Heart attack claims Old Town artist
Richard Pearce “Rick” Lewis, a sculptor who had run his own gallery/shop in Old Colorado City for the past three years, died
of a heart attack the night of Oct. 31. He was 52.
Services were Nov. 4. He was buried in La Junta, his boyhood home. He is survived by his mother, Peggy Jean Lewis, of Colorado Springs, and three brothers.
Lewis was known for his off-beat sculpting creativity, a whimsical sense of humor and determination to keep his shop open despite tight finances.
“I didn't know him personally real well, but he was a wonderful guy,” recalled Nancy Stovall, owner of the Pine Creek Art Gallery. She said she had carried his “unique and unusual” sculptures even before he opened his own gallery in the 2400 block of West Colorado Avenue.
Now, she said, she will be offering his works again, probably within a week or so, with the agreement of his family.
Lori Kasten, of J.A. Kasten Accounting, attended Lewis' funeral with Stovall. “He was just the nicest guy,” she said. “He always had positive things to say. It just broke my heart. He was so sweet all the time. And he was just 52.”
She added that “a good home” has been found for his dog, Daisy, who was always in the gallery with him.
Lewis' upbringing was hardly typical for an artist. In an interview with the Westside Pioneer last year, he explained that he grew up on a ranch in the La Junta area. “When I said I wanted to be an artist, I was told, 'Forget it,'” he recalled.
His early career was as a horse jockey, riding mounts on tracks in the Arkansas Valley. “I was a late bloomer,” Lewis said in the interview. “I was 80 to 90 pounds for about 20 years.”
Eventually, he got the opportunity to go to college in San Francisco, and later he studied art in Europe.
His gallery displayed his sculptures as well as sculptures and paintings by other artists. Although his originals never received wide critical acclaim like that of fellow Old Town sculptor Michael Garman (whom Lewis termed “a real pro”), he took quiet pride in his work. He enjoyed the fact that his most popular pieces were his “jolly elephants” - although, as he sardonically put it, “Art isn't supposed to be funny.”
To save money, he ran his shop alone. Even then, staying afloat during an economic recession and in the face of increasing rents was not easy. “He had wanted to own this gallery for so long,” Stovall said. “In winter, when things were slow, he would get another job and work nights too. He put a lot of effort into keeping his shop open.”
The end came unexpectedly the night of Oct. 31. Lewis had not been visibly ill. He had helped his mother move the day before, and his shop had been open that day.
During his gallery years, in a work area at the rear of his shop, he would sometimes tackle projects during slow times. His last major work was an eagle, with wings outstretched. According to Stovall, his family plans to cast the eagle in bronze for a keepsake, and, depending on demand, it may also become available for sale to the public.
Westside Pioneer article