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CSJ Associate Johnell Crimen dies in El Paso

Anna Johnell Crimen
Anna Johnell Crimen

From the El Paso Times

Noted Southwest artist, craftswoman and educator Anna Johnell Crimen died Saturday, July 18, 2015, in El Paso, Texas, after 97 well-lived years.

Born in El Paso on Oct. 22, 1917, she was the first daughter of Dr. John C. Crimen, co-founder of Southwestern General Hospital, and Sarah Ellen Guinn Crimen. She graduated from El Paso High School in 1934 and was salutatorian of her 1938 graduating class at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy, now UTEP.

During World War II, she served as a Civil Defense local coordinator and a rehabilitation volunteer, assisting medical teams with the physical and occupational therapy needs of wounded soldiers returning to William Beaumont Army Hospital for treatment.

Her art training began in earnest in 1946 as a student at the Hollywood (Calif.) Art Center, followed by scholarship studies under sculptor Henry Lyon in Pacific Palisades. Additional professional education included undergraduate fine arts studies at the John Herron Art School at Butler University, jewelry and watercolor studies at the Lincoln County Art School in Oregon, participation in the first World Congress on Crafts in New York City, and workshops with renowned New Mexico sculptor Lincoln Fox.

Throughout her life, she participated in hundreds of professional workshops and seminars to continually improve her skills and learn new techniques to pass on to her many students and followers throughout the West Texas and Southern New Mexico region. Until her health declined, she continued to participate in classes in watercolor and encaustics, two of her favorite and most accomplished media.

Over a professional career spanning more than 50 years, she formally exhibited in more than 50 shows, including eight one-person exhibitions. She judged 19 exhibitions, including three Kermazaars and other regional competitions. Her accomplished media portfolio included ceramics, jewelry, lapidary, leather, macramé, metal enameling, mosaics, painting (including acrylics, alkyd, enamels, oils, vinyl and watercolor), photography, potter’s wheel, print-making (using acid etch, diamond point, lithograph, and wood block), sculpture (using bronze, clay, plaster, and wax processes), weaving, and wood carving.

Her most significant contributions to the arts community, however, were as a teacher and motivator. Over a period of 36 years, she owned and operated three arts and crafts schools in El Paso: The Ceramic Room, 1950-57; The Crimen School for the Designer-Craftsman, 1970-73; and The Crimen School for Arts & Crafts, 1976-86.

From 1956 to 1971, she also served as both Assistant Director and Director of the arts and crafts program of the Recreation Services Department (MWR) at Fort Bliss. Through these schools, she encouraged and honed the skills and arts appreciation of thousands of El Pasoans and Fort Bliss personnel and their families.

Numerous local, professional artists trained at her schools and hundreds of talented amateur artists learned to appreciate the spirit of the visual arts and their own potentials under her direction.

In 1996, at age 79, her lifetime of work and contributions to the Southwest arts community were publicly acknowledged through her induction into the El Paso Artists’ Hall of Fame.

Throughout her life, she donated much of her artwork to assist local charities and supported numerous philanthropic and community-enrichment endeavors on both sides of the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border.

She maintained a long association with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia, Kan., and befriended many of the congregation’s members during their pastoral assignments in El Paso. She was a longtime CSJ Associate.

Her professional memberships were many, including the American Craftsmen Council, the El Paso Art Association, the El Paso Mayor’s Arts Resources Committee, El Paso Printmakers, the International Association for the Visual Arts, the Las Cruces Arts & Crafts Association, the Artists Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, Rio Bravo Watercolorists, the Sierra Art Society, and the World Crafts Council.

She was predeceased by her parents, her brother, John C. Crimen III, and wife, Peggy; her sister, Jenny Bob Burton, and husband, Bill Burton Sr.; her nieces, Susan Crimen Osborne and Melanie Crimen; and her nephew, John C. Crimen IV.

Affectionately known as “Auntie” to her many nephews and nieces and subsequent generations, she is survived by niece Nancy Adams (Larry) of Albuquerque, nephews Bill Burton Jr. (Chana) and John Burton (Sydney) of El Paso, Rob Burton (Susie) of Lubbock, Michael Burton of Las Cruces, and Tom Burton (Janet) of Yukon, Okla., and numerous grandnieces, grandnephews, great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews.

She will also be fondly remembered by numerous cousins, many friends and former students, and her longtime associates and companions in the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The family wishes to thank Hospice of El Paso for its compassionate assistance and to acknowledge the gentle, loving and devoted care provided to Auntie in her final years by Martha Gardea, Norma Flores and their gracious families. Visitation will be held today (July 20) from 5 to 7 p.m. at Funeraria Del Angel Harding-Orr & McDaniel, 320 Montana Ave. El Paso. The Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Smith, P.A., will direct the memorial service to be held in the chapel of Funeraria Del Angel at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, immediately followed by interment in Evergreen Cemetery, 4301 Alameda Ave., El Paso.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the International Museum of Art, 1211 Montana Avenue, El Paso TX 79902, or to a favorite charity.


One thought on “CSJ Associate Johnell Crimen dies in El Paso

  • Mary Fran Simons

    Jonell belonged to our Southwest Circle as an Associate. She was a loving, generous and gifted woman. Until she was unable to do so because of health, she participated in our Circle meetings. We will miss her presence

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