Melvin Nicholas “Mel” Strawn, 90, of Salida died May 17, 2020, at his home.
He was born Aug. 5, 1929, in Boise, Idaho, to Milton Rozell and Irma Belle Strawn.
He was a Korean War veteran, serving in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953.
He married Bernice Iva Herger on June 14, 1951, in Vallejo, California.
Mr. Strawn earned a master’s degree in fine arts from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1956. He went on to teach art at Midwestern University and Michigan State University. He directed the schools of art at Antioch College, the University of Denver and Western Michigan University.
After retirement he continued to teach at Colorado Mountain College.
Mr. Strawn lived in Salida for the past 30 years as an active artist, leader in the Salida arts community and climate activist.
To balance his solitary work as a painter and printmaker, he enjoyed participating in community discussion groups.
He shared his knowledge and collection of writings on art history and global trends of multiple disciplines with the informal Art Book Club.
In the Bridging the Divide group, which explored effective communication skills for crossing social divides, he prompted members to look below the surface and search for reliable evidence.
One member of his weekly men’s breakfast group said, “If anyone forgot for a second that he was first a human being, he would remind them with an astounding intellectual repartee that brought the conversation back to earth.”
Mr. Strawn was passionate about fighting climate change. He was a founding force behind 350 Central Colorado and prompted discussion of the planet wherever he participated.
His contributions to the field of fine arts include co-founding the Bay Printmakers Society in 1955 and pioneering artistic use of computer technology in 1981 with basic code before the advent of software packages and digital cameras.
A retrospective of his work, “All Together Now, 1940s-2000s,” was exhibited at the Denver Public Library in 2007. The library also holds archives of his papers.
The Salida Council for the Arts inaugurated an achievement award in his name and awarded him the first annual honor.
Mr. Strawn contributed his thoughts and images in his blog, “Brushed” at melsbrush.blogspot.com/, in articles and in self-published books.
An article by Mike Rosso describing his contribution was published in Colorado Central Magazine (coloradocentralmagazine.com/the-art-driven-life-bea-and-mel-strawn/).
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Survivors include his wife; children, Clare Strawn of Eugene, Oregon, Daniel Strawn of Lyons, Stanley Milton Strawn of Littleton, Benjamin Strawn of Salida, Jennifer Kesler of Florence, Angela Addington of Ossineke, Michigan, and Thomas Strawn of Cotopaxi; brothers, Richard Strawn of Carbondale, Illinois, and Dan Strawn of Vancouver, Washington; grandchildren, Travis Gershon of Littleton, Astrea Strawn of Portland, Oregon, Frances Huntington of Colorado Springs, Aidan Strawn, Noah Strawn and Forrest Addington; and great-grandchildren, Logan and Evelyn Gershon and Oliver Tharp.
No services are planned at this time.
Memorial contributions may be made to Salida Council for the Arts at salidacouncilforthearts.org/donate.
Arrangements are with Lewis and Glenn Funeral Home in Salida.
Online condolences may be offered at lewisandglenn.com.
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