily walked her dogs in Garden of the Gods.
“We took what we learned in the corporate world and used it for a family business,” John said. And, yes, they were both “working more hours than we ever thought possible” when they became the subjects of a Gazette-Telegraph business story about “Yuppies Moving the Slow Lane.” “.
In 2008, his son Evan, who even as a teenager was fascinated by music production and lighting and now co-owns The Gold Room and a new bar in Pueblo, had the perfect plan for his parents. This large, round, empty theater on Pikes Peak Avenue was for sale. It had started in 1969 as a movie theater, UA Cinema 150; became Colorado country music Opry Hall; changed to heavy metal Colorado Music Hall; and then was the World Church of Evangelism.
Evan’s musician father wanted him, mom not so much. Until Cindy sees stars high in the dome ceiling and says, “Stargazers.” This is how their second family business, an event center and concert hall, was born. Famous musicians could perform here and popular tribute groups, but it would mostly feature local talent, they knew. “So many talents live quietly here and there can be no honest music scene without local live music,” John said.
Their experience of lodge hospitality would also be very helpful to them here, they thought. And that’s the case. Cindy prepares homemade meals for the grateful musicians. The Hootons support nonprofit organizations, providing a site for fundraising events. John’s songwriting skills are the origin of “Songwriters’ Circle Under the Dome”.
For now, however, Stargazers is not yet at full capacity, after a few virtual events and the popular live broadcast, which could be an integral part of the concerts. The small staff, seen as family, were retained through grants and business loans. “Now we’re all ready to be together, the more the merrier. We miss our life as we knew it, ”said John. And it will be filled with a lot of new Hooton art.