Some people say business and friends do not go together. I must say, in my two years of experience with Among the Colors, nothing is further from the truth for me. I have been honored to be able to build a female-based company alongside working with some very talented, passionate and creative women. We started out in business and we have become great friends. So, it only made since that my next edition to the bad ass babes of Among the Colors, would actually be a dear friend of mine of over ten years, Claire Tonelson. Claire is the new Director of Events for ATC DEN, the Among the Colors brick-and-mortar expression that serves as a contemporary art gallery and modern-appointed event space in the heart of Denver’s RiNo (River North) art district. Claire has inspired me for years as a person passionate for living life to the fullest, with a deep appreciation for art, music and food. And last but not least, an epic sense of personal style. Claire can rock an outfit quite like none other, and I’ve always admired her exquisite taste in vintage pieces.
So please let me introduce you all to Claire Tonelson, Director of Events for ATC DEN. She has been inspiring me for years, and I simply know she will do the same for you.
Inspired Women: Claire Tonelson
Tell me about your background, both professionally and personally.
Music has been a part of my life since before I can remember. My Dad is an avid listener and player, and I’ve been bustin’ a move on the dance floor with my Mom since before I could fully walk. They instilled a passionate, appreciation and love for live music in me, and even took me to my first and only Dead show in ’95! I am a classically trained violinist and toured around the US and Europe in high school and early college with orchestral groups. During this time, I was also catching as many music concerts as possible. I graduated college (with honors!) and with a focus on Communication and Public Relations. Following college, I started doing Music PR for a boutique firm in Boulder, and it was at this point that I realized that I loved being behind the scenes; helping bands gain acclaim, watching a festival grow from the ground up, and doing everything possible to promote my clients and simultaneously, promote a good time overall. It is certainly not always glamorous work, as some might think, but working in the music business instilled patience within me, as well as an appreciation for all types of people, in all realms of life.
After PR, I managed a record label and started doing private events for those artists as well as working onsite at the country’s largest music festivals, handling high level VIP experiences. Eventually, the hours of the music business and the touring life took its toll, and I found my way into private events for a food and beverage group. I started as an assistant and within less than 2 years was handling private events for 6 locations, and eventually managing a restaurant, as well. As this was all winding down, I began handling events for my dear friends at the RiNo Yacht Club at The Source, which has also been a great learning experience, and continues to keep me on my toes. Among The Colors approached me with the position of Events Director, and as it was a fantastic opportunity of which allowed me to showcase my skills from all of these different arenas. I decided that it was the perfect fit and began working full time for Among the Colors last fall. Because of the layout of the space, and the freedom and flexibility that ATC allots me to be creative, I’m excited to work in not only music, food and beverage, but and also art, music, fashion, cannabis, wellness, and whatever else may come our way. To be able to bring all of my communications, PR, media, and hospitality skills into play is beyond exciting.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
My friends and family inspire me endlessly. My mom instilled a unique sense of style in me since I was young, as well as the importance of people skills, reciprocation and manners. My Dad continues to be my forever support, and someone I can always bounce ideas off, no matter what the issue. My sister’s “take no shit” attitude is also inspiring, and though we are extremely different, we both have a similar world view and she reminds me what’s truly important in life. Lastly, our community inspires me. It’s been humbling and incredible to experience such an outpouring of support as I begin this journey with ATC. To feel love from so many different people, in so many different industries, is overwhelmingly awesome.
What are ways you seek to find the work/life balance?
Yoga is my saving grace and the ultimate “balancer” for me. It keeps me sane and focused in the midst of the hectic, and never ending world of events. I feel fortunate that ATC values the work/life balance, and I try to workout or hit yoga classes several times a week. I also find it important to unplug from the computer and detach from emails. Though (extremely!) difficult, it’s positive to take breaks and it ultimately helps me to focus on my clients with more patience and understanding when I’m not checking emails at midnight.
What motivates you professionally?
I am very much inspired by Denver ~ the people, the art, the music, the food, the landscape. There are always new restaurants opening, new murals being painted, and the amount of music is insane. Moreover, I have so many friends in Denver, and beyond, who are straight hustlers and continuously work hard to make things happen, whether it be in the hospitality industry, or in fields like health care and education. My friends and mentors in the game in Colorado and beyond definitely motivate me to work hard, and knowing that possibilities are endless with ATC keeps me striving.
What is on your music playlist currently?
Kendrick, Drake, Joey Bada$$, Wild Belle, Electric Guest, Rolling Stones, Hot Chip, Cherub, Beyonce, Vulfpeck, Sturgill Simpson, Marvelettes, Big Gigantic, RTJ.
What books are you reading and/or looking forward to reading?
I’m an avid reader, and I’m even in a book club (when time allows!). I don’t own a TV, so reading is definitely another source of calm and balance for me. The Nightingale and all things historical fiction have been of interest to me in the past few months, as well as anything by Dave Eggers, Paulo Coehlo and Tom Robbins. I also have a deep fascination with autobiographies and biographies of musicians and other people in that scene, including those by Patty Boyd, Slash, and Anthony Kiedis.
What is your favorite thing about living in Colorado?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again ~ community, music, art & food. I recently moved back to RiNO (after being on South Broadway for years), just blocks from ATC DEN, and it’s inspiring to walk to work and see different art popping up all the time. Likewise, I’m always on the hunt for new dishes and new bands, and Denver is at such a prime time for everything in the culinary world, as well as the music scene. As far as the people here, I’d say we are hard pressed to find anywhere with more genuine, kind people. I attribute some of it to there being so many transplants here from the South (including myself! Virginia is for Lovers, after all…) and some of it to the sheer magic of this place we are so grateful to call home.
Could you please describe your personal style?
My personal style varies based on the day, my mood, the weather, and/or the event. I think if I tried to pin it down, I’d say rock and roll with classic twists. I’m certainly known to very rarely repeat outfits, as fashion is a major source of art and creativity for me. I LOVE vintage and appreciate all things 70s (fashion, dress, social climate). Some of my favorite pieces are from my mom’s closet or from small shops I cherish in Austin or Tucson, or here in Denver. Putting on something with so much history excites me greatly!
Black is typically my work uniform, as it allows me to blend in and be behind the scenes, and so, it ends up being my color of choice when I’m off the clock, as well. I spruce black clothing up with jewels and funky heels or kicks. For Summer, my look is more boho. I love a good sundress and jorts, of course. And, I have recently come to respect the maxi, but I also like old school nautical-inspired colors for Summer, and I LOVE a killer wedge. Stilettos are marvelous, after all, but not when you’re on your feet non-stop. For Winter, I’m in black pants and killer boots 24/7, along with a vintage or faux fur or leather. And, gold… All things gold.
What does contemporary bohemian mean to you?
Contemporary Bohemian is a non-conforming way of life which encompasses style, vibe, energy and aesthetic. Through food, color, experience and play, our lens is creative, with a current and modern twist.