It took a year, or nearly three, depending on who's doing the math. But finally, Colorado conservatives can rest easy: A portrait of President Donald Trump has taken up permanent residence in the Colorado State Capitol.
The painting, by Colorado Springs artist Sarah Boardman, was unveiled on August 1, Colorado Day, by state Senator Kevin Grantham, who led the ballyhoo over the absence of a Trump likeness at the Capitol and launched a GoFundMe page to pay for one.
"Honored for the part I got to play in today's unveiling of the @realDonaldTrump portrait in the Colorado State Capitol Presidents Gallery!" Grantham exclaimed via Twitter. "Thank you to all who made this possible!"
Exactly a year ago, on August 2, 2018, we published "Inside the Controversy Over Donald Trump's Portrait at the State Capitol," which detailed one of the more amusing partisan dust-ups in recent memory.
The matter came to the public's attention thanks to FOX31 reporter Joe St. George. On July 23 of last year, St. George tweeted a collage juxtaposing a photo of a blank spot next to a portrait of former President Barack Obama with a note from Jay Sellers, president of Colorado Citizens for Culture, soliciting donations for a Trump artwork. Accompanying the images was text that read: "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 July 25, St. George put together a package for broadcast whose online headline read, "Zero Donations So Far for Trump's Portrait at State Capitol." In it, he quoted Steve Barlock, the former head of the Denver for Trump campaign and an erstwhile gubernatorial candidate, who said, "It makes me feel sad" that no portrait of Trump had joined those in the Capitol's collection. According to Barlock, 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 quest subsequently became international, at least temporarily. Following the FOX31 offering, a prankster supplemented the presidential pics with an image of Russian leader and alleged Trump crush Vladimir Putin.
In his remarks to St. George, Barlock also criticized the methodology by which Colorado Citizens for Culture solicited for portrait cash — a small sign on the Capitol's third floor with the organization's mailing address. "They want us to write a check?" he asked.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Actually, yes — because, according to Sellers, who'd headed the group for four years when he spoke to Westword and served on its board for around a decade, that's the way things had always been done.
Colorado Citizens for Culture is "only a conduit for receiving the funds and then paying the artist who's commissioned," he noted. "Since it's political, it has to be by donations. We're nonpartisan, and we stay that way on purpose. There's no pony in the race for us."
There was for Grantham, who created a video pitch for the aforementioned GoFundMe effort and subsequently celebrated a "yuuuge" response from funders, who quickly contributed more than the $10,000 needed for the portrait. This past January, Ruth Bruno, program manager for Colorado Creative Industries, an Office of Economic Development and International Trade branch that acted as an intermediary for the painting, confirmed that Boardman, who also painted the Obama pic, had been hired to create a Trump portrait, and predicted it would be hanging in the Capitol within a few months.
It took a bit longer than that, but Trump is now on view for Capitol visitors and lawmakers alike. Decide for yourself whether that's good news.