Something Good in the Neighborhood – Greeley Arts Legacy

Langworthy isn’t just the name of a building on the University of Northern Colorado campus. It belongs to a real person, a fact that surprises many of the students. Langworthy’s legacy, and the fact that few know about her, is the reason Ed Rogers founded the Greeley Arts Legacy back in 2017.

Rogers, a sculptor and retired arts teacher, created the Arts Legacy to house a Hall of Fame for renowned artists who have contributed to Greeley’s rich and underrated art history. He wanted to honor performers but also writers, culinary masters and even those who fall into a leadership category (aka those who made an impact on the local arts scene but may not be artists themselves). His concept was so novel that when he began to research the idea, he couldn’t find another city that had what he was proposing.

Helen Langworthy, theater professor and creator of the Little Theater of the Rockies.

The Langworthy Theater was named after Helen Langworthy, a theater professor who, among many other things, started the Little Theater of the Rockies, now in its 85th year. She also helped make UNC’s theater program one of the strongest of its size. Langworthy was in the first class of Hall of Fame inductees, named in 2019, though she had passed more than 30 years prior.

She shied away from the spotlight so much that she reportedly didn’t want a memorial service. She also didn’t have children or a spouse. It’s no wonder so few people knew how the UNC theater got its name.

“When they are gone,” Rogers says of the honorees, “there’s so much history that’s lost.”

This year’s class, named just a month ago, doesn’t have buildings named after them. But they’re well known in the modern arts world. The honorees are the Greeley Chorale; Lynn Bassett, owner of the Dance Factory; and Dan Frantz, founder and conductor of the Greeley Chamber Orchestra. They will be honored Oct. 19 in a one-hour event open to the public.

In the beginning, Rogers’ main concern was keeping the Hall of Fame credible. He believes he solved that by asking community members to send in nominations via the group’s website instead of relying on a few powerful people who may prefer to nominate their friends.

Ed Rogers speaks at a Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Greeley Arts Legacy.

The problem, if you can call it that, was that too many good names came in. The board has had at least 30 nominations every year to sift through. They created a system to whittle them down, measuring them by four standards: contribution, eminence, influence and permanence. That also helps weed out bias, Rogers says, and makes the process easier because candidates have a hard time meeting all four requirements.

“We’ve had high school kids get nominated, which is great,” Rogers says as an example, “but the permanence isn’t there yet.”

The legacy board embraced the challenge and inducted six honorees to the Hall of Fame in its first year. Since then, they’ve kept it to three. That makes the arguments among board members a little longer and more intense, but it also keeps the honor prestigious.

Rogers likes to make the one-hour induction a nice night, though it’s not the Academy Awards. They are there to honor the artists, not make a big splash. Most years, the induction is delivered by a short video presentation you can find on YouTube.

Greeley Chorale in performance.

Honoring Greeley’s history is also part of the point. Last year, the Greeley Arts Legacy inducted the late Henry T. Ginsburg, director of the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra and renowned violist from the 1930s to the late 1960s. A student of his, now 91, helped present the award, as Ginsburg, too, had no living descendants. When they honored Anna Green, a poet, in 2021, audience members heard stories of Union Colony, the first settlement of Greeley, as well as the hard life on the prairie. Her son later became the mayor.

“Those are the stories you never get anywhere else,” Rogers says.

The Greeley Arts Legacy remembers honorees through its website and YouTube channel, but they also etch their names on granite pillars that, for now, sit on the back patio of the Union Colony Civic Center.

There are plans to make the pillars part of what Rogers calls an “honor walk” in front of the UCCC, which will be built during the building’s facelift now scheduled for 2028. But those who do secure a nomination seem to recognize it as Hall-of-Fame worthy regardless of where their name is displayed.

“I was truly taken aback by being nominated for this award,” says Frantz, founder of the Greeley Chamber Orchestra. “The award implies that the community is the beneficiary, and I would say we are all benefiting from our community. I hope that others might be able to say, ‘Hey, I can do that, too,’ in some aspect of their life.”