by Rick Langenberg:
Classic Park State display extended due to popular demand
Woodland Park may hover at the bottom of Pikes Peak, thousands of miles and several cultural zones away from such fine art hubs as New York City, Paris and Chicago. But for the next few weeks, this gap could get bridged through a special exhibit displayed at Park State Bank & Trust’s Eichman Gallery, called Art Through the Ages.
The display, which opened to the public on Sept. 17 and was recently extended until Oct. 12 due to popular demand, features some of the finest, famous works from the Hill Family Trust collection, with paintings extending from the 15th century era of Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Anthony Van Dyke to Salvador Deli and John Edward Lubinski of Colorado Springs even a Woodland Park student, Joshua Simpson. Special highlights include pieces by such acclaimed artists as Thomas Hill, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Deli, William Merritt Chase, Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir and many more big names that fill the rooms of the Smithsonian and a bevy of art museums around the world.
Some of the more unusual works include a 15th century Polish war scene from the Battle of Grunwald and “The Race,” capturing an unique portrayal of competitive life in the old American West, not to mention the painting of young Joshua Simpson, which draws comparisons with the style of Picasso. Simpson, who did the painting “Tripod,” when he was a 3rd grade student in Woodland Park, was recognized during the kick-off ceremony for the exhibit. Altogether, the exhibit features nearly 30 works of acclaimed art. “People are in absolute shock,” said Chuck Hill, who manages the collection and is overseeing the display at Park State Bank & Trust on a daily basis. “They can’t believe they are seeing this in Woodland Park.”
According to Hill, the initial reaction has been highlighted by some viewers, who ended up staring at certain works for 30-plus minutes. Another display buff was reportedly in tears after witnessing a Picasso work. The exhibit is part of a joint project, orchestrated by Hill, the Woodland Park Arts Alliance and Park State Bank & Trust. The bank has featured displays from the Hill Family Trust every two years, but may showcase these exhibits more frequently. “This is what art is all about,” said Hill. “We want to share this with the community. The residents of the area will get a chance to see a world-class collection,” added Hill, who manages a collection of some 250 works. For the Art Through The Ages display, he has tried to keep this exhibit reserved more for residents and locals in the Teller County/Ute Pass area. “This is for the mountain folks,” quipped Hill.
But searching for great art works has become a serious, life-long passion for Hill. He jokingly refers to himself as the “Indiana Jones of the art world. It’s the hunt that I really love, when you can find that special piece.” For Hill, that quest often takes him across the globe. Hill is a certified “art fanatic,” who buys, sells and searches for special works around the country and even outside of the Unite States. He also builds personalized collections for families and individuals.
As for the Art Through the Ages exhibit, Hill says that the most popular works have been Picasso’s “Portrait of a Woman,” Thomas Hill’s signature “Yosemite” oil on canvas painting and a one-of-a kind work by Van Gogh.
Satisfying diverse tastes
However, he contends that the tastes of the people who have frequented the exhibit are quite diverse. For example, many viewers have reveled over a Polish battle scene, featuring part of large-scale painting done by 19th century artist Jan Alovisuis Matejko. And many have admired the work of young Joshua Simpson. “He just showed so much genius and discipline with that painting (a wax crayon paper),” related Hill. “Many people thought they were viewing another Picasso painting that they never saw before.” Another big plus of the display deals with Hill being on hand at the Eichman Gallery to answer questions and provide unusual details about the artists and how he obtained the various works. The Teller resident is not lacking in colorful stories regarding the regional and national art world and even how to spot new prevailing trends.
Hill also cites the fact that “Art Through the Ages,” unlike many displays exhibited in the area, offers a lot more variety than just paintings of wildlife and mountain scenes and other art that mostly characterizes the Colorado lifestyle. Moreover, the exhibit has works that go from the 1400s to the present time.
Through the exhibit, Hill hopes to establish more art appreciation in the community, especially among teenagers and local students. Eventually, he even hopes the exhibit may plant a few seeds in fulfilling a long-time dream: bringing a fine arts museum to the Teller County area. “Why should people have to go to Denver all the time? Why not bring such a facility right here,” related Hill, who believes a local art museum could encompass a wide variety of works and include several rooms. The exhibit is being strongly hailed by leaders of the Woodland Park Arts Alliance. “This is what the Woodland Park Arts Alliance is all about,” said Ralph Holloway, who heads the Alliance group, in describing the display. “One of our main goals is to promote the arts through young people,” said Holloway during the opening reception. Holloway has constantly touted the advantages of turning Woodland Park into more of a destination area through having better art and cultural opportunities. “Your whole life is surrounded by art,” said Holloway, who has tried to dispel the reputation of art belonging to high brow artisans.
Both Holloway and Hill are interested in establishing scholarship opportunities for young students. They also are trying to organize field trips for schools and have started a scholarship fund. For local residents interested in seeing the display, it is available during regular bank hours in the Eichman Gallery, located on the second floor of Park State Bank & Trust. For more information, call 687-9234.