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"First Response," by William Matthews.EXPAND
"First Response," by William Matthews.
Courtesy of the Coors Western Art Exhibit

William Matthews Wins "Best of Show" at Coors Western Art Exhibit

Close to half a million people have visited the National Western Stock Show, with five days to go. They've been to the rodeo, watched the dog trials, had a drink at the Cowboy Bar, wandered through the displays in the Hall of Education. But if they haven't made it up to the top floor of that building, they're missing one of the highlights of the Stock Show.

Past the Colorado State University display (CSU is a big part of the plans for the new National Western Center, where it will establish Spur), past the petting zoo, is the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale.

Not that there's that much left to sell: At the Red Carpet Reception on January 7, a fundraiser for the National Western Scholarship Trust, $710,000 in sales were recorded. But even if you can't afford to buy one of the remaining pieces, you can see all of the art by close to sixty artists, including just-announced award winners.

Painter Ron Hicks won the Artists' Choice Award, determined by fellow artists in the 

Coors Western Art Exhibit. Sculptor Pati Stajcar was honored with the Southwest Art Award, selected by Southwest Art Magazine. Sophy Brown was named the 2020 Featured Artist, and her painting "Maelstrom" will be added to the permanent collection at the National Western Stock Show.

And winning Best of Show? William Matthews, whose painting "First Response" was selected from the over 300 other pieces in the show.

Matthews, who lives in Denver but has done commissions around the country, is known for his watercolors that show Western landscapes and the cowboy life, but his current show, Steel, focuses on factories, and his award-winning painting depicts a rancher-turned-firefighter.

"I find the gritty side of life compelling," he told us for a recent Colorado Creatives interview. "It’s part of the American story, but we talk about it now more in terms of yearning for the past. But it still exists. It’s still active now, though it’s more automated — there are more robots doing the work. I’m interested in working men: the blue-collar, hard-working world. That’s what also drew me to cowboys. They’re people who really work hard with their hands, and I have a lot of respect for those men and women and the work they do. They don't get much societal respect these days. I think that’s unfair."

But Matthews is certainly getting plenty of well-deserved respect these days.

The Coors Western Art Exhibit is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, January 26, when the Stock Show ends. Find out more at coorswesternart.com.

William Matthews | Steel runs through February 6 at William Matthews Studio, 2540 Walnut Street. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment.

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