Junior Connor Mayo, front, and Sam Nelson work on a project Wednesday as part of an art class at Steamboat Springs High School. A memorial fund recently established for the late Jack Finney through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation will grant some funds to the school to help build a permanent art display in the lobby.

Photo by John F. Russell

Junior Connor Mayo, front, and Sam Nelson work on a project Wednesday as part of an art class at Steamboat Springs High School. A memorial fund recently established for the late Jack Finney through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation will grant some funds to the school to help build a permanent art display in the lobby.

Finney Legacy Fund established in honor of late Steamboat artist

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For more information about the Finney Legacy Fund for the arts, call the Yampa Valley Community Foundation at 970-879-8632.

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Freshman Andrew Sabia works on a mask project Wednesday during an art class at Steamboat Springs High School. A memorial fund recently established for the late Jack Finney through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation will grant some funds to the high school to help build a permanent art display in the lobby.

Nicole Inglis on Twitter

— Jack Finney was a man who kept his mind and hands active.

He built airplane parts, part of his home and, later, sculptures in Steamboat Springs, where he moved in 1970 and stayed until his death more than 40 years later.

A real estate broker and businessman, Jack Finney wasn’t a serious artist until well into middle age, but when his friends and longtime local families asked him to sculpt bronze busts of some of the best-loved Steamboat personalities, he obliged.

“He just loved to do the work,” Mike Finney said about his father, the sculptor responsible for the landmark figures of Buddy Werner atop Storm Peak, Hazie Werner at Thunderhead and Heisman Trophy recipient Doak Walker at the Doak Walker Care Center.

“It was like an honor to him.”

Jack Finney also sculpted the famed statue of Billy Kidd that sits in Gondola Square, a common meeting place and a tangible reminder of Jack Finney’s dedication to the local art community.

When Jack Finney died in late August, his family didn’t hesitate to go to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and establish a fund in his name to carry on the legacy.

“My dad loved the valley,” said Mike Finney, who lives in Durango and often travels back to Steamboat, where his brother Doug still lives. “Our hope is to, over the years, continue to grow this fund we set up and figure out ways to give back to the community.”

The Finney Legacy Fund was established as a donor-advised fund just days after Jack Finney’s death. Community Foundation program manager Jennifer Shea worked with Jack Finney’s wife, Shirlee, and children — Mike, Doug and Terri — to decide what to do with the donations.

Mike Finney said the fund has about $13,000.

“The wonderful thing is when a donor can follow the wishes of the family, and that was the thing; they wanted to support arts in the schools,” Shea said.

Shea said each school in the Steamboat Springs School District submitted an art-related proposal to the fund, with requests ranging from a collaborative sculpture project to tile murals and display cases.

The Finney family ultimately chose to support Steamboat Springs High School’s request for an art gallery space in the school’s lobby.

“It was originally envisioned as a moveable exhibit,” Shea said. “But (art teacher) Morgan Peterson has been working with (Principal) Kevin Taulman, and (they) think this should be a permanent installation.”

The school is finalizing a bid with a contractor for the project.

Peterson said she isn’t sure how much the project could cost or how much of that will come from the Finney fund. However, she does know that the idea she’s long harbored for an art gallery space in the high school finally could be coming to fruition.

“They’re really excited,” she said about the students in the photo and ceramic classes she teaches. “It could really transform our department.”

She said she envisions a small room off the entranceway to the high school complete with moveable panels and professional gallery lighting. The space could be used for student shows and to display work from alumni and professional artists.

Mike Finney said his father “loved the heck out of kids and people” and would be supportive of the high school’s vision.

“He’d love it,” he said. “It’s in the arts, and it’s helping kids. ... For him, we think it’s a great idea.”

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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