State's governors help in fundraiser for autism

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons gets ready for the re-enactment of the ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened the Governor's Mansion in 1909.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons gets ready for the re-enactment of the ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened the Governor's Mansion in 1909.

Ghosts and governors of Nevada's past were on hand at the Governor's Mansion on Friday to pose for a painting to celebrate the mansion's centennial and raise funds for autism services.

First lady Dawn Gibbons commissioned Steven Saylor, of Evergreen Studio in Dayton, to create the painting, which will feature the six living governors and various celebrities with connections to either Nevada or autism.

Saylor took photographs that will be used in a scene depicting the ribbon-cutting ceremony that was held on the front steps of the mansion the day it opened in July 1909.

Former Govs. Kenny Guinn, Robert List, Richard Bryan, Paul Laxalt and Bob Miller as well as Gov. Jim Gibbons were not on the steps for the photographs, but stand-ins in period costume took their places for the photographs, which Saylor will use in his final painting.

The man who first moved into the house, Gov. Denver Dickerson, was portrayed in the photo by his grandson, Denver S. Dickerson, of Reno.

"I thought that was great fun," he said. "I haven't had that much fun since I made a double play in Babe Ruth League."

Dickerson said his early memories of the governor's mansion included times when he was in high school.

"I went to high school in Carson City and our girlfriends would have slumber parties there during the Russell administration, and the boyfriends would all hang out," he said. "If the governor came down, we hid behind the curtains."

Saylor said he will use the photographs taken Friday to create a drawing, then go to the homes of the six and take photographs of them, of which they will choose several, and he will work them into the final Giclee painting.

"Every one of the participants will sign each painting," he said.

One celebrity who will be in the painting is actor Jim Carrey, who is helping his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, raise her autistic child.

Saylor said the painting will be unveiled at the centennial, July 2009, and prints will be sold to raise funds for autism services. Prints will start at about $1,000, he said, and get higher as the 260 limited-edition prints are sold.

He said other prints he did in a similar vein, such as "Heavyweights" or "Celebrity Train," went for between $6,000-$12,000.

Gibbons said the whole thing began when she wanted a painting done to commemorate the celebration of the mansion's first 100 years.

"The prints are such big collectors items and go for a lot of money," she said. "So I thought we could also use it to help people."

Gibbons said her two main causes as first lady are autism and fighting meth use, and chose autism as the cause this project would benefit.

"The Autism Coalition of Nevada does such great work," she said. "We were going to do the celebration with a painting anyway, and it was an opportunity to raise money for a great cause."

She said a donor had pledged to underwrite Saylor's fee, but wasn't ready to identify the person yet, since nothing was signed.

Among celebrities on hand for the photo shoot were McAvoy Layne, portraying Mark Twain, historian Guy Rocha and members of the Silver City Guard, among them V&T Depot owner Pierce Powell and Silver City town board member Larry Wahrenbrock.

The sight of the guard brought a laugh to Rocha, who said they looked much older than when he first saw them.

"I first saw them in 1975, when I first moved here," Rocha said. "All that gray hair was black or brown or red," he said.

Saylor said he was hoping for a "Ziegfield effect" with the photos.

"These projects are fun," he said. "You get to meet great people, and it's good for Nevada."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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