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The Bright Lights of the Square State – a look at the history of film on the Colorado Set

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The wide inviting plains and majestic mountain vistas that abound in the great state of Colorado, have drawn filmmakers like flies since basically the beginning of the art form. The ideal American frontier, embedded in the head of the rest of the world, has its roots planted firmly in the Centennial State’s soil. 

Film history for Colorado began in October of …

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The wide inviting plains and majestic mountain vistas that abound in the great state of Colorado, have drawn filmmakers like flies since basically the beginning of the art form. The ideal American frontier, embedded in the head of the rest of the world, has its roots planted firmly in the Centennial State’s soil. 

Film history for Colorado began in October of 1897, when scenes from the 3rd annual Festival of Mountain & Plain were shot. The gala event began in Denver in the year 1895 in an attempt to lift the city’s spirits following the Silver Panic, the worst economic depression to hit the United States at the time. William Byers, the founder of Colorado’s first newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, helped to promote and direct the event. Residents from throughout the four corners flocked to the three-day celebration of the early pioneer days of the Southwest. The ornate festivities included an outdoor masquerade ball attended by over five thousand revelers, dancing under a canvas stretched across old Broadway, four separate grand parades and the swirling refrain of 600 instruments from 25 marching bands playing in unison. 

Several similar slices of pioneer life with exciting titles such as “Runaway Stagecoach” and “Arrival on Summit of Pike’s Peak,” were shot in the area and released over the next few early years of cinema. H.H. “Buck” Buckwalter, the first photographer of the Rocky Mountain News is credited as the forefather of film in the state. Buckwalter captured a generous collection of inhabitants, wildlife & late 19th to early 20th century culture with his camera. The Smithsonian Institute helped fund some of Buck’s photographic expositions. For years he served as the vice-president of the Colorado Camera Club along with William Henry Jackson, the first person to photograph Yellowstone National Park, as president. Glass negatives from his beginnings as a photojournalist have been preserved and are on display in the Denver Public Library. Buckwalter was the first to understand that displaying the area’s scenic surroundings is an ideal way to advertise the state. Buckwalter was an innovator and film apparatus inventor, who in 1910 started the Moving Picture Equipment Co. Many of his early inventions would be purchased and utilized by burgeoning film companies that would grow to become giants in their field. The then new Selig-Polyscope Company, the first permanent movie studio in Southern California, to capture the Southwest in all its primitive glory, hired Buckwalter.  Going to the extent of trying to pass Colorado off as a mild climate community, locals were filmed wearing summer attire in the streets in frigid January. Because of snow, of course, filming the fraudulent event was postponed. Buckwalter had gotten his start with future movie mogul William Selig when they met back in 1901, as the two men were filming promotional travel films for railroad companies, which would be the birth of video tourism in our country. Buckwalter and Selig would also collaborate on what would be the genesis of western films.

Another benchmark in local cinema history was the creation by former Selig director Otis Thayer, of the Colorado Motion Picture Company in 1913 which was supported by local businessmen who would appear as extras in the company’s films. The studio took a big hit in 1914, when lead actress Grace McHugh and a cameraman drowned in the Arkansas River while shooting the film “Across the Border”. Only one film is known to still exist from the company. Released in 1914 and filmed in Canon City, “Pirates of the Plains”, is a story about two brothers, one a beloved rodeo rider, the other a horse thief. As the film boom burst onto the scene, opulent movie theaters began to spring up next to equally grand Opera and performing arts houses. People started to refer to Curtis Street in Denver as “Theatre Row,” and “Denver’s Great White Way,” for it was said to be the brightest street in the world due to the number of neon clad edifices that illuminated the block. The Apollo Hall was the first theater to open in 1859, as Curtis Street would go on  to be lined with sixty-six theaters in all before the year 1920.

Getting his start galloping across the plains of Colorado in short silent films was the big screen’s first Western star; Tom Mix. Mix set the standard for every faux cowboy to follow. This frontier fascination would continue through the marriage of sound and film, and over those first few infant decades of the industry, helping to create the Western archetypes that are still prevalent to this day. John Ford, arguably the greatest director of the genre, often used Colorado’s craggy canyons as the backdrop to many of his epic masterpieces. Concepts and misconceptions of the Old West were and still are shaped by what Ford’s films reveal to viewe…

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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

Last Half

Rock Art of the Purgatoire Canyon

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Where

 


Despite the permanency the name implies, rock art has an unexpectedly ephemeral nature. It doesn’t announce itself but creeps up on you, appearing in places you’d least expect like the footprints of someone who’s passed before you. It is this very transitory nature of rock art that makes it both fascinating and extremely difficult to und…

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Where

 


Despite the permanency the name implies, rock art has an unexpectedly ephemeral nature. It doesn’t announce itself but creeps up on you, appearing in places you’d least expect like the footprints of someone who’s passed before you. It is this very transitory nature of rock art that makes it both fascinating and extremely difficult to understand. Because of the large and unique collection of petroglyphs and rock structures in Southern Colorado, archaeologists in our area may one day be able to shed a little light on the meaning of rock art images all over the world.

The Picket Wire, or Purgatoire, Canyon area just south of Lamar has a large and well-preserved concentration of rock art that archaeologist Lawrence Loendorf of the University of New Mexico predicts will “be the key to understanding North American rock art.” The Purgatoire River running through the canyon is one of many tributaries that make up the Lower Arkansas River Valley, an area which extends through the southeastern corner of Colorado and into the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwest Texas. This area has the highest concentration of rock art in North America and a cultural history going back tens of thousands of years.

Walking into the Purgatoire Canyon is like walking back in time. The canyon is huge—wide enough to be seen from space—and blanketed with long, savannah-like grasses, intersected by tall cottonwoods and tamarisk that line the river. On either side, the valley walls rise up and branch off into smaller canyons that remain largely unexplored. The canyon walls themselves are dotted with junipers and basalt boulders that run all the way down to the river bed like toys scattered in a child’s playroom. Considering that less than a century and a half ago the canyon had the humid, fertile environment of a rain forest, it’s not difficult to imagine the attraction of the oasis-like valley to settlers throughout history, from the Folsom Man to Spanish colonists.

And the rock art is everywhere: pieces chipped off from boulders litter the trail, and every rock seems to have some sort of petroglyph, although not in the most obvious places one would look.

Something that becomes immediately apparent when searching for rock art is how much seeing it depends on luck and subjectivity, even when the area is rich in petroglyphs. As Loendorf put it in his study of the Purgatoire Canyon, A Manual for Rock Art Documentation,

“ … in practice it can be very difficult to decide if marks on a rock are the result of a tree limb blowing against the surface or the product of a human artist. It can be equally difficult to decide if a series of marks is purposeful, not fortuitous.” He also points out that finding rock art can depend largely on such changeable conditions as lighting and recent rains.

Loendorf has been studying the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, or PCMS, since 1989 and is the world’s foremost expert on petroglyphs in Southern Colorado. The PCMS itself is not part of the Purgatoire Canyon, but borders the northeast side of it.

According to Loendorf there are three major types of rock art in the area: biographic, which are incised scenes of warfare similar to ledger drawings and buffalo skin paintings; visionary and shamanistic images like handprints, which are the most common images in the PCMS; and what Loendorf refers to as “doodles,” or very abstract shapes such as squiggly lines and spirals.

These types of petroglyphs are not unique to Colorado. Handprint petroglyphs can be found all over the world; and when seen in conjunction with human figures they are believed to be a sign that the art is shamanistic in purpose, as if the print is capturing the artist’s soul. Spirals or concentric circles are also a worldwide phenomenon. In the Southwest they are often associated with shields, but are sometimes also connected to astronomy.

That being said, there are certain types of rock art that can only be found in the Purgatoire Canyon and PCMS site. These petroglyphs are anthropomorphs or quadruped figures who face the viewer and have knobby knees and digitate hands. They were created by the mysterious Apishapa (also spelled Apishipa) Culture, a group unique to Southern Colorado who inhabited the Lower Arkansas River Valley between 2,000 and 500 years ago. They’re mostly known for building rock structures like the “Stonehenge” type ruins found in the Apishapa State Wildlife Area, about 20 miles east of Walsenburg. But there are also examples of their rock structures in the PCMS and Purgatoire Canyon.

Unlike other inhabitants of North Ameri…

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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

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Last Half

Ice Blocking

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With the stress of several fires, all dry desert heat, and rainless days, I know I’m looking for unique ways to stay cool and calm.

Since it’s not ideal to travel three hours to the sand dunes so you can spend a day scooting down sandy hills on plastic sleds like you’re Matthew McConaughey in Sahara, I have …

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

With the stress of several fires, all dry desert heat, and rainless days, I know I’m looking for unique ways to stay cool and calm.

Since it’s not ideal to travel three hours to the sand dunes so you can spend a day scooting down sandy hills on plastic sleds like you’re Matthew McConaughey in Sahara, I have a different method for you all. Instead, you can get a little wet, and certainly wild, with a slide down and cool down toward the end of a hot day. With what you ask? What else could you possible do to cool down besides sprinklers in your back yard, waterpark, or swimming pool? Ice Blocking of course, don’t worry I’ll tell you what the heck it is. Here’s what you do. First, this simple fun can be easily devised using two items:

-One 10 pound block of ice (can be found at King Soopers)

-And One kitchen towel to keep your tush somewhat dry (don’t be afraid to accessorize)

Second, find yourself a steep and grassy knoll (dirt does not work and you will hurt yourself), University Park in Pueblo is always a good choice, but any steep hill will do. Next, place your towel over your block of ice, situate yourself as comfortably on your ice as you can, have your friends give you a little push and… Geronimo! You’ll slide down that hill faster th…

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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Last Half

Art Coup in Cañon

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Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on the map.

Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on…

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Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on the map.

Through the lightly Juniper specked cliffs cupping the slight winding roads, you can take a slow drive past the quiet residences of small towns that don’t make it on the map. Drive a little further, you might find yourself cruising upstream to the rushing Arkansas River. You may even see a lonely rafter eager for some white water or an angler hungry for brown trout. Art is neither a rare spectacle. You can walk down main street and spot several art studios full of a life’s work, or you can see an artist diligently completing his oil painting halfway outside of his studio door. For some, not much is really happening in Canon City for the art community but recently the Fremont Center for the Arts scored a major coup by showing an internationally-known artist’s creations.

Thomas ‘The Painter of Light’ Kinkade’s, artwork made its appearance at the Fremont Center for the Arts in Canon City. Thomas Kinkade is the American artist known for his realistic and impressionistic paintings using three elements of light: water, sunlight, and artificial light. His purpose in painting was to simply paint with his heart. Although he never searched for fame in his work, he is the most sold artist in the country and became so reputable that his art is easily spotted in St. Jude Hospitals, The White House and even the Vatican. 

Garden of Prayer by Thomas Kinkade | Courtesy Fremont Center for the Arts

Garden of Prayer by Thomas Kinkade | Courtesy Fremont Center for the Arts

The FCA is a non-profit organization home to the local artists of Fremont County but also host to collections and exhibits of art ranging from Day of the Dead exhibits to the Splendor of Glass exhibits to Artist of the Tattooist. The FCA’s establishment is known to the art community, but to outsiders it merely appears to be an extension of the public library across the street. To discover that Kinkade is in Canon City is a stunning piece of news, so with all this excitement, many are left wondering, how does artwork of this caliber make its way to a small town?

Art centers are struggling and it …

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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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