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Once Upon a Time in the West Art Exhibition in Cripple Creek Honors Founder, Late Rod ‘Little Bear’ Sutton | Pikes Peak Courier

CRIPPLE CREEK • A tribute to its founder, the 25th annual Once Upon a Time in the West is filled with memories of Rod “Little Bear” Sutton.

For Jon Zimmer, the art show that starts on Friday, June 24 brings a sense of spiritual farewell to his friend and mentor who died of complications of leukemia in February.

“He was a holy man,” Zimmer said. “He gave me my name ‘Walk alone with many friends'”.

An artist with reverence for the West, Sutton was inspired by his Native American heritage, a mix of the Lakota, Crow and Delaware tribes. Prolific in his artistry, Sutton created jewelry, bronze sculptures, wood carvings, drawings and paintings.

Sutton’s works, along with those of other artists, photographers and jewelers, are enriched by the venue, the Cripple Creek Heritage Center, a nature gallery with the Sangre de Cristo mountains forming part of the visual experience.

“Rod’s vision of doing this show in 1996 was to encourage artists to show their work, which would have a venue,” Zimmer said. “The show would be a bridge for the art business.”

For the silver anniversary, Zimmer has prepared an exhibit of Sutton’s art, including five of his “Little People” series, each with a story, a Native American legend. “Rod sculpted the faces, used wigs for the hair and fabric for the dress and a 50-pound rock for the base,” Zimmer said. “The ‘Little People’ really has spirit.”

In addition to Sutton’s works, his collections reflect a passion for the Native American artistic tradition, expressed in carpets, wicker, paintings and pottery. “The pottery she has collected is exquisite, some hand carved all the way up and down,” said Zimmer. “They are beautiful, wonderful.”

Sutton’s collections are also available for sale, with permission from his wife Rita and brother Dan.

Zimmer has been by his friend’s side since the show began, and his creativity reflects Sutton’s inspiration in his pottery, jewelry, bronze sculptures, drawings and paintings.

Once Upon a Time in the West begins with an artists reception from 4pm to 7pm on Friday, June 24. In addition to Zimmer, artists include Sofia Balas, Dixie Clare, Vera Egbert, Michelle Rozell and guest artist Charles Frizzell. At 6pm, Zimmer and the artists will pay tribute to Judy Cheyney and Jim Bennett, artist and volunteer / photographer respectively.

The show is open from 9:00 to 17:00 on SaturdaysJune 25 until 4 July in the historic center.

“We just felt we had to do it,” Zimmer said. “It will be a very eclectic show”.

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