Authorities are hoping to make an arrest soon regarding vandalism at the State Capitol that damaged busts of longtime representative Rich Castro and two other former legislators, among other things, on January 27.
But another piece of artwork should be on display at the Statehouse soon — namely, a portrait of President Donald Trump created in the wake of a dust-up last summer over suggestions that the absence of such a painting was politically motivated.
The design for the Trump portrait has been approved, and it should be ready for display in late spring.
The matter came to the public's attention thanks to Fox31 reporter Joe St. George. On June 23, St. George tweeted the collage at the top of this post and the following text: "Do you love President Trump? Now is your chance to donate to get his picture up at the Colorado State Capitol. We are approaching two years into his presidency and still no portrait."
Two days later, on June 25, St. George put together a package for broadcast whose online headline reads, "Zero Donations So Far for Trump's Portrait at State Capitol." Among those quoted in the piece is former Colorado gubernatorial candidate and ex-Denver for Trump chair Steve Barlock, who said, "It makes me feel sad" that no portrait of Trump has joined those in the Capitol's collection. According to him, the call for donations toward this effort "should be put out easily. It shouldn't be hard. This should be a bipartisan effort to take care of the tradition of our State Capitol."
That heritage subsequently became international, at least temporarily. Following the Fox31 offering, as seen in a photo tweeted by Representative Steve Fenberg, a prankster supplemented the presidential pics with an image of Russian leader and alleged Trump crush Vladimir Putin.
The presidential portraits have traditionally been funded by donations to Colorado Citizens for Culture, an organization named in the text for a small sign on the Capitol's third floor soliciting donations for a Trump portrait. Barlock criticized this fundraising methodology, asking, "They want us to write a check?"
Yes, actually — and Dr. Jay Seller, president of Arts for Colorado, which comprises Colorado Citizens for Culture, says around eight people did so in the wake of the Fox31 piece and others on the subject. These efforts raised about $1,200 toward the $10,000 needed for the portrait, he estimates.
The remainder was generated by a GoFundMe page launched by Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham that essentially transformed the portrait into a Trumpian cause. The campaign soon exceeded its $10,000 goal.
Shortly thereafter, says Ruth Bruno, program manager for Colorado Creative Industries, an Office of Economic Development and International Trade branch that's acting as an intermediary for the portrait, an artist was selected: Sarah Boardman, who's based in Colorado Springs. Boardman had previously painted the portrait of President Barack Obama that's currently in the Capitol, but Bruno stresses that her selection to do likewise for Trump was completely nonpartisan.
"The other presidential portraits were all by an artist named Lawrence Williams, who passed away in 2003," she says. "So we needed to find another artist who could match his style. Sarah Boardman was chosen to do that after we made a request for qualifications and she submitted to it."
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Boardman subsequently chose a photo of Trump to use as a model; it was approved by a Capitol building advisory committee, as was a sketch that offered a more specific hint of the finished product. She's now moving forward with the painting itself, and Bruno expects it to be hanging alongside the other presidential portraits in a few months.
Would this have happened without the hullabaloo over supposed disrespect for Trump? Absolutely, Bruno says: "We had already started on this before any of that happened. And the same thing happened with the Obama portrait. It took until 2011 to get it completed, but we started on the process in 2008 or 2009. So there was definitely no bias."
Seller echoes Bruno's take. In his words, the Trump portrait "would have been done without the controversy. There was absolutely no need for it."
At least the delay meant it was never at risk from the bust-abusing Capitol vandal.