If you ask native Texans Shawn and Gary Bridges what inspires them, they have a quick and simple answer: the beauty that surrounds them at their home in Cuchara, Colorado. The Baylor graduates (Class of 1968) now call the small village just north of the New Mexico border home, where Shawn is an artist, and Gary is an author.
The path they have taken to arrive in Cuchara has been a bit winding, but creativity and service have been deeply ingrained in the couple, first emerging during their time at Baylor. Gary came to Baylor on a football scholarship and studied psychology, while Shawn was an art major. “We met, pretty much, each of our first nights on campus,” Gary said, with a mutual friend connecting them.
Their time at Baylor came to an end at the height of the Vietnam War, and Gary enlisted once he graduated. His time in the Air Force as a pilot took him to more than 30 countries, as well as moving their young family around the country
After his time in the service, Gary knew psychology was not what he was meant to do. Instead, he took the practical route, pursuing accounting. While her husband was working in the business world, Shawn pursued her art career, first for her family’s clothing stores in San Antonio as a designer and doing the advertising, and then doing studio art and murals.
The desire to raise their family in a quieter setting drew the Bridges to a ski town in Colorado, where they opened various stores. However, the businesses struggled and eventually closed down. Providentially, Gary was offered a job teaching accounting at Colorado State University at Pueblo. Surprisingly for him, he loved it, and continued as a professor for 30 years.
While Shawn had felt her calling to art from an early age, Gary didn’t truly tap into his creativity until 2006. Years earlier, on a horseback ride with his son and a family friend in Colorado, Gary realized his desire to write. “When we finished [the ride], I started thinking about, ‘Gosh, that would make a really good story.’” In 2006, he wrote his first novel, The Cuchara Chronicles, and he is currently working on his eighth book.
In the ways that Cuchara has deeply influenced Gary’s writing, the beauty surrounding their home in Colorado has also inspired Shawn. One of her most recent paintings is of a firefighter standing in the rain looking up to heaven. Her idea for this painting came about after their home was threatened by a recent wildfire. Their property was saved only after winds changed direction, bringing desperately needed rain. Shawn decided to immortalize the miracle with her art.
While Gary served the country in the military, Shawn has used her art in service to the nation, as well. In the wake of September 11th, Shawn turned to art to process the tragedy. She painted an image of the hands of God draped in the American flag holding victims of the tragedy. When friends saw the painting, they made copies, sold them and raised money for the victims of the terrorist attacks. Her original painting now hangs in the Pentagon in memory of the lives that were lost.
As they spend to their days in Cuchara, the Bridges continue to be inspired by the path that has brought them to Colorado and the landscape that surrounds them. Shawn’s work can be found on her website (www.shawnbridges.com) and at the Timbers Gallery in Cuchara, and Gary’s novels are available on Amazon.