The Lory Student Center gallery was created in 1968 and was named after the building in which it stood for more than 15 years. So, in 1985, CSU surprised John H. “Jack” Curfman when it named the gallery after him. Curfman doesn’t remember the dedication night because he was so emotional, but he does remember the students and staff in the audience stomping their feet in approval.
Curfman, 83, retired in 2001, but he has not let retirement stop him from staying active in the Fort Collins art scene. He is now getting ready to set up yet another exhibition in the Curfman Gallery, located in the south end of the Lory Student Center.
Though Curfman is technically retired, no one could tell by the way he keeps busy. He designs all the exhibitions in the Clara Hatton Gallery, the Curfman Gallery and many others at the Lincoln Center.
Curfman’s CSU career began more than 60 years ago when he started as a student in 1946. After receiving a degree in general studies (what is now called humanities) in 1949, Curfman headed to Cranbrook, the art institute in Michigan, to get his masters. He did not stay in Michigan long because he wanted a more structured program, he said.
In the end, Curfman received his masters in art education from the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology.
By 1951 Curfman began teaching applied home furnishings at CSU and continued to teach classes in color and design, two and three dimensional design and interior design until 2001.
When Curfman started teaching there was no art building or even an art major. At the time, interior design, color theory and fashion design were part of the College of Home Economics and were spread out among whichever empty building wings around the oval.
Environmental design, which is changing both interior and exterior spaces to work according to one’s needs, is Curfman’s forte and is where, he says, his story begins.
“We decided to turn a classroom in the Industrial Science building into a gallery,” Curfman said. “We were doing a faculty exhibit of student work. So each of the faculty was to put up their students’ work.”
“Well, I came in and saw it in the evening and it was just hodgepodge because there wasn’t any unity,” continued Curfman. “So I re-did the whole show myself.”
Curfman can’t remember when the show opened, but he remembers the faculty telling him that if he was going to re-install the show, he could do it from then on.
The scope of Jack Curfman’s influence extends beyond the gallery. Stanley Scott, a second year printmaking graduate student, said he considers Curfman a surrogate grandfather of sorts.
“I enjoy the times in which we can talk about his experiences and perspectives,” Scott said. “He always says he has led a blessed life, and I believe him.”
For many years prior to the dedication of the gallery and right up to this day Curfman has been responsible for designing the exhibitions that go into the space.
Ellen Martin, visual arts administrator for the Lincoln Center, has been working closely with Curfman for 21 years and is still impressed each time she sees a new display.
“Jack works like a well-oiled machine,” Martin said. “It has been a pleasure working with him.”
Students and community members work and volunteer with Curfman to set up each exhibition at the Lincoln Center. Martin said he is teaching a new generation how to display their work after it is created.
During Curfman’s tenure at CSU he spent his summers and sabbaticals visiting Europe and the Far East – collecting art from around the world. In 2006, about 20 years after the gallery dedication, Curfman’s collection was put on display in an exhibition entitled “Gifts of my past: The eclectic collection of Jack Curfman.”
Curfman put this diverse collection up for sale just last week, donating the proceeds to the gallery, which adds to Curfman’s list of contributions to art on campus.
The Jack Curfman Creative and Visual Design scholarships were created for design and art students and span over two colleges. One scholarship is funded by Curfman himself and the other is funded by donors in the community.
Curfman has decided to stay active in the community to avoid “becoming an old man.” He plans on continuing his work with the Lincoln Center, CSU and the rest of the Fort Collins art scene until the very end.