Artwork to be displayed at Grand County libraries connects us to country’s past |

Artwork to be displayed at Grand County libraries connects us to country’s past

Cyndi McCoy
Grand County, Colorado

Through a vast array of media, subjects, colors, shapes and textures, American art can also speak volumes about the rich history of the United States.

The Grand County Library District is hoping to share the history of our country through several art programs, thanks to a grant it received. The library district is setting up for its first of three art history events planned under the auspices of the Picturing America grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

With a belief that art connects people to their past, Picturing America, a new initiative of the Endowment, is placing prints of masterpieces in libraries and classrooms throughout the nation. Its goal: to give viewers a deeper appreciation of American history and character.

The Granby Library now has 40 high-quality reproductions on display through the month of January. Next the collection of work will be displayed at the Juniper Library at Grand Lake (through February), the Fraser Valley Library in March, and at the Kremmling Library in April.

“The idea is that they are supportive in helping the undersigning of American art, culture and history through architecture, fine arts and artifacts,” explains Public Services Librarian Stephanie Ralph of the grants.

The first art history event is brought together through Joe Kelley’s Middle Park High School Colorado history class. Almost 20 students, mostly juniors and seniors, will come to the Granby Library Monday to put on an authentic presentation of Grand County History with “Mule Trails to Iron Rails.”

Grand County characters from 1860 to 1905 will be portrayed by the students in what Kelley says has been an “eye-opening” study for them. His students started out doing first-person accounts and performances in class and this will be their first public presentation. Kelley said he would like to make the library event an annual one.

Audience members will meet Edward Berthoud and Jim Bridger, who crossed Berthoud Pass for the very first time. Students, who will be in full dress for the occasion, will also share the tales of William Zane Cozens and a 19th-century school lesson by Elizabeth Jones.

Other highlights include the county commissioner shoot-out of July 4, 1883, an adventure over the Rollins and Berthoud passes with Maggie Crawford and Bill Updike, and the colorful goings-on of Ute Bill Thompson and Texas Charlie, who squared off in 1884.

Kelley has been researching history since his pursuit of a degree in 1989. He has worked with the Grand County Characters group, loves to portray Edward Berthoud, and has been enjoying sharing his passion for history with MPHS for six years as a teacher.

The history buff has always had living history components in his history classes, he said, but it has just been in the past three semesters that it has grown into an integral part of his Colorado History class, a social studies elective.

“It gets a little bigger each year,” he said, adding that it started from 10 students to 17.

Grand Lake artist Howard Neville will also be presenting two art history programs, one for adults (6 p.m. Jan. 26) and an interactive one for school children in grades two-four (to be announced).

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