Dan Davidson, Museum of Northwest Colorado director, points to a sculpture of a panther, being featured in an upcoming exhibit. The work, titled "Stalking Panther," was sculpted in 1893 by Alexander Phimister Proctor, a nationally recognized artist whose art school education was funded by Craig's namesake, William Bayard Craig.

Photo by Collin Smith

Dan Davidson, Museum of Northwest Colorado director, points to a sculpture of a panther, being featured in an upcoming exhibit. The work, titled "Stalking Panther," was sculpted in 1893 by Alexander Phimister Proctor, a nationally recognized artist whose art school education was funded by Craig's namesake, William Bayard Craig.

Museum plans new sculptor exhibit

Although not typically seen as an artist's mecca, Northwest Colorado helped shape the life and work of at least one nationally recognized sculptor.

Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado on downtown Yampa Avenue, wants to bring that history to residents in Moffat County.

He plans to open a new exhibit around mid-October on the connected lives of Alexander Phimister Proctor - a leader in American West sculpting - and William Bayard Craig, who Davidson said is likely Craig's namesake.

For the exhibit, the museum plans to purchase one of Proctor's works from the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo., for $6,000. The piece, titled "Stalking Panther," was finished around 1893 and was one of the first bronze works that Proctor made a mold for.

The exhibit also will include two paintings by the sculptor, donated by local resident Mary Pelto, Craig's great-granddaughter, and a recently published book about Proctor's career and work.

Proctor was known for his attraction to the outdoors and the mountain lifestyle, often associating with mountain men and trappers, Davidson said. It was probably the lure of untamed land and wildlife that drew him to Northwest Colorado.

His connection to Craig - both the man and the region - proved to be more than circumstantial, however.

Although Proctor grew up in Denver, his family spent a lot of time in the Grand Lake area on a homestead they owned.

Proctor himself, who Davidson said was "something of an adventurer," spent many of his days hunting and hiking in what now is called the Flattops Wilderness Area. His quest for new and better hunts led him to Northwest Colorado several times, as well.

At some point, Proctor became acquainted with Craig during a hunting trip to the area, Davidson said. It was then that the two worked out a deal where Craig would buy Proctor's family homestead near Grand Lake in exchange for enough money to put him through art school in New York City.

Craig "basically funded his art education and kick-started (Proctor's) career," Davidson said. "He became one of the best sculptors of Western life and that whole thing."

Proctor's work lays scattered across the country, including a buffalo statue in Buffalo, N.Y., and statues in Missouri, Texas and Oregon.

He also is the artist responsible for two statutes of a cowboy on horseback and a Native American in Denver's Civic Center Park.

Davidson said he plans to flesh out Proctor's exhibit with information about Craig, too.

"Most people don't know anything about the Craig that Craig was named after," he said. "It's just interesting how (Proctor) ties into our area and our hunting and our history."

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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