By Gabrielle Friesen, Digital Collections Assistant
In 2019, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College was awarded a grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund efforts to digitize our collection. The grant has a three-year goal of photographing 3,000 pieces from the collection and making them available on our eMuseum. In October 2021, we reached the end of our second grant year. We made significant progress in our second year and are pushing forward with our final year of the project.
At the start of the digitization project, we sent out a survey to museum members to determine what artworks people wanted to see digitized the most. Survey-takers were invited to rank their top choices within the given categories.
The category most ranked as people’s first choice was Colorado regional art. In the grant’s first year, we featured the collections “Springtime in the Rockies,” “Regional Paintings,” and “O Beautiful! Shifting Landscapes of the Pikes Peak Region” on Colorado regional art. This year, we continued to digitize Colorado regional art. “From the Collection: Prints” features the work of Mary Chenoweth, a local artist who also worked as an instructor at the Fine Arts Center starting in 1953 and taught in the art department at Colorado College from 1957 to 1983. This same collection also features work by Percy Hagerman, such as his print “Garden of the Gods.” Hagerman was a member of the Broadmoor Art Academy from 1939 to 1950. “From the Collection: Photographs” features work capturing Garden of the Gods and Mt. Bierstadt by Barbara Sparks, as well as the work of other photographers both local and further afield.
The Native American art category on the original survey encompassed beadwork, garments, dolls, and cradleboards. Basketry, pottery, moccasins, a cradleboard, and a parfleche can all be seen in “Selections from the Collection” from last year. In addition, “Art Prints from Indian Country, 1970-1990,” which went online in 2020, features the work of contemporary Native American printmakers. In this collection, you can see pieces by artists including Earl Biss, Jean Bales, and Woodrow Wilson Crumbo, among others.
Historic Fine Arts Center Murals were digitized in the first year of our grant, and can be seen in the “Murals at the FAC” Collection.
We are continuing to survey artworks in our collection for upcoming photography, with your choices in mind as guides.
This grant year (October 2020 to October 2021), the digitization team photographed 1,465 artworks from the Fine Arts Center’s collection. Among the art pieces photographed are a large portion of our southwestern jewelry, retablos from the Spanish-colonial collection, work by several different photographers, and the majority of our collection of Audubon prints. Some of these photographs are still being processed, while others have made it all the way to publication on eMuseum, such as the collection, “A Selection from John J. Audubon’s Birds of America.” Our eMuseum now has over 1,100 pieces available online for viewing.
The Audubon collection was just one of seven new collections we published to the eMuseum in 2020. “Celebrating the Work of Women Artists in the FAC Collection” went up in March for Women’s History Month, highlighting the work of women artists in our collection. Over the summer, three student interns worked in collections under a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, during which time they put together “The Blue Collection” to showcase works with bold blues. Andreea Marinescu, an Associate Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies, in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at Colorado College curated the collection “Figures of Motherhood in Latin America and the US Southwest.” The collection was also on display in the physical space of the Fine Arts Center, in the UnBlocked gallery from April 1 to May 19, 2021, as part of Marinescu’s class “SP316: Figures of Motherhood in Latin America and the Southwest.”
We also began creating broader collections, such as “From the Collections: Prints,” “From the Collections: Photographs,” and “From the Collections: Paintings” to display different artists and techniques within a single medium. These collections provide different ways of viewing the artwork on eMuseum. For a more curated experience, you can view the collections that highlight a specific topic or theme. Alternatively, if you want to look through a range of a certain type of work, you can check out our “From the Collection” packages which cover that type of artwork.
Some of my personal favorite pieces that became available for viewing on eMuseum this year are:
“Dawn – Taos Mountain,” Lee Simpson, Collection of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Gift of Mrs. Deborah D. Smith, FA 1993.13.2.
Featured in “From the Collection: Prints” is “Dawn – Taos Mountain.” The soft colors of this piece are so lovely and evoke a quiet dawn breaking gently over the mountains. The bright pastel color pallet gives the mountains a dream-like air, like a heightened memory of a real sunrise.
“Crevasse Ceiling, Antarctica,” Joan Myers, Collection of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Gift of A.E. Manley, FA 2005.18.2.
“Crevasse Ceiling, Antarctica” by Joan Myers is featured in both “From the Collection: Photography” and “Celebrating the Work of Women Artists in the FAC Collection.” In contrast to the soft colors of “Dawn – Taos Mountain” is the harsh icy landscape of Antarctica in this photograph. However, this piece has a similar dream-like quality to it, with the stark colors of the ice pushed into a heightened state by shadow and light. The positioning of the shot, pushing a lip of dark ice into searing light is wondrous in its juxtaposition.
We hope you will keep up with our efforts on the eMuseum as we enter our final grant year, and that you find pieces in our digital collection that speak to you.