To close down Weber State University’s 125-year anniversary, folk artist Eric Dowdle created a piece of art that captured the school’s past, present and vibrant future.
“For his ability to capture Weber State so well in a single image is pretty amazing,” President Wight said.
Hosted by the WSU Alumni Association, Dowdle’s artwork was unveiled to more than 100 guests invited to a private reception on Dec. 10 at the Lindquist Alumni Center.
Board of Directors and President of the Alumni Associate, Andre Lortz, ’91, said last year they started kicking around ideas that would be worthy of Weber State’s 125th anniversary and legacy. Lortz was the brains behind the idea because he and his wife are dedicated Dowdle fans.
“For many years now, for Christmas, when they (Dowdle puzzles) show up at Costco or Sam’s Club, usually, there is a cart full of them coming home to my house,” Lortz said. “If you doubt, I have a closet full of them. Although Lynn (Lortz’ wife) tells me I don’t even have half of them, I think I must have.”
Working in collaboration with Weber State University Communications and the Stewart Library Archives, Alumni Executive Director Nancy Collinwood, ’94, and Membership & Marketing Director Amber Robson, ’05, the two women responsible for bringing everyone together to make the piece possible, consulted faculty and staff to make sure they didn’t miss any special traditions or people.
Collinwood said Jamie Weeks, Associate Curator of University Archives and Digital Collections, took the lead in organizing the project to ensure her team found pictures representing all the “must haves,” as Collinwood called them, to send for folk art rendition.
“Eric said when he was painting, what he loved so much about doing this piece was that it was so unique,” Collinwood said. “He could feel the culture. He could feel the spirit; he could really feel the heart and soul of Weber State.”
The one piece of art takes viewers on a trip through WSU history to the beginning in 1889 when it was Weber State Academy, and they were accepting livestock as payment for tuition.
A few other images featured in the elaborate, colorful piece include students kissing under the Bell Tower at midnight-magical to become “true Wildcats,” the 1980 windsurfers in Lindquist Pond, Mount Ogden’s traditional hike and the lighting of the “W.” Even Primo Peacock, WSU’s short-lived mascot, has a spot with the dozen or so Waldo the Wildcats depicted.
President Wight joined WSU in 2013, and as he examined the painting, he took a moment to reminisce on his first year at Weber.
“We are, as you know, coming to the close of the 125th anniversary year, and it’s been quite a ride,” Wight said. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a Dowdle painting is worth 125 years of history.”
Dowdle came to the event armed with a sense of humor and a slide show to take guests on a walk down WSU memory lane. He showed some of his favorite moments throughout his WSU experience and explained the magic behind his folk art genius.
“You have to get up close to study it. I didn’t do the paintings with the intent to be gazed at from a distance,” Dowdle said. “You’ve got to get in and go for a walk. Pick a sidewalk, get to know the little things on it and take a stroll.”
Dowdle crafted each individual image using a small paintbrush, all the while envisioning a piece of art that had 90 images on the locator and dozens more that encompassed the history of Weber State and its growth into a University.
“This has been one of my favorite experiences. Ogden is one of those places that doesn’t get the recognition it should,” Dowdle said. “For me to work specifically with this school, and I’ve done work with Notre Dame and Michigan and the big time schools, they don’t have a thing on you guys when it comes to class and how much you appreciate your school and like to show it off.”
Reproductions of the painting are available for purchase in various sizes. All proceeds from the sales helping to fund student scholarships. For more information contact WSU’s Alumni Association.