"People go to the Denver Art Museum all the time, they go to the Denver Public Library and they don't really think of the history behind those things," explains Ashley Rogers, assistant director of the Byers-Evans House Museum. The mission of the new exhibit Anne Evans: Colorado's Cultural Visionary is to get people thinking about the Denver woman who was responsible for founding and championing many of the cultural institutions in this state.
Read on to see how this show will give a glimpse into the life of this cultural hero who helped preserve the arts in Colorado.
"Anne Evans had so much to do with making sure that citizens of Colorado could engage with high culture," says Rogers. The three-part exhibit starts Friday, May 4 with a reception at the Byers-Evans House Museum and runs through August 31 with parts of the show also on display at the Denver Central Library and the Central City Opera House.
The three parts of the exhibit will focus on different facets of Evans's life, with Central City Opera concentrating on her involvement in the organization's founding, the DPL focusing on her public efforts to push arts and culture, and the Byers-Evans house delving into her notoriously mysterious private life. "She was sort of famously secretive," says Rogers. "It's one of the things that's appealing about Anne Evans, I think, is that she was this dynamic, very powerful woman and then she had this private life that no one really knew much about." Though Evans burned most of her papers, the Byers-Evans show will display pictures and rare pieces of writing that escaped the flames.
In her public life, Evans was outgoing and generous. "She was part of this generation of women who really cared about women's rights and kind of getting outside of the home and doing things with her life," Rogers explains. "I think she's really fascinating in how much she bucked the norm." For example, she refused to get married, a radical decision for a woman of her era. "In the time period, a lot of women who got married were sort of relinquishing their public roles," Rogers says. "They wouldn't be able to go out and do things and be in the public eye. And Anne was so civicly engaged, she kind of didn't really care for tradition."
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Instead of focusing her energy on the home, Evans projected it outward, founding many of the cultural institutions that we still appreciate today, including the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library, the Central City Opera and the statues in Civic Center Park. "When we bring people through the house on tours and they hear this laundry list of her accomplishments, they're always shocked that this woman in the nineteenth century was able to do all these wonderful things," says Rogers. "She wanted to make art and culture accessible to everybody, and I guess I just want people to know that she did that."
The opening reception for Anne Evans: Colorado's Cultural Visionary will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, May 4, and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.historycolorado.org.