A dream come true: A new center for the arts is opening in Cortez

A new arts center is opening in Cortez after an intense, 18-month renovation process to transform a 1950s gas station into a practical yet inspiring studio space. The building design and space planning had to function on multiple platforms, as its moniker implies: The Dream Machine, a place for music and the arts, education and entertainment.


Brandy Salyers begins rendering the Dream Machine arts center logo on the former 1950s gas station as construction on the renovation project continued through late September. Classes begin at the new center for music and arts, education and entertainment on Oct. 10. Salyers, an archaeologist, is offering instruction in color and design as well as drawing and painting. Courtesy photo.

“It reflects the positive energy, the inventive spirit of the arts,” says Simone Sanchez, founder of the center. Her career in professional music production, as a voice director and coach, singer and songwriter, has taught her to expect change, to be flexible.

When she first began the project, Sanchez thought the center would focus primarily on music. But it grew to include visual arts as news of the ambitious venture spread through networks of regional artists on-line and at her popular local performances.

The extensive repurposing on the retro building has also attracted attention on the busy thoroughfare. Local crews worked with her, converting it into a landmark destination in the Cortez art district, a block north of Main Street at the West Y.

“I’m lucky to find this building. The community of professional artists concentrated within a few blocks has helped establish identity here. But I didn’t anticipate how much construction investment I’d have to make, or the amount of upgrading that would be needed to create a versatile space. As the concept solidified, it had to support the many genres of arts education and performance mentoring the center is offering.”

The arts is a demanding business, she explains. Arts education must not be afraid to set a high standard for success while giving students the skills to explore mediums and develop strong work habits. Informing young people with skills and knowledge to help their performance and make dreams come true is tantamount to witnessing enchantment. “We need it all,” says Sanchez, “a solid, beautiful, safe and fun place to work where we help the arts come alive. We need each other.”

Sanchez will be teaching private vocal instruction at the center. She has been performing in theaters and other venues since she was 7. “During all the years of experience I learned to go after the venues I want, but then the more I performed the more venues began calling me with booking requests. It works both ways.” Her parents encouraged her vocal ambitions, supported her talents and discipline. They were absolutely positive about her aspiring vocal career, she says, and her desire to study classical music in college where she trained as an opera singer.

“But I began my family just after college. I had three children to support, and I was a single mom for a large part of that time. So I diversified my range of styles and enlarged my genre base to include ensemble pop and rock ’n’ roll, jazz and the blues. I have always had a desire to perform and I adapted to meet that need as my life responsibilities changed.”

Lessons about the demands of a life in the arts are part of her approach to education. “I want students to know the truth, yet I don’t want to squash their dreams. I ask them to do the research, to find out how other artists support themselves from their art medium. It’s a delicate conversation, but in the end a student understands how other people feed that artistic side of their lives. It is a marriage between art and the reality they will face. How to make art live in your own life.”

The Dream Machine will open its doors on Oct. 10. The professional faculty includes well-known musicians, such as guitarist Billy Kneebone. He’ll be teaching group guitar for middleschool students and older.

Renita Conny offers classes on flute, piano, ukulele and beginning guitar for all ages, “but,” says Sanchez, “there is a requirement. The young ones have to be able to read to take Conny’s classes. Our faculty has come together as professionals and we’ve worked to set manageable tuition fees for students and parents that also place value on the skills of our teaching staff.”

Brandy Salyer has been turning The Dream Machine logo into an architectural mural on the freshly painted, steelcolored building. It was designed by Farrell Greenlee, whose digital design service, Spiphy Graphix, is located a half block north of the Dream Machine on Piñon.

“He understood us immediately. We are so happy with his interpretation of our concept, how he blended the music with the art, the sense that we are working together in the center and, now, finally, it’s been wonderful to watch Brandy create our logo outside. We’re ready to open.”

Salyer, an archaeologist, will be teaching classes in color and design and also drawing and painting for middle school through adults. Moriah Ragland is offering early childhood art classes at the center this fall. Shane Snyder will teach rock band ensemble and Sabrina Geisler, an events planner, has created a writing class titled Lyrical Composition. She is also offering a class for yoga practitioners.

“Marinda Harrison will teach the popular wire-wrapping technique in a jewelry class,” Sanchez says. “It’s an example of the varied slate of classes Dream Machine is offering. Classes will change as more people express interest in teaching and more students express interest diverse mediums. I am open to variety and quality classes as well as stand alone workshops. It’s evolving as a creative hub for the arts. Maybe we’ll even offer a workshop in pennywhistle.”

More information on Dream Machine classes can be found on Facebook, at wwwdreammachinecortez.com, and at 970-560-6409, 100 N. Piñon Dr.

From Arts & Entertainment, October 2016.