J. Robert and Katherine Wilson Art Gallery to be new home for National Western collection
DENVER – National Western’s lauded and growing art collection is getting a permanent new home.
The J. Robert and Katherine Wilson Art Gallery, to be located on the first floor of the Legacy Building at the new National Western Center, will — for the first time ever — allow the entire National Western Permanent Collection to be available to the general public year-round.
National Western’s collection of 27 works of contemporary Western art is itself a product of philanthropy. Each year since 1994, a new piece from the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale’s featured artist has been purchased for the National Western Collection. Proceeds from the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale’s tickets, table, and art sales go to the National Western Scholarship Trust, which supports 100 students studying agriculture, medicine and veterinary sciences each year.
For years now, a lack of display space has meant that just a subset of the National Western collection has been available for public view – and only intermittently – on the third floor of the existing Complex. The J. Robert and Katherine Wilson Art Gallery, encompassing 4,466 square feet in a prominent spot on the Legacy Building’s first floor, will let National Western share the entire collection year-round, and for years to come.
Bob Wilson is president and owner of Fort Collins, Colo.-based Columbine Health Systems, a senior-care organization he has led since 1971. His wife Kitty, an accomplished equestrian, competes at the National Western Stock Show. The gift, Wilson said, emerged from their desire to preserve the Western legacy, support Western art, and help ensure the long-term success of the National Western Center.
“Sponsoring the new art gallery is a sort of perfect marriage – just like mine,” Wilson said.
And while his career has focused on improving the lives of seniors, he has been interested in art since taking an art appreciation course at Colorado State University more than a half-century ago.
“It stuck with me and taught me to have a tremendous appreciation for art,” Wilson said.
The National Western collection is unique in that it provides vital stewardship of Western culture by supporting living artists who are depicting the contemporary West. Among its works include a photograph by ranchwoman photographer Barbara Van Cleve, a bronze by renowned sculptor Steve Kestrel, a classic Western scene by Bill Anton, and this year’s addition, a four-foot by six-foot painting by Sophy Brown.
“This is a terrific gift, one that’s enabling one of the Legacy Building’s most significant attractions,” said Pete Coors, who chairs the Honoring the Legacy campaign for the new National Western Center. “I couldn’t be happier to have the J. Robert and Katherine Wilson Art Gallery named for Bob and Kitty. She’s an amazing equestrian, and Bob is a passionate doer, a true renaissance man, and a good friend.”
“It’s just fantastic to finally have a permanent, public home for our growing art collection,” said Paul Andrews, president and CEO of the National Western Stock Show. “This is truly a gift to the people of Colorado and the West.”
Added Doug Jones, chairman of the Western Stock Show Association board of directors, “Western art reflects as well as perpetuates our Western heritage, and National Western’s collection of 27 brilliant works – and counting – embodies the very best of Western art. This is a collection that deserves prominent, permanent display, and I’m deeply grateful to the Wilsons for making that possible.”