Beyond the Gallery: Allen True and the Impact of Exhibits and Community Partnerships on Collections
You probably know that exhibitions are a major educational function of History Colorado. You might also be aware that exhibits help to develop community partnerships, but did you know that exhibits also help to build and strengthen History Colorado's collections?
In 2009, Allen True's West, a collaborative exhibit hosted by History Colorado, the Denver Art Museum, and the Denver Public Library, opened to the public. In the works for many years, this exhibit featured the life and works of Colorado artist Allen True. In preparation for the exhibit, much research was done to learn about True's personal and professional life. This research helped History Colorado better understand the significance of eight mural studies in the collection, made by True for the Colorado State Capitol building in 1934. At the same time, two other mural studies previously unidentified as works by True were found in the History Colorado collection. These studies were painted by True as part of his Denver Civic Center project.
Research done for the exhibit also resulted in community partnerships with a number of True family members and others interested in True, including those who owned original work by the artist. One of many benefits of these partnerships was that the exhibit featured works from private collections, including two lunette murals painted by True for the Continental Oil Company Building. Also called the Conoco Building, the ten-story Glenarm Street structure was designed by William N. Bowman, a prominent architect who also designed the Denver Telephone Building and the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Awarded the job in 1927, True installed the lunette murals and one other mural in the building's two lobbies. Removed prior to the building's demolition in 1976, the murals, entitled The Producers, The Refiners, and The Marketers, depict activities in the petroleum industry.
In 2010, after the close of the Allen True's West exhibition and as a result of the partnership between History Colorado and The Anschutz Collection, the Continental Oil Company Murals were offered to History Colorado for our permanent collection. History Colorado was delighted to accept the murals, which are now installed in the History Colorado Center.
Image: The Refiners, lunette mural for the Continental Oil Company Building lobby, Denver, Allen True, 1927. Oil on canvas on masonite, 56 x 120 inches.
Photograph by William J. O'Conner. Gift of The Anschutz Collection.
Alisa Zahller, Curator of Art and Design, Senior Curator of Objects
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Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center
History Colorado Center
Denver, CO 80203