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Art display brings out talent

Kimberly Nicoletti

FRISCO – Sheriff Joe Morales brandishes a pistol. But he also wields a mean watercolor paintbrush.

“It’s the lighter side of Sears,” he said. “It’s therapeutic, relaxing. To me, it’s just a fun thing to do. It’s a nice way to spend cold winter evenings.”

Morales, who has been painting since he was in elementary school, is one of about two dozen county employees who agreed to show off their hidden artistic talents in a display at the County Commons in Frisco. Art will be displayed until the end of the month.

“I’ve known Joe for a long time, and I just never thought …” said Sarah Nordholm, who works at the library in Frisco. “It’s one of those stereotypes: The sheriff does watercolors in the winter? Nah … “

Sheriff’s Capt. Derek Woodman agreed.

“I’d seen him draw, but it never crossed my mind that he’d be capable of that,” Woodman said of Morales’ watercolor of a flower in a Ball jar. “It’s pretty impressive. I was like, “You did this? Are you sure? Holy cow.’ His (work) certainly caught me by surprise.”

Another surprise was the work of County Treasurer Larry Gilliland, whose secret talent lies in needlepoint. A piece he made in 1978 features firefighting apparatus and tools.

“I had no idea he did needlepoint – what a surprise,” said Michele Crago, senior bookkeeper for the county. “Isn’t it fun you can work with someone for over two years and you can still learn little tidbits? He’s a man of many talents.”

Gilliland said he took up needlepoint when he worked as a firefighter in Keystone waiting for fire bells to ring. His fellow firefighters didn’t know about his talents.

“The guys didn’t know,” he said with a laugh. “We try to hide some of these things. There are talents people don’t necessarily need to know about.”

Although it’s been years since he’s picked up a needlepoint pattern, Gilliland also has sewn outdoor gear, supplying his two children with down jackets, mittens, tents, and gaiters throughout their childhoods.

“I made that little sewing machine hum,” he said.

Gilliland said he was most impressed with a pencil drawing of a chipmunk sketched by 911 interim director Chris Benson.

“We were all standing around going, “You? You?!'” Gilliland said of a gathering where artisans met with other county employees to view their talents. “It’s always surprising to see who’s an artist.”

Benson found her talent for pencil drawings by accident, when her roommate’s sketch of a hawk was destroyed, she said.

“Our cat ate it up,” Benson said. “It was beyond restoration. So, I got a wild hair and wanted to try to copy it, and I did.”

She continues to sketch as a form of stress relief.

“Downtime: That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “That’s my time to let my brain do something different and get out of the work-stress mode.”

Donna Taylor, principle administrative clerk for the animal shelter, got her start in crayon and ink, making cards for friends and family, then illustrating a children’s book and helping children at Zoomers create a book of their own.

“It’s just something that comes out,” she said. “It makes my little heart pitter-patter.”

Other art include Stage driver Jon Hans’ ink drawings and oil paintings, fleet service’s Don Johnson’s pottery and ambulance training coordinator Mike Stern’s black-and-white photography.

“You don’t see Mike as the artistic sort,” said Sharon Jones, who works with Stern in the ambulance service. “He’s all business and logical with his job, but then you see the other side of him. It was pretty impressive.”

Van Woodford, who works at the North Branch Library in Silverthorne, works in pastels and watercolor.

“I have a whole other life,” she said of her off-and-on hobby. “I hadn’t done anything since grade school, and I always wanted to paint.”

A class she took from Ann T. Weaver set loose her creative talent.

“I think it’s more a joy than a talent,” she said. “And I think it’s in everyone. We educate it out of our children – “Stay within the lines; you have to use these colors.’ It’s something that really puts me in my right brain and takes me away from my real life.”

Nordholm, whose cross-stitch and crewel work is on display, got her start in a seventh-grade home economics class in which she was required to make a gingham apron with cross-stitch adorning the bottom. She made a Christmas tablecloth during her senior year of college.

“Even now, I either have a book in my face, or a cross-stitch in my hands,” she said.

The artwork will be on display through the end of the month.


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