Stark Museum of Art has received a 2019 Cowboy Keeper award from the National Day of the Cowboy

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 28, 2019

To The Leader


The Stark Museum of Art has received a 2019 Cowboy Keeper award from the National Day of the Cowboy.  The Board of Directors of the National Day of the Cowboy organization bestows its annual Cowboy Keeper Award on organizations and individuals that have made a substantial contribution to the preservation of pioneer heritage and to those who support the continued growth and preservation of Cowboy culture.

The organization cited the collections and programs of the Stark Museum, “The Stark Museum of Art opened in November 1978, exhibiting the extraordinary Western American art collection assembled by H.J. Lutcher Stark and his wife Nelda Childers Stark, which encompassed art from John J. Audubon to twentieth-century artists of New Mexico. The Museum is committed to preserving, researching, exhibiting, and expanding its collections. The breadth of its cowboy holdings includes bronzes by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, illustrations by N.C. Wyeth and Frank Tenney Johnson, carved caricatures by Andy Anderson, and illustrations and stylized figures of pioneers, hunters, and wranglers by William Herbert Dunton. The Museum continues to make acquisitions, including contemporary works by Robert Lougheed, Don Russell, and Thomas Blackshear. It has published research, such as its catalogue The Western Collection 1978, and an in-depth study on The Art and Life of W. Herbert Dunton. The Stark supported the publication by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II, and its online catalogue. The Museum, which has four permanent galleries that feature Western themes and collections, also makes its collections available digitally through its website and with loans to educational exhibitions at other museums. The museum curator, Sarah E. Boehme, has a long history of working to preserve western and cowboy lifestyle.

 “The programming and culture of the Stark exemplifies the spirit of the cowboy through exhibitions that feature and celebrate the history and mythology of the cowboy. In 2017, the Museum’s major exhibition Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950 detailed the rise of cowboy popularity through film, an important influence in how cowboys have been perceived over the past 100 years. The exhibition and accompanying catalog helped develop new scholarship related to cowboy culture and history. The Stark also mounted an incredible show of the work of photographer Edward S. Curtis in 2018. 

 “In 2018, the Museum focused on two major exhibitions related to the cowboy. The first, Portraits from Cowboys of Color: Photographs by Don Russell centered on black rodeo cowboys. This exhibition highlighted the modern role of black Americans in the rodeo tradition, thus helping expand our vision of the American Cowboy. It featured portraits of contemporary cowboys and cowgirls who ride and rope in Cowboys of Color rodeos. The works reveal a tradition of black cowboy culture often overlooked in history and art. The second exhibition, Cowboy Legends, and Life, explored the imagery of the cowboy and cowgirl as icons in American Western art. It presented both the idealization and the working life of men and women of the West, as seen through the Museum’s permanent collections. Both exhibits were enhanced by educational and community-based programs. 

 “The Museum has celebrated the National Day of the Cowboy for several years, and as part of its 2018 celebration, hosted a panel discussion Stories from Cowboys of Color: An Afternoon with Don Russell, Cleo Hearn, Bailey’s Prairie Kid, Myrtis Dightman, and Jason Griffin, These important African American Cowboys shared stores of their lives on the rodeo circuit and as working cowboys. This helped underscore the role of Black Americans in cowboy culture and modern practice. The Mayor attended and read the Orange, Texas, National Day of the Cowboy proclamation. Cleo Hearn, founder of the Cowboys of Color Rodeo is himself a 2011 CowboyKeeper Award recipient. 

 “The Stark Museum continues to strengthen its educational outreach and its commitment to diversity in interpreting the West. Its traveling exhibition Branding the American West: Paintings and Films, 1900-1950 broke new ground. Brigham Young University Museum of Art and the Stark collaborated to exhibit images of the American West as seen through the eyes of the members of the Taos Society of Artists, the artist Maynard Dixon, and films of the era. The accompanying publication served as a catalogue with essays from interdisciplinary perspectives. It received three major awards: the Mountain Plains Museum Association Publication Award for Design in books; an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History; and the 2017 Joan Paterson Kerr Book Award for the best illustrated book on the history of the American West from the Western History Association.  

 “A recent school outreach mural program focused on United States geography, a history of westward expansion, and an orientation to the exhibition. The Museum also holds an annual juried student art exhibition.  ‘I have been associated with the history and culture of the American West over the past 43 years, most recently as Executive Director and CEO of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. I believe the Stark Museum of Art is worthy of receiving the Cowboy Keeper Award and urge the National Day of the Cowboy Organization to bestow their award on the Museum.’ Bruce B. Eldredge.” 

The National Day of the Cowboy is July 27, 2019, a day set aside to celebrate the contributions of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage.  The Stark Museum of Art will observe 2019 National Day of the Cowboy by exhibiting two new acquisitions. Two photographs by Don Russell will be shown at the Stark Museum of Art for the first time and can be viewed in the gallery Picturing the Wild West. Sylvester Mayfield, Calf Roping Champion, Fort Worth, Texas and Mexican Bull Rider, Fort Worth, Texas are portraits of rodeo riders from diverse traditions of the West.  

“These handsome portraits come to our Museum as a result of last year’s National Day of the Cowboy program.  The audience response to the exhibition and panel discussion with Cowboys of Color participants and photographer Don Russell inspired Russell to donate ten new photographs,” said Sarah E. Boehme, curator.   “We will rotate the other eight photographs into installations in the future.”

The City Council of Orange pronounced Saturday, July 27, 2019, as the Orange Celebration of National Cowboy Day with a proclamation at its recent Council meeting.