Hidden treasure: Prescott Valley Civic Center home to Borglum art
PRESCOTT - Scattered among the floors of the Prescott Valley Civic Center is a collection of work by sculptor Solon Borglum, the same man who created the Captain William Owen (Buckey) O'Neill Memorial, often called the Rough Rider Monument, at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott.
Solon was the younger of two Borglum brothers, both famous sculptors. His brother Gutzon gained fame for carving the faces of four American presidents into Mount Rushmore.
Prescott Valley Arts & Culture Coordinator Rex Ijams said the town acquired the Borglum collection through the efforts of Prescott Community Art Trust founding member Jerri Wagner.
Ijams said the sculptures sat in storage "from 1987 to 1998. Individual pieces would be pulled out for display, but the collection had no permanent home."
Prescott Valley officials signed a management agreement with the Prescott Community Art Trust, now the Prescott Area Art Trust, in February 2003, creating a permanent home for the collection.
Prescott Area Art Trust President Fred Wakeland said the Borglum collection came to the Prescott area because of Wagner's relationship with the Borglum family.
Wakeland said the collection ended up in Prescott Valley because the town "had the only facility to store it. The collection was originally displayed at Sharlot Hall Museum. The museum remodeled and the collection moved to First National Bank. When we had to vacate the bank, the art trust elected to surrender the collection to Prescott Valley."
The Borglum collection consists of 34 pieces, 27 of which are on display. The collection includes bronzes, plaster casts, photographs, a child's Native American dress, ink drawings, an oil painting and furniture.
An alcove at the Prescott Valley Civic Center is the home for the furniture, plaster casts, photographs and child's dress, which Ijams said "Borglum's daughter wore and was probably made by Native Americans from South Dakota."
Solon Borglum lived from 1868 to 1922.
Borglum earned international fame as an artist much earlier than his brother Gutzon. Artistic rivalry flared between the brothers when Gutzon reneged on his promise to restrict his art to painting.
Gutzon studied art in California, while Solon, also interested in art, managed his father's 6,000-acre ranch in Nebraska. Later, Solon attended the Cincinnati Art Academy and sold enough sculptures
to study in Paris.
He rapidly won recognition as "Le Sculpteur de la Prairie" for his realistic portrayal of horses, Indians and cowboys, subjects he was familiar with from living on the Great Plains.
In 1904, Solon turned away from Great Plains subject and began creating monuments.
In 1906, Solon Borglum and his family moved to Rocky Ranch at Silvermine, Conn. For the rest of his life, he created sculpture of historical and classical subjects.
When World War I erupted, Solon was almost 50 years old. He joined the YMCA and served with the French Third Army as a manager for a mobile canteen. Members of the canteen gave soldiers chocolate, coffee, cigarettes and emotional support. The French government awarded Solon the Croix du Guerre medal for his work.
In January 1922, Solon died of a ruptured appendix at the age of 53.
Despite his early death and the fact that Gutzon ultimately was more famous, the beauty of Solon's work remains.
In June, officials from the Borglum Historical Center in Keystone, S.D., asked the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors for permission to make a mold and a bronze casting of the Rough Rider statue.
Supervisor Carol Springer said the board supports the request, with a few stipulations. She said Yavapai County would own the mold, and the historical center would be responsible for any damage
to the statue.
Springer said county officials are also asking for a reciprocal agreement.
"We would like to choose one of the historical center's pieces to reproduce for one of our new county buildings," Springer said.
"What makes this piece so interesting," Springer said, "is the base. The base is local granite and adds to the majesty of the piece."
Residents and visitors who have seen only the Rough Rider statue should travel to Prescott Valley to see the entire Borglum collection.
It is definitely worth the trip.