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Cortez arts committee aims to solve mystery of art

Public invited to provide information on artists
“Will Rogers,” an oil painting attributed to L. Worth. The mysterious L. Worth donated the 1971 portrait but left few other clues to his or her identity.

The Cortez Public Arts Advisory Committee has completed its first survey of all the public art owned by the city government, and plans to publish the results on social media.

According to a Wednesday news release from committee chairwoman Sonja Horoshko, the city has never conducted a full inventory of all the art it owns. In order to remedy that, the committee asked former Fort Lewis College professor John Peters-Campbell to catalogue all the works on display in City Hall, the Cortez Recreation Center and the Cortez Public Library, along with their artists and estimated values. He submitted the survey results to the committee in early June, and at its latest meeting on July 11, the group agreed to make the results public in an attempt to spark more conversation about public arts among Cortez residents.

“We felt that the city should have a complete record of the work it owns in order to make responsible decisions about purchasing public art, including various public park and construction projects,” Horoshko said in the release.

At the same July 11 meeting, the committee voted on its first art purchase recommendations, which are set to go before the City Council soon.

Among other things, the survey revealed that most of the city’s artwork was given to the municipal government, rather than being purchased. Out of 35 artworks on display in city buildings, Peters-Campbell found only two city purchases.

In the release, Peters-Campbell also said he was struck by the variety of artwork on display. The artists range from accomplished professionals to hobbyists and public school teachers, the release said.

“Cortez’s artistic legacy lies in how the people of the city and Montezuma County see themselves and their place in this extraordinary landscape,” Peters-Campbell wrote. “Over time, the relations between populations, what sorts of events take on importance, and, of course, shifts in attitude, tastes and styles have had a profound effect on what subjects artists choose to render, as well as how they address them.”

The survey leaves many questions unanswered, though, according to the release. Very little is known about some artists, like the mysterious L. Worth, who donated a 1971 portrait of Will Rogers to the city but left few other clues to his or her identity.

According to the release, the committee will begin posting images of the city’s art collection on its Facebook page by the end of July. Horoshko said the public is invited to post additional information about each artist, especially those whose identity remains unknown. Residents can also send tips to Cortez Library Director Eric Ikenouye at eikenouye@cityofcortez.com or 970-564-4072.

All permanent artworks can be seen on city property during regular business hours.

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