History museum

NEW, AGAIN: History Museum exhibit features Native American prints compliments of longtime Aurora benefactors


Several prints of works originally created by Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Crumbo currently hang in the east corridor of the Aurora History Museum. The prints have already been exhibited at the museum twice, in 1991 and 2010, and are expected to be on display in the current exhibition until spring 2022. Photos courtesy of the Aurora History Museum.

For the third time in as many decades, the work of one of Bill and Sue Hensler’s many talented friends once again graces the walls of Aurora’s former Justice Center on East Alameda Parkway.

The latest exhibit at the Aurora History Museum, titled “Art by ‘Woody’ Crumbo,” features 17 enlarged prints of native dancers originally produced by painter Potawatomi Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Crumbo, a longtime friend of the Henslers while ‘they lived in Jamaica Court. to Aurore.

“He was a fun guy,” Bill Hensler, now 91, said of Crumbo, whom he estimated he first met about six decades ago. Crumbo, also a decorated flute dancer and mineral prospector, died at the age of 77 in 1989.

The exhibition that opened in the museum’s east corridor in late August marks the third time that Crumbo’s art has been on display in the facility since the Henslers donated the prints, as well as works from a handful other Indigenous artists over 30 years ago. The same Crumbo prints hung alongside works such as Harrison Begay and JD Roybal when the museum first moved to its current location on the city’s municipal campus in 1991 and then again in 2010.

Chris Shackelford, the curator of the museum’s exhibits for the past three years, said he decided to remove the works from the archives as he browsed old collections during one of the two multi-month closures caused by the pandemic last year.

“I really turned to the art of Woody Crumbo, which presents lots of moving images, ”Shackelford said. “… It’s kind of fun to go and see what happened before.” I’m not averse to revisiting older things because we’re constantly growing in this city, so it’s a chance for old guests and new guests to appreciate some of the things we have in our archives.

Several of Crumbo’s original pieces are on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The curator said the latest exhibit is intended to be a breakthrough in improving the museum’s long-term gallery space – adorned for several years with a century-old streetcar – with Native American art and artifacts created in the Aurora region. long before the town was first named Fletcher at the end of the 19th century.

“We really think it’s a missing piece in our entire interpretation of the city of Aurora,” Shackelford said.

Museum staff have been in contact with First Nations leaders over the past year, according to Shackelford, who said the museum will likely display other Indigenous artifacts by the end of exhibits currently on display at the start of the year. ‘next year.

Crumbo’s works are among thousands of pieces the Henslers have donated to museums, galleries and schools across the country in recent years, including a major award recently awarded to Fort Lewis College in Durango. The Henslers, Bill a retired mechanical engineer and Sue a teacher who worked in Aurora, moved to unincorporated Montezuma County just outside Dolores in 1992.

“The main reason we collect is because we value artists and their work,” Bill said. “We just like to support the artist for what he does.”

Bill Hensler said he and his wife had amassed a stupendous collection of native artwork since the early 1950s, when the couple encountered a painting at an auction in Albuquerque that was created by a friend Bill had met while in the US military years before. Bill said the friend, a Laguna Pueblo named Roy Koyona, promised to paint him a painting after the couple came out of their respective branches of the military, but Koyona died before the two could reconnect.

“That’s how it all started,” Hensler said. “It was in 1952.”

Hensler said he and his wife bought most of their work directly from artists and knew the majority of the designers in their collection personally. Several Canadian artists would move into their former Aurora home near East 11th Avenue, painting at night and selling their work in Denver by day, Bill said.

The couple, who will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary this fall, said they could stop by the new history museum exhibit when they travel to the metro area for a visit in mid-September.

However, they will be eager to return to their 16-acre estate in southwest Colorado as temperatures cool, Bill said.

“We like the calm, which we didn’t have in Aurora,” he said. “… We have deer, bears, pumas and foxes which are all nice to hang out. We have counted over 100 different species of birds here. It is a good place. The people of Aurora, when we first stayed here, were asking, “Why the hell did you move there?” And they were coming down to see us, and they didn’t want to go.

The Woody Crumbo exhibit is scheduled to be on display at the Aurora History Museum until spring 2022. The museum at 15051 E. Alameda Pkwy. is free to the public, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 303-739-6660.



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