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Collector’s Eye: Kathy & Brad Coors
Promoting art, education and Western heritage, Kathy and Brad Coors combine passions in their family’s namesake art exhibit
Carter G. Walker
December 2013 | January 2014
For 10 years, Kathy and Brad Coors have lent far more than their family name to the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale. Motivated by a lifelong dedication to preserving the Western way of life and fueled by their shared passion for Western art, the Coors have thrown their full support behind this remarkable show, and all that it accomplishes artistically and philanthropically.
This January, over the course of 16 days, some 40,000 people will wander through one of the country’s most unique Western art venues: Denver’s 108-year-old National Western Stock Show. There are very few places where, in a single afternoon, visitors can examine 20 different breeds of cattle, take in a rodeo and a fiddle contest, and stand just inches away from some of the finest works of contemporary art in the country by artists including Kim Wiggins, Howard Post, Len Chmiel and Michael Naranjo. “Our opening night is a great time,” offers show curator Rose Fredrick, in a marvelous understatement. “You don’t have to get dressed up, and there’s booze,” she says with a laugh.
But unpretentious revelry aside, the curated, 60-plus-artist show does far more than entertain people and urge us to reshape the way we define Western art. The Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale was added to the stock show lineup in 1993 as a means of educating the public about art, celebrating the art of the American West and raising money for the National Western Scholarship Trust, which provides college and graduate-level scholarships in agriculture and medicine for practice in rural areas.
According to Fredrick, thanks in large part to the Coors family’s hard work and generosity — Kathy Coors is the Event Committee Chair — the art show has become the largest contributor to the scholarship fund. Art sales from the show in 2013 topped $1 million. In addition, the lineup of artists is growing and pushing the envelope — powerfully — in the direction of the unexpected. Fredrick says that the event is doing precisely what the Coors intended: “We’re showing people art and we’re putting kids through college.”
This year’s Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale is open to the public from Saturday, January 11, through Sunday, January 26.
WA&A: What inspires you to collect art?
Kathy: Brad has a keen eye for art and loves to collect landscapes.
Brad: And Kathy is drawn to the whimsical.
Kathy: Our passion for Western art jumpstarted when we aligned with the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale and curator, Rose Fredrick. Brad’s lifelong interest in collecting combined with my passion for fundraising allows us to pursue our joys in life in the name of art. The Coors show is unique in two ways: It rewards the artists with proceeds and national recognition and also it funds the National Western Scholarship Trust. This trust underwrites college scholarships for students coming out of rural areas to study agribusiness, medicine and veterinary sciences.
WA&A: What was the first work that you purchased and what made you choose it?
Kathy: Brad started his collection prior to our marriage. What seeded our love affair with Western art was our purchase of a Bill Anton painting at the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale in 1997. The energy at each year’s show emulates what hangs in our home — fun, reflective art that represents the best of what the West has to offer.
Brad: We are products of the West — our upbringing, our love of country, our belief in hard work and grit, a connection to the land and its animals. Kathy and the kids (triplets) are avid equestrians.
Kathy: And Brad is a world-record bow hunter. Our ranch home also showcases mostly landscape pieces from the Coors Western Art show.
WA&A: What is your most beloved piece and why?
Kathy: We cherish all of our pieces — they all have special meaning. The home includes pieces from the world renowned to local artists, old Western classics, ceramic sculptures to modern interpretations of the West.
Brad: E. M. Hennings’ work is unbelievably special, but presently we are most drawn to a simple oil piece that our son painted of his jumper pony, called Monstarz Superfly.
WA&A: With which living artist would you most like to have to dinner?
Kathy: We are fortunate to do this each year with the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale! We host the artists during a pre-sale invitation-only gathering. Special art collectors who attend the show are invited to join the fun.
Brad: Where else can you hang with Ted Waddell, Teresa Elliott, Don Stinson, Jo LeMay Rutledge, Howard Post, William Matthews, T.D. Kelsey, Russell Case, Duke Beardsley, Gordon Brown, Quang Ho, Caroline Douglas and Ewoud de Groot, just to name a few?
WA&A: If you could be any artist in history, who would you be?
Brad: The obvious answer is to look back at some of the greats like Maynard Dixon, Charles Russell, Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran and the like. But, those days are gone and an artist’s recording of the West has a far different look today as things simply have changed. So, I like to live in the present.
WA&A: Where do you imagine your collection will be in 100 years?
Kathy: What motivates us is working with the National Western Scholarship Trust to preserve Western heritage. People of the West create beauty every day working the land, feeding cattle and livestock, riding the horses, planting the soil and caring for their communities. We are just trying to do our part to perpetuate strong Western values for the generations to come.