Archive for Cultural history

Two lively current exhibits, organized by History Colorado, complement a lavishly illustrated new book by Stan Kuba (1) and focus attention on the 1928 founding of the Denver Artists’ Guild. The exhibits, featuring the work of many of the 52 founding members, are at the Byers-Evans House Museum and the Kirkland Museum. They will be on view through September 26 and are well worth a visit!

Courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

Courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

The response of far too many people, on becoming aware of these events, is, “What is the Denver Artists’ Guild? I never heard of it?” Indeed, an article in Westword (June 26, 2015) proclaimed that that these exhibits and the book bring “AN OBSCURE CHAPTER OF LOCAL ART HISTORY TO LIFE.”

If you do not feel as well informed as you would like to be about the Denver Artists’ Guild, now is the perfect time to remedy this deficiency and have a good time in the process. Go see the two exhibits, then spend a few evenings reading the new book on the Guild and marveling at its profuse and handsome illustrations – reproductions of the work of many of the 52 founders of the Denver Artists’ Guild.

Foreword by Hugh Grant (2)
Hugh Grant rightly points out, in his brief and informative foreword, that a 2009 exhibit at the Denver Public Library was the effective forerunner to these current events about the Guild. Stimulated by the research of Deborah Wadsworth, a tireless volunteer in the Western History Department of the DPL, the exhibit Fifty-Two Originals featured work by many of the 52 founders of the Denver Artists Guild. Hugh Grant gave a lecture about the guild at the Denver University School of Art and Art History, “I think practically all of my listeners…were struck by the scope and quality of the 106 works of art representing 42 artists. Because all exhibitions must end, a number of us determined to do something lasting to preserve the history of the guild. This book is the result.”

Introduction by Cynthia Durham Jennings
Information about the Guild, and about the lives and work of the 52 founding Guild members, would be infinitely less complete without the many years of patient research done by Cynthia Durham Jennings. Her research centered at first on her father, Clarence Durham, a major founding member and five-term president of the group. After his death in 1994, Cynthia began looking into his background and his long-standing membership in the Guild, with a view to “writing a book about him to help preserve his legacy.” (3)

As Durham Jennings’ research efforts became more widely known, several individuals seeking information about other founding members approached her. When she realized how little was known about the Guild and its members, she resolved to widen the scope of her project. She recruited two colleagues to help her in what proved to be a time-consuming and difficult task – gathering information about as many of the 52 founding members as was humanly possible. Many of the original members had died or moved away from Denver, some of the women had remarried and acquired new names. On the positive side, family members, when traced, often provided photographs, biographies, and locations of artwork that was photographed. All possible sources, from old scrapbooks kept by Guild members to the Internet, were canvassed.

Rendering of new Kirkland Museum courtesy www.kirklandmuseum.org

Rendering of new Kirkland Museum courtesy www.kirklandmuseum.org

Using the material so gathered, Stan Cuba, Associate Curator of the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, “prepared the members’ biographical entries, helped with the final selection of color reproductions and captioned them, and wrote an extensive historical overview, introducing readers to the general subject of the guild and documenting the heretofore little-known story of its fifty-two founding members.”

Cuba’s Story of the Denver Artists Guild
The Denver Artists Guild – renamed the Colorado Artists’ Guild in 1990 to better describe its area of activity – is the second oldest artists’ organization in Colorado. The oldest is the Denver Art Museum, which had its origins in the Denver Artists’ Club, founded in 1893. The Guild’s original membership included many of the best-known Colorado artists of the day, including Dean Babcock, Albert Bancroft, Donald and Rosa Bear, Frederic Douglas, Clarence Durham, Anne Evans, Gladys Caldwell Fisher, Laura Gilpin, Elsie Haynes, Marion Hendrie, Vance Kirkland, Waldo Love, Albert Olson, Paschal Quackenbush, Anne Van Briggle Ritter, Arnold and Louise Ronnebeck, Paul St.Gaudens, Elisabeth Spalding, David Spivak, John E. Thompson, Allen Tupper True and Frank Vavra.

Artists’ Club of Denver, Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Artists’ Club of Denver, Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

The mission of the new 1928 organization, as described in the Rocky Mountain News (June 10, 1928) on the occasion of the opening of the Guild’s first exhibit of members’ work, was “To promote a spirit of professional cooperation and maintain a high standard of craftsmanship among the artists of Denver and vicinity, (and) to bring to the attention of the public representative works of these artists in painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and the graphic arts (etching, lithography, etc.)”

Development of the Denver Art Museum
In his chapter on the history of the Guild, Cuba tells the story of the evolution of both the Denver Artists Guild the Denver Art Museum. He describes how local Colorado artists were active in the DAM’s programs and played an essential role in its development. But he also makes clear that, as perhaps an inevitable result of the widening sphere of the DAM’s activities, there came a time when it could no longer fulfill the needed function of nurturing and sustaining local artists.

Originally the 1893 Denver Artists Club was an organization of Colorado artists dedicated both to increasing public awareness of the offerings of local artists, and to educating the public about developments in the wider world of art – nationally and internationally. The group sponsored annual juried exhibits, not only of members’ work, but also featuring well-known artists from the East and Midwest. From the beginning, the Club sought Associate Members to augment its financial resources and to help carry out its mission in the wider Denver community. In 1917, feeling that it’s original name was too narrow as a description of its activities, it was renamed the Denver Art Association.

The organization began to collect the beginnings of a permanent art collection, which, until 1922, had to be displayed in galleries of the Museum of Natural History in City Park. In that year, a huge boost in the fortunes of the Art Association came with the donation to it of Chappell House, a large mansion at 1300 Logan. Though falling short of the Art Association’s ultimate objective – a spacious museum on the new Civic Center – Chappell House was an invaluable asset, the DAM’s first real home. In 1923, the Denver Art Association became the Denver Art Museum. It began a long journey, not only to secure its coveted place on the Civic Center, but also to become the official “art arm” of the City and County of Denver. (4)

Chappell House, courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

Chappell House, courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

A Need that could no longer be Ignored: The Story of the Denver Artists’ Guild
And so, by 1928, the artists of the growing Denver area “felt the need for a successor organization to the Denver Art Association and the Denver Artists Club. They desired the backing of a formally constituted, democratically oriented group open to all Denver-area artists capable of sponsoring their own traveling and annual exhibitions. They also sought to encourage among the city’s artists the same mutual support and enthusiasm they had experienced as members of these two predecessor art groups through monthly meetings and lectures, sketching trips, dinners, and other social events.” (5)

Albert Bancroft, a Colorado native and a well-known Denver artist, was the leader in the 1928 organization of the Denver Artists Guild, ably assisted by two other prominent Denver artists, Dean Babcock and David Spivak. According to Stan Cuba, “Most of Denver’s artists responded to Bancroft’s invitation to join the guild, initially paying annual dues of $15 per person – not an inconsiderable sum at that time. However, when the Great Depression began to negatively impact artists’ incomes, dues dropped to only $3 per year.” (6)

H. David Spivak, 1893 – 1932. DENVER ROOFTOPS. oil on panel Courtesy, http://coloradoartistsguild.org/home/history/

H. David Spivak, 1893 – 1932. DENVER ROOFTOPS. oil on panel
Courtesy, http://coloradoartistsguild.org/home/history/

Cuba goes on to describe in detail the structure of the new organization, its lively program of activities for members: weekly Guild meetings, monthly dinner meetings with substantial and informative programs offered by members, sketching trips, sessions of constructive criticism of current members’ works. The Guild, in addition to its artist members, “solicited twenty-two patron members. Their yearly dues of $20 provided the fledgling group with additional capital for its organizational activities, particularly promoting the artist members by funding the Guild’s annual exhibitions…

In the next section of his 37-(large) page essay on THE DENVER ARTISTS GUILD, Its Founding, Activities and Legacy, Cuba describes the work of the Guild and its members through the First World War and the explosion of unconventional modes of artistic expression, the Great Depression, and World Ward II. He describes the locations where the work of many members during this time, in murals, sculpture and paintings, can still be seen – from the State Capitol to the Civic Center, and to restorations of commercial buildings like the newly remodeled former Colorado National Bank Building complete with its original murals. Also he talks of the many art projects executed under the aegis of the Federal Government during the Depression era, in post offices and other public buildings.

1948: A Split in the Artists Guild
Cuba describes the Colorado artists’ version of a split that had been developing locally and nationally, since the beginning of the twentieth century, between traditional painters and those exploring ever more adventurous modes of artistic expression. In Denver, the actual split started with Vance Kirkland, then an important figure on the Denver art scene and the Director of the Denver University School of Art. Vance infuriated Rocky Mountain News reporter Lee Casey with a public comment to the effect that “people who don’t know anything about art should keep quiet.” (7)

Casey responded, in a Rocky Mountain News column, “Painting, as I view it, ought to bear at least some resemblance to what it is supposed to represent, and I can’t see that surrealistic paintings – or, for that matter, the paintings of any other special school since Picasso and Cezanne botched things up – do that… We are, I am confident, advancing beyond the stage when the most-applauded painting might just as well be hung wrong end up. True art is timeless, and within a few years an original Picasso or Cezanne will be valued mainly for the frame. ”

At this point, artist William Sanderson entered the fray. Sanderson was a talented artist and an eloquent teacher at the DU School of Art. He was an active member of the Artists Guild, though not a founding one. His response to Lee Casey was titled “Pioneers in Art.” He wrote, “If the artist (in our society) has the temerity to deviate from the phony formula of “tourist painting,” he is labeled a fake, a zany and generally a moral leper…This part of the country is proud of its pioneer tradition…the term pioneer is not confined to men who rode in covered wagons. Many artists are still trekking across the arid wastes of our intellectual deserts. They have a vision and they hope it is not a mirage. In the meantime, instead of being scalped, the modern artists could use a helping hand once in a while.” (8)

As the Guild’s vice-president and program chairman, Sanderson was experiencing the group’s “underlying conservatism and some members’ disdain for modern art.” Along with Sanderson, four other members seceded from the Guild to join a new group, Fifteen Colorado Artists, which was composed mainly of faculty members from Denver University’s School of Art.

The Guild leadership was a first afraid that the split would permanently fracture the comradeship of Colorado artists. But, in Cuba’s words, “All parties managed to weather the storm. In 1948 both groups displayed simultaneously in adjoining galleries at Chappell House…The Denver Monitor reported that both shows generated unprecedented public interest, confronting their viewers with the controversial questions of modern versus traditional art.” Cuba suggests that in one way the split benefited the Guild: it gained a new sense of unity it had previously lacked, due to “growing controversy within its ranks.”

Over the years, the animosity between Guild and the Fifteen Colorado Artists softened. The Guild began to feature guest artists in its annual shows whose work was far less conservative than that of most of the Guild members. And in 1963, William Sanderson was invited to be one of the jurors for the Guild’s annual exhibition.

Summary: The Contributions of the Founding Members of the Denver Artists’ Guild
It was something of a shock to read the first words of Cuba’s final paragraph in this section of the book: “Although all of the organization’s founding members are deceased…” A shock because I personally knew a number of those members, so this statement is quite a reminder that I have indeed “grown old!”

Cuba concludes by paying a final tribute to these artists, “the art they created and their multi-faceted cultural pursuits remain an integral part of the cultural heritage of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West.” (9)

Notes

1. THE DENVER ARTISTS GUILD: ITS FOUNDING MEMBERS. An Illustrated History by Stan Cuba. Foreword by Hugh Grant. Introduction and Acknowledgements by Cynthia Durham Jennings. Published by History Colorado in 2015.
2. Hugh Grant, Founding Director and Curator, Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, Denver.
3. Cynthia Durham Jennings, Introduction and Acknowledgements, p. 10
4. This “journey” is described in my book, Anne Evans, A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural Development: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE, Barbara Edwards Sternberg with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron.
5. Stan Cuba, op cit, p. 22
6. Stan Cuba, p. 24
7. Stan Cuba, p. 46
8. Stan Cuba, p. 46-7
9. Stan Cuba, p. 49

I spent the entire day last Sunday reading.

  • Reading this 113-page report on John Evans’ relationship to the Sand Creek Massacre, issued at the end of May, and also related news coverage of the document.
  • I also investigated the status of a similar enquiry being conducted by the University of Denver and learned that the DU Report report has not yet been issued.
  • Finally, since the Massacre was instigated by Colonel Chivington, a prominent Methodist Minister, and since Governor Evans himself was a devout Methodist, I reviewed the actions of the Methodist Church in relation to the massacre, and, more broadly, their attempts to have an honest confrontation with official Methodist attitudes towards Native American populations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Why a Report on This Subject So Many Years Later?

John Evans, Courtesy History Colorado

John Evans, Courtesy History Colorado

Anne Evans’ father, John Evans (1814-1897), was a major founder of Northwestern University in 1851, when he lived in Chicago. John Evans was a significant influence on, and donor to, the institution for the rest of his life. He was appointed by Abraham Lincoln as the Second Territorial Governor of Colorado in 1862. He was forced to resign from that position in 1865 after Congressional and military enquiries into the brutal – and totally unjustified – 1864 massacre of a peaceful group of members of Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes camped at Sand Creek. One Congressional Committee, dissatisfied with Evans’ indecisive answers to their questions (he was in Washington when the massacre occurred) recommended that Evans be removed as Governor. After the assassination of Lincoln, the new President Andrew Johnson requested Evans’ resignation. Evans complied on August 4, 1865.

The Sand Creek Massacre, 150 years later, is still an unhealed wound.

 

Northwestern University’s Always Glowing Account of Evans’ Life, Achievements, and Contributions

lincolnevansproc300x242In recent years, some students, faculty and other community members have raised questions about the University’s complete silence regarding the massacre that abruptly ended Evans career as Governor. Some questioned whether “the University has glorified someone who does not deserve such treatment. Conversely, others have wondered whether the critics are subjecting Evans to the sort of a historical character assassination that judges a person in the past by the standards of the present.” (1)

Appointment of Study Committee

In the winter of 2013, Northwestern University’s Provost, Dan Linzer, appointed a committee of nine scholars – five from the faculty of Northwestern and four from other universities – “to examine in detail Evans’s role in the massacre.” Provost Linzer also asked the committee to try to determine “whether any of Evans’s wealth or his financial support to Northwestern was attributable to his policies and practices regarding Native Americans in Colorado while he was in office.” (ibid p. 2). The Committee was to issue its report by June, 1914.

Overview of the Report

The Report is a scholarly – and readable – document. It consists of 91 pages of text, plus extensive Chapter notes, bibliographical lists, links to Key Documents and Websites, and Acknowledgements.

The six chapters of text are: The Introduction, Chapter 1, which describes in detail the incomprehensible Massacre, characterized by one contemporary General as “perhaps the foulest and least justifiable crime in the annals of America.” (ibid p. 9) The Chapter describes briefly John Evans’ major contributions to the University, why its site – the town of Evanston – is named after him, and poses the questions before the Study Committee: about why the Massacre is never mentioned in University accounts of Evans’ life, and what exactly was his role, and degree of responsibility, for the tragic event.

Chapter 2 summarizes Evans’ life and relationship to Northwestern. Chapter 3 is about the historical background to the Massacre, a concise but thorough presentation. Chapter 4 details the course of events, during Evans time as governor, that led up to the massacre. Chapter 5 describes the aftermath of the massacre – the public outrage, the enquiries, and the Governor’s resignation. Chapter 6 details the Committee’s conclusions.

This is a brief summary of the report’s contents. The next Newsletter (or two!) will be devoted to its content and, especially, to a discussion of its conclusions.

1. Report of the John Evans Study Committee, Northwestern University, May 2014, p. 2
2. Ibid, p. 10

Amid all its recent coverage of the rebirth of Denver’s Union Station, with its “$54 million addition of “a hotel, shops, restaurants and bars” (1), the Denver Post made a little excursion into our city’s early history. They reminded readers that, more than a century before the 1980’s, when the city “was choking on a brown cloud of pollution and struggling with a decaying downtown and a sputtering economy,”(2) a gleeful leader in a rival city had pronounced Denver “too dead to bury.”(3)

The year was 1865, and Denver’s leaders had lost the battle to have the transcontinental railroad routed over the mountains and through their city. The Union Pacific Railroad understandably took the easier course through Cheyenne, Wyoming. Denver’s economy, already adversely affected by the Civil War and the stagnation of gold mining, plunged into what could have been a death spiral. Population declined, business dwindled. The dire economic times forced the Colorado Seminary, forerunner of the University of Denver – which had opened with high hopes in 1864 – to close its doors.

Denver - Union StationThe city’s economic turnaround was largely due to the stubborn and persistent efforts of one man, John Evans. At the time, Evans was embroiled in his own serious troubles following the October,1864 Sand Creek Massacre, the issue over which he lost his position as Colorado’s Territorial Governor. Nevertheless, when “a representative of the Union Pacific came to Denver…in 1867 to suggest that the businessmen of Denver should form a railroad company and build a line to Cheyenne with help from the Union Pacific, there was an immediate response from men like David Moffat, John Evans and William Byers.”(4)

In my book, I describe the almost superhuman efforts of John Evans to assure the success of this venture, involving “an overwhelming series of financial organizations and reorganizations, contracts with construction companies, and congressional lobbying to secure land grants. At one point, with no prospects and construction at a complete standstill, Evans resigned as president of the board of directors and signed a contract to build the railroad and pay off its debts. At the beginning of 1870, Evans again became President of the Denver Pacific Railroad, and was on hand at the Denver Depot. when the tracks finally reached the city on June 23, 1870.“(5)

The first incarnation of the Denver Union Station opened in 1881 – described as an Italianate structure with two stories and an 180-foot tower. The center section burned in 1894, and the entire structure was razed in 1914 to make room for the new neoclassical station which opened in 1917.


1 Jaffe, Mark, “Denver’s renovated Union Station has been a 30-year barn-raising,” Denver Post, Business Section, pg 1 Sunday, July 13, 2014.
2 Ibid
3 Ibid
4 Sternberg, Barbara E. with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron. Anne Evans – A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural History: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE. Evergreen: Buffalo Park Press with Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library. 2011. pg 77.
5 Ibid. pp 77-78

As I enjoyed the celebrations of the holiday season, I remembered one aspect of Anne Evans’ personality, which I have not yet had an opportunity to “blog” about. This was her incredible zest for life. Spending any time as her guest was, by all accounts, a rare and enjoyable experience.

Anne in front of her cabin fireplace. Painting by Allen True, The Trappers (above), Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Anne in front of her cabin fireplace. Painting by Allen True, The Trappers (above), Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

    • After a few day’s stay at Anne Evans’ mountain home, one guest wrote on behalf of a small group, The hospitality of your friendly home quite overwhelmed us all…Dr. Steiner said ‘in some homes one sees only wealth and material plenty, but In Miss Evans’ home one sees love and a great spirit.‘ I(p. 345)

 

    • In the research about her life, I found several accounts of her idea of hosting children as guests at her home on the Evans Ranch and quoted my favorite: A young niece and nephew, aged 11 and 13, were sent to spend a summer on the ranch with their Great Aunt. They were interviewed. Wide-eyed and apprehensive, they were told that one rule and one rule only must be obeyed. They trembled. “You must have a good time! (p. 346)

 

  • Anne Evans enjoyed the creative effort of devising plays and pageantry, both as part of the elaborate summer life up on the Evans Ranch, and as a participant in social and artistic activities in Denver. One such occasion was vividly described by Miriam Washburn Adams, remembering the time she was an art student from Colorado Springs, taking classes in the Denver Atelier headed by architect Burnham Hoyt, a longtime friend of Anne Evans. (pp. 356-8)
Anne Evans cabin staircase, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Anne Evans cabin staircase, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Miss Anne told Burnie she had written a medieval play she wanted acted on the stairway in her Mt. Evans home. She wanted ten members of the Atelier to come up Friday and give the play Sunday evening. Burnie sent word to us to be at Willie Mead’s studio by 4:30 Friday afternoon. They had medieval costumes we could be squeezed into…I assure you as we drove through Denver, in the then popular open cars, we were gazed at–catcalls, boos, etc….Miss Anne all but expired when we tumbled into her house all dressed in these costumes! We looked wonderful that evening, in her out-of-this-world house with the enormous logs that made the inside as well as the outside…At breakfast, I will admit, we were a wild sight…

Burnie had us working all day Saturday…making all kinds of necessary crowns, horses, stars, out of cardboard; and believe you me, they had to be perfect–we were working for a perfectionist–but luckily one who could point the way to perfection. One development almost brought the project to a halt. After the most delicious lunch Saturday…it turned out a poisonous toadstool had been lurking in the lunch bowl. Sunday produced a sorry lot of actors. Burnie was the color of chalk. I was all right if I could sit down. By three in the afternoon most has recovered and they started rehearsing. At six, they gave the play.

Margaret Evans Davis (Anne Evans’ niece) read the words on the other side of the screen as she wove her tapestry. Most of us were holding positions and draped up the stairs–Burnie and another man having a big tilt or joust on wooden horses at the top of the stairs. It really must have been fantastically lovely.

Costumed horse for circus performance, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Costumed horse for circus performance, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

The audience for this intense effort was small (seven in all including Anne Evans) as it was for many other efforts on the ranch over the years. The reward was apparently more in participating than in the applause.

The book may be obtained through Buffalo Park Press

For information, email info@anne-evans.com or call 303-894-0269.
This project is co-published with the Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library.
© 2011-2012 By Barbara Sternberg. All right reserved.