SIKESTON - People have ridden horses nearly as long as we have recorded history, but the image of a cowboy on a bucking bronco's back is pure American.
"The Artist and The Bucking Horse," on display through Aug. 25 at the Sikeston Depot, pays homage to that image with 40 interpretations rendered in colored pencil, oil, watercolor, and pen and ink.
"The exhibit is from the ProRodeo Hall of Fame," said Jaycee Rob Clay. "This is the first time that any sort of art display has been brought here by the PRCA."
ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy is located next to the national headquarters of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Bringing the exhibit to Sikeston was "a coordinated effort," according to Clay. He credited Janice Matthews and Judy Bowman of the Depot and Bill Burch, a long-time Jaycee who has been active in the rodeo over the years, with making it happen.
"It's an unusual and outstanding exhibit," said Burch. "It's quite a coup for Sikeston to be able to get it."
The core collection was acquired by the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in the early 1980s when its board members found an opportunity to obtain "a collection of art directly related to our mission statement," according to Pat Hildebrand, executive director of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. "The initial nucleus was collected by Valona Cromwell of Arizona." Since then, pieces have been added by donation.
Some are the work of prolific and well-known painters; others are the artist's only work ever. The exhibit on display at the Depot includes the entire collection except for six bronze sculptures.
Although the Depot has featured western themes in previous years in conjunction with the annual rodeo, this is the first Jaycee-sponsored exhibit to date.
"The Depot is happy to be a part of the 50th year celebration and to be able to exhibit this fine collection for the Jaycees," said Matthews. "I think rodeo fans will enjoy seeing it. There's something for everyone."
Also on display at the Depot are exhibits recalling the highlights of past Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel rodeos. "We have a whole bunch of saddles on display," said Matthews, "as well as memorabilia from past rodeos."
Rodeo clown and bullfighter Rick "the Ragin' Cajin" Young is recognized with a bronze sculpture, "Too Close for Comfort" by Harry A. Hunt, as well as other mementoes recalling his affair with the Sikeston rodeo dating back to 1959.
Another display provides descriptions of the various rodeo events noting that, "Like all sports, professional rodeo has language, customs, practices and rules all its own."
Other exhibits show the clothing and gear of working cowboys and rodeo clowns; signs, photographs and T-shirts from past Sikeston rodeos; and even some of the "Cattle Baron" belt buckles issued in earlier rodeos.
Clay recommended Aug. 10 as a great day to plan a visit to Depot. "On the Saturday of the rodeo, the Jaycees are going to have a pancake breakfast down there at the Depot," said Clay. "Come down and have breakfast and then see the art display."