[Cedaredge, Colo. | March 2020 | By Kathryn R. Burke]
“Cattail Fuzz” original painting by Connie Williams. Courtesy image.
Which came first? The apples or the art? Art. (The apples came along a little later.) From the time she was a small child—drawing on her grandfather’s bald head (with consequences) until this moment, when she is wielding a paintbrush—Connie Williams’ heart is in her art.
“I always loved to paint and draw. When I was little, I used to go behind the couch and draw on the walls. My mother started buying me paper—to save the walls,” she laughed. “I’d go through a ream a week.” She also used the paper to design and cut out her own paper dolls, each different, each unique. “I always went outside the lines and embellished whatever I was working on,” she said. Williams described a school project where the kids were all instructed to draw a feather, which would be placed on the class turkey. Her feather was bigger (and more ornamental) than the other children’s. When the teacher worried that it was too big, Williams suggested putting her feather in the middle and arranging the other, smaller ones around it.
In grade school, some of her artwork was selected for an art exchange with European schools. In 7th grade, she won the National Poster Contest. Her high school teacher found her so advanced that “she put me in back of a screen, where I could work independently, and she brought in college-level courses to keep me artistically challenged.”
Connie Williams, Montrose Rodeo Queen. Courtesy image.
Rodeo Queen While she was making art and winning art awards, Williams was also riding horses, which she loved to paint, too. Williams grew up in Montrose, where her father owned the Western Slope Livestock Commission Company, “so I was always around livestock. I loved horses, learned to train them and sell them and rodeo.” She excelled at barrel racing, and wound up Rodeo Queen, Little Britches Queen, and “queen” of just about everything else that had to do with Western Slope rodeo.
“Winning” could be Williams middle name. At Western State, she majored in Business and Education—the first time around. She went back 10 years later for her art degree and was named Alumni Art in 1997, Alumni of the Business in 1998, Alumni of the Entire School in 1999, and Alumni of Excellents. in the year 2000. Her picture hangs in Taylor Hall.
She married her husband, Dan, in her junior year (during her first stint at Western) and moved to Cedaredge, where they had their first child. A car wreck in 1983 slowed her down a little—she’s had nine accidents, all with serious consequences, “but none were my fault, and I’ve never had a ticket.” She said. While recovering, she went back to Western for her art degree. This woman may be down occasionally, but you can never count her out! Another wreck (on black ice on Dallas Divide in 1989) temporarily cost her the use of her hands—not good for an artist.
The AppleShed. So, she purchased the AppleShed, all 28,000 square feet of it! from her husband, who, with some business partners, had acquired it in a foreclosure sale. “I saw the possibilities,” she remembered, “knew it would make a terrific art gallery.” She healed her damaged hands and wrists and built strength in her shoulders and neck by doing “skip trowel” on the walls of the old building. “I wanted to recreate the 1920’s type of finish inside as well as out.”
Before long, she was sitting at a table, painting, and someone came in and bought the painting right off the table! She was back in business as an artist and representative of Western Colorado art.