‘Hippie commune’

Trimble Court Artisans celebrates 1970s roots

The self-described “hippie commune” on Trimble Court just off Old Town Square in Fort Collins has proved to be as enduring as any business downtown.

It dates to before Old Town Square — 1971 to be exact. It’s the oldest continuously operated art cooperative in the state and among the three oldest retail cooperatives in the nation.

That’s according to Trimble Court Artisans’ long-time president, Diane Findley, who joined in 1976 when she graduated from Colorado State University and never left.

“I had just graduated, and I was wandering around Old Town looking for a free concert,” she said, describing a common ritual of college-age people. “I came across Trimble Court and fell in love,” she said. The gallery is at 118 Trimble Court.

“All these years, and free concerts are still just out the front door.”

When Trimble was founded, landlord Martha Trimble, now deceased, charged $1 a year rent in order to help get the cooperative off the ground. Landlords since that time have also been helpful, she said.

Findley is an artist who creates hand-painted greeting cards. She’s one of about 50 artists who use Trimble as their retail base of operations. While it’s rare to see the artists actually performing their talents in the space, patrons will encounter artists on every visit.

That’s because of the financial arrangement to which the artists agree, which includes a commitment to share in staffing of the store. Member artists also agree to split their sales with the cooperative: 35% is directed to the co-op and the artist keeps the rest.

Most congregate art stores charge 50% or 60%, Findley said. The reason Trimble can have a lower commission is because of the work commitment. “Someone behind the counter will be trying to work the cash register,” Findley joked.

Patrons wander through the aisles and see all manner of artwork available to buy. “Stained glass, blown glass, fused glass, jewelry, pottery — low fire and high fire —, woodworking, Colorado landscapes, crocheted wire, painted silk, collage work, fine art such as paintings and prints, metal work, handmade greeting cards…,” Findley listed as she walked through the store.

At 69, Findley isn’t the oldest member of the cooperative. “There are no age restrictions. Our youngest was nine,” she said.

Members include architects, landscapers, teachers, a bartender, a research scientist, she said. 

“This goulash of members come together and are supportive of each other. When someone sells a big item, a $500 painting, we run up the flag,” she said.

Trimble is open varying hours but generally 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. most days; it’s open longer on weekends. “It’s only closed on Christmas and sometimes half the day on the Fourth of July,” she said. Fall tends to be a slower season, so the hours might be adjusted then, too. But during the holiday season it might be open longer.

While a co-op legally, it’s hippie commune roots also come forward, at least annually. “At the end of the year, if we have any money left, we divide it up based on each artist’s sales. And we start from scratch the next year,” Findley said.

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