Tammy Hale was an artist, entrepreneur and life-long student who dedicated her life to giving back.

After she passed away on March 22 due to a sudden illness, Tammy ensured she still used her memory to help the community. In lieu of flowers, her family set up an account at Home Loan State Bank in memory of Tammy, where $1500 of proceeds went directly to the Montrose High School art department.

It’s there that Tammy’s husband, Steve Hale, honored her by donating her light table and the proceeds outside of the MHS art department on Friday May 7.

Tammy had been a shy student when she arrived at MHS in 1984, but quickly found her niche under the guidance of the then art teacher Nita Lightsey.

“The art department helped her open up and learn to laugh and play with other kids,” said Lightsey. “I really believe in carrying forward and that’s what they’re doing here by passing this on to other talents.”

Born in Delta, Tammy spent some of her childhood on her family farm and in other places like Minnesota, moving with her family as they found opportunities for their livelihoods. She returned to the Western Slope for her junior and high school years where her family eventually built up a property in Cimaron.

It was during this time that Tammy discovered her home in the MHS art department, a place where she found her love for the arts and jump started her life’s work.

“Mrs. Lightsey discovered she was a natural at art and Tammy enjoyed all kinds of art,” said Steve of Tammy’s start at MHS.

“She developed these skills, especially things she could do with her hands, and she developed them at MHS. These skills carried her forward to finding her own opportunities, not only to have her own business and enterprises, but to also to work at different art jobs.”

Tammy loved fashion and textiles, as well as fibers and fiber art. She went on to study fashion in Texas and completed a degree in fashion design in pattern making at the Art Institute of San Francisco as a first generation college graduate.

“She developed her skills and knowledge and an insatiable appetite to learn and research and develop new areas of art that lasted her whole life,” Steve said, adding that Tammy credited her inspiration and progress to Lightsey, who encouraged her to continue on to college and helped her fill out the applications.

Tammy went on to hold a variety of art related jobs and ventures, including ‘Cimarron Creek Studio’ where she made custom design items for homes in places like Telluride.

“That’s how I ultimately got to meet her — she was doing custom draperies for my mother at the ranch house and it was amazing,” Steve said of their meeting in 2003.

“I was blessed to become her husband in March 2006,” said Steve emotionally, recalling how his wife would sell her designs in craft shows and farmer’s markets.

Tammy was also a graphic artist at Habitat Textile where she designed animal graphics and prints for the likes of Seigfried and Roy and worked in color separations, a process of breaking down individual color components for t-shirts or other items.

While the artist found her start in 2-D creations such as drawing and painting, she enjoyed all kinds of art mediums, from jewelry making, fabrics and graphic design.

During Friday’s ceremony, Steve displayed one of his wife’s original felt pieces she procured for Habitat Textiles, a piece the company would use to duplicate other merchandise based off of her color separation practice.

When the company closed, they gifted Tammy the light table that now sits in the MHS art department.

“She spent a lot of hours on this table doing that kind of art, it was a gift that went on to Tammy after the business was shut down and we wanted to thank them for that,” Steve said.

“We want to offer this table as a tool for you guys [the art department] to work with to help you discover your talents.”

Tammy’s stepdaughter, Callie Hale, said that her parents taught her and her family that the community comes first always. “If you’re grieving and in pain, someone else is in pain,” said Callie. “You have to pass your blessings on. There are wonderful people in this community who care about other people.”

Steve explained that the family wants the art department to use the funds from Tammy’s fund to help with supplies, develop venues and “whatever you can do to get this talent of art out there.”

“We desperately need art,” said Steve tearfully. “These crazy days we live in — artists can help so much and we wanted to make sure you’re part of the world that we live in so it can reflect the beauty and what the human experience has to offer.”

The Hale family intends to keep the process of giving forward going, offering ongoing support for the MHS arts.

Steve challenged the art department to look for hidden gems of talent that come through their doors like Lightsey did for his late wife.

“See to it that the talents are fostered, developed and brought into fruition,” said Steve. “Help them to open their world like Lightsey did for a shy, uncertain country girl named Tammy.”

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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