Acclaimed Manitou Springs artist Charles Rockey sat quietly inside his Canon Avenue art studio Tuesday afternoon. Outside, half a dozen volunteers, including daughter Hannah Rockey, worked, clearing mud and debris from his basement.

The flooding Friday filled the space with almost 4 feet of mud, one mud-spattered volunteer came in to report. It could take weeks or even months to finish the job, he said.

By then, boxes of Rockey's drawings, frames and other belongings had already been rescued. A stack of drawings finished drying off in a 3-foot pile at his feet. Outside the studio, mud-covered picture frames rested against the stone walls. Some of the frames were free for the taking, he said. Reports of his work being stolen off the street were false.

"There's too many good people here," said Rockey, who was born in 1932.

A clean-up volunteer from Fountain kept him company.

"It's like an archaeological dig in there," Joe Law said about Rockey's basement. "You run across stuff you thought wasn't salvageable, but, then, it's like (you realize) no, you can't throw it out."

Law was a "neighbor helping a neighbor," he said.

"That's what it's all about," Rockey said.

Behind Rockey's studio, Fountain Creek steadily rushed by. One blue dumpster was packed to the brim with trash and debris from Rockey's basement and other buildings in the area. Another similar-sized receptacle also overflowed with mud-covered junk. Volunteers walked by carrying mud-filled buckets. Rockey requested it not be thrown back in the creek. As the sun shone brightly in between storms, his artwork was being moved into a storage unit and Rockey seemed accepting of the state of things.

"I just hope it doesn't rain too hard," he said.


Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.