CNCC President snags merlot painting to honor, support college |

CNCC President snags merlot painting to honor, support college

Lauren Blair
Colorado Northwestern Community College President Russell George stands with the painting "Circles with Merlot" by local artist Israel Holloway. George won the piece, painted exclusively with merlot wine, at the live auction at the CNCC Foundation wine-tasting event, "Uncorked."
Courtesy Photo

— Local artist Israel Holloway is respected nationwide for his finely detailed and strikingly realistic watercolor paintings about the West, but only once has he ever replaced his watercolors with wine.

“First of all, I’m probably Israel’s biggest fan, or certainly one of them,” said Colorado Northwestern Community College President Russell George. “This is such a unique piece that… I thought, wow, this is one of a kind. I can’t let this get away.”

George was the lucky winner of Holloway’s singular merlot painting entitled “Circles with Merlot” at the CNCC Foundation’s annual fundraiser, which this year took new form as a wine-tasting event dubbed, “Uncorked.” The theme inspired Holloway to explore a new medium.

“I had heard about people painting with coffee,” Holloway said, who also teaches art at CNCC’s Craig campus. “I always donate a piece to their yearly fundraiser and I knew it was going to be a wine-tasting, so I thought I would try painting with wine.”

Though the words “wine” and “painting” might conjure images of splatters of faded red across a paper, the result of Holloway’s experiment was an immaculately detailed image of a girl on horseback doing circles with her horse, thus the title. The piece took Holloway about two weeks to paint, and about one bottle of merlot, selected among the reds for its darker color.

“For it to be our show piece for our first really big effort at a different type of fundraiser for the Craig campus… made it even more special,” George said. “I couldn’t let it get away from the college and the only way I could do that was if I possessed it… I had a plan but didn’t know what it was going to cost me.”

Given that most Holloway’s work tends to sell for between $1,500 and $5,000, George ended up with a bargain, with a winning bid of $925.

The money raised at the event will go primarily toward student scholarships, though the Foundation can offer support to the college in many ways. With more than 100 people in attendance, CNCC Foundation Vice President Lois Wymore considered the event a huge success.

“We wanted to do something different and wanted to do something that sort of branded us and sort of classed us up a little bit,” Wymore said.

As for where the painting will end up, that remains to be settled between George and his wife, Neal George.

“I think it belongs there on the campus, considering my purpose was to keep it and honor (Holloway) and his work with the college,” George said.

Regardless, the Georges are glad to show their support for the college.

“It’s a part of who Neal and I are and we take a lot of pride in that,” George said. “We think it’s important for people to give back and so we do our part.”

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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