Call for volunteer artist to restore venerable Washington painting

       There's a historic painting in need of help at West Elementary. But first a little background…

Charles Craig's portrait of George Washington, which he painted and donated to School District 11 when the Washington school initially opened in 1894, hangs in its latest location - at the rear of the West Elementary lobby. At right is a framed, handwritten history of the painting and the artist. Note the damaged places on the painting.
Westside Pioneer photo

       In 1894, when the first Washington School was built (replacing the smaller Locke School that had been on the same site), School District 11 received a gift from a recognized local artist. Charles Craig, especially known for his paintings of American Indians, presented the school board with his original portrait of the school's namesake - George Washington.
       No one knows what inspired Craig to take on a subject matter so different from his usual style, but a framed explanation accompanying the painting notes that the artist, born in 1846, had moved to Colorado Springs in 1881 and would live here until he died in 1931.
       A flowery resolution from the D-11 school board accepting the painting in 1894 reads, in part: “That the board show appreciation of the generous and friendly spirit that prompted the giving of this admirable and beautiful portrait from so distinguished an artist by making a record in the minutes of its proceedings and that transcripts of its actions in this matter be mailed to the donor and furnished [to] the press of this city.”
       For the next 115 years, the artwork stayed with the elementary school, surviving additions in 1955 and 1973 and the razing of the original Washington facility in 1972.
       Then came the school's closure after 2008-09. But Terry Martinez, who was the last Washington principal and now the first West Elementary principal, did not forget about Craig's painting. With help from the Westside Optimist Club, whose members had volunteered time and materials for years at Washington (and now do the same at West), the work was put on display at West. Next to a framed explanation of its history, the portrait is on a lobby-area wall that informally recognizes two of the elementaries that closed (Washington and Whittier) and whose students attend the new school. (Whittier's item is a steel replica of an eagle that used to hang above the school's main office.) “It's a symbolic blending to honor the traditions of both schools and of starting something new,” Martinez said.
       Unfortunately, the painting of Washington, which was only recently covered with plexiglass, suffered from its years of exposure, including a couple of small holes. Tom Hendrix of the Optimists is putting out a call for an artist skilled in restoration who might be willing to volunteer his or her time. “We need somebody to touch it up a little bit,” he said.
       For more information, Hendrix can be reached at 633-7392.

Westside Pioneer article