Local artist donates painting for library fund
Ekstrom expanding career
Jack Ekstrom is one of those artists who has been around a long time without seeming to get the respect he deserves.
For example, when Charles Rockey, the well-known Manitou Springs artist, was the art teacher at North Middle School, Ekstrom was his substitute. And when he had a painting not long ago at the Business of Art Center, he recalls it being criticized for its age (1998). He even keeps his day job as a graphics artist/writer/editor at the Air Force Academy.
But all that may be about to change.
Ekstrom, a Westside resident since 1974, has started painting more prolifically of late, and one of the beneficiaries will be the fund-raising campaign to renovate the century-old Old Colorado City Library.
He will donate his 2004 oil painting, “Carnegie Library in Old Colorado City,” to the library, with proceeds from the sales of 100 signed and numbered prints going toward the $270,000 needed for repairs. The initial identified cost was $450,000; since fund-raising started last year, $180,000 has been raised from donations and grants, according to Old Colorado City Branch Manager Julianne Rist.
The 18-by-24-inch work depicts a summery contemporary scene in front of the library, which was built by industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Locals may find sport in identifying the various people in the painting, each of whom, according to the artist, is a “real person.”
“I had fun doing it,” Ekstrom said. “Since I live in Old Colorado City, I'm happy to give to the library. It's good to give back to the community where you live.”
The painting will be unveiled at a formal presentation in the library from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 6. Dignitaries expected to be present at the ceremony include Pikes Peak Library District Director Jose Aponte, library staff and members of the Old Colorado City Carnegie Library Campaign Committee and the Library District board, Rist said.
Those present will be invited to join a tour of the library to see “what needs to be fixed,” she said. “They'll have a chance to see the crumbling foundation and the rotting windows.”
Ekstrom pledged that the prints will be “museum quality.”
The original can be seen this month as part of an Ekstrom show - his first-ever solo exhibition - at the Cheyenne Mountain Library.
Eventually, according to Rist, the image will appear on Old Colorado City Library promotional items, book bags and note cards.
Describing Ekstrom as a “longtime supporter” of the library, she said he previously did a line drawing of the building that is hanging inside the facility.
The idea for the oil painting resulted from a conversation between the artist and former Old Colorado City Branch Manager Betsy Evans. According to Rist, “Betsy talked to him about the campaign, and he said, 'Gee, I'd like to do something.' She said, 'Why don't you do a painting?' That's how it came about.”
Born in 1939, Ekstrom has had a colorful, if not lucrative life. His background includes being a teacher, a tank platoon leader, a graphics renderer (an exacting, architectural type of drawing that he describes as “grueling”) and a backhoe driver. He was working at the latter occupation in Monument one July in the mid-1970s when a freak blizzard blew in. This was not ideal for people living in a campground, he recalled, so he and his wife moved down the hill right then to Old Colorado City.
Before getting his job at the Academy, he said he worked for a number of years at various drawing and painting endeavors, which “succeeded in keeping my family poor.”
One of his projects during that time was his “Historic Old Colorado City” map that accompanied Westside leader Dave Hughes' 1978 book by the same name. The map depicts the Old Town layout and is packed with historical information. But Ekstrom shrugs it off as a “silly map” in which both he and Hughes “made the mistake of putting in the names of all the stores (at that time). It quickly got out of date.”
Nowadays, Ekstrom is filled with painting purpose. He's built a studio in his house for oil painting, and he's anticipating a future when he will leave his Air Force Academy job and paint full-time. He has embarked on a recent project to depict various old Catholic missions in Texas and New Mexico. Several of these are in his Cheyenne Library show.
He's also trying to find a gallery to hang his works. “I do want to get myself out there,” Ekstrom said.
Westside Pioneer article