Douglas County Art Students Help Bring Country to Town |

Douglas County Art Students Help Bring Country to Town

Story & Photos by Lincoln Rogers
Parker, Colo.

The theme of 2012 Douglas County Fair and Rodeo is “Where Country Comes to Town.” It is a nod to the county’s strong agricultural roots as well as recognition of its current development and population growth. In order to raise awareness of the fair’s potential to bridge the cultures of town and country, about 30 Douglas County High School students took part in an art project involving paint horses.

That is, there was a lot of paint and over two dozen model horses.

Last year, 14 or 15 students painted cowboy boots which were then placed in county libraries during the summer as a means of advertising the fair to the general public. Hoping to get more students involved, Trish Russell (a 12 year art teacher at Douglas County High School) and Debbie Mills (a longtime volunteer with the fair) opened the art project up to the student population. They were pleased when their initial party attracted a roomful of 30 eager students.

“We talked about (this year’s project) at the end of 2011’s fair and then had it together by January,” explained Russell regarding coming up with 2012 equine theme. “(Debbie) picked a date for the kids to come after school and had a pizza party,” continued Russell. “I was shocked at how many kids were there.”

“We weren’t sure how many kids would show up,” admitted Mills of that initial meeting. “We thought maybe a couple, and the room was packed. There were at least 30. Some of them shared horses,” she added with a smile. “I think (we ended up with) at least 25 horses, probably 27 horses.”

A trio of students involved in the project were able to sit down and talk about their involvement as well describe their painted horses. Alex Vandrew (senior), Corinne Schroeder (junior) and Claire Zai (junior) all enjoy different mediums of art, but the chance to do a project that benefited the fair and gave them a chance to be creative sounded too good to pass up.

“Ms. Russell just gave me a horse and said paint it and I thought it was fun,” described Alex Vandrew with a laugh. Her artistic effort resulted in a horse with background colors of royal blue fading to black and painted on one side with sunshine, clouds and a fishing cowboy, while the other side showed stars and a crescent moon bearing another cowboy. On top of the artwork were painted words of “2012 Douglas County Fair” along with a variation of the fair’s theme. “I was originally going to just do space, because I love space, but it was a rodeo,” she stated in a light tone. “So I drew up a cowboy and I really liked it.”

“I was really excited,” said Clair Zai about doing the art project for the fair. Zai partnered with good friend Corinne Schroeder on a painted horse and enjoyed the experience. “(The fair) brings up a lot of memories for me,” she continued. “I used to compete in the Douglas County Fair with my horse. Barrel racing was my favorite event. Whatever I could get my horse into, I would do it.”

“I was pretty excited about it,” agreed Schroeder about participating in the art project. “When it comes to art I’m open for anything, so I was excited to try something new and work with Claire on it.”

The duo produced a horse bearing blue skies, green fields, a blaze of sunlight and a wood fence to go along with the bright colors of Old Glory in the wind.

“The first thing that pops in your head when you think of fair and rodeo, you think of – wide open spaces,” began Schroeder before her good friend Zai finished the sentence.

“We just wanted to keep with the all-American theme, farmland and the country, and we have a nice American flag there,” Zai added. “We each did a half.”

“That was our goal,” agreed Schroeder. “To put both our ideas into it, but have it one collective piece.”

Putting a collection of good ideas together is what made the project successful. Not only did the students love working on the items, but the community seems enthusiastic to exhibit them throughout the summer.

“Last year we did cowboy boots and had the honors art club decorate those and put them around,” offered Mills. “They work a lot better than posters for a lot of places like banks and other businesses that don’t want to put posters on their windows. Places like that will put these on display.”

“This year, Guarantee National Banks, all the ones in Douglas County, have requested them and all the First Banks (in the area), like Parker and Highlands Ranch,” said Russell. “Then we will collect them and have them on display in the fair’s Expo Hall and they will be for sale (August 9-12). All the money raised goes to Project Sanctuary, which is a military organization for families.”

Asked to sum up their participation in the project, everyone present gave an enthusiastic reply.

“The fair really is a big part of this county and it is big part of who I am, it has changed me a lot,” said Zai. “I hope all the little 4-Hers who are out there will find that same sort of pride and love for horses that I have.”

“Adding on to that, also a pride for art itself; community based art and student based things,” said Schroeder. “I think it’s a great way to combine helping the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo with showing off what we have and proving our own worth.”

“Art and Ag are my two passions,” revealed Russell. “I hope to kind of get (students) aware of the agriculture side of this county and what it used to be, and then to bring the art to the county and have them be more aware of how talented these kids at Douglas County High School are. We have incredibly talented art students here.”

“Now that the word is out, I have people approach me and ask me to make sure they are on the list to have these displayed,” finished Mills about community interest in the students’ efforts. “We’ll have them out on display starting in July. They want to put them out.”

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