Christine Mollring was born and educated in Santos, Brazil. Her parents, Henry and Mollie Usher, were both Londoners. At the age of 15, after the close of World War II, she traveled to London with her sister and paternal grandmother. Having danced ballet for 10 years, she planned to enroll in the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School—only to learn that one had to be 18 to attend! Her sister went to Claremont College, but when Christine rebelled against a similar path, her father demanded that she learn a trade and go to work. After a crash course in Business at Pitman College in London, Christine applied for a job with Union Cold Storage and was placed in Lord Vestey’s typing pool.
Christine’s father, who worked for All America Cables and Radio, was transferred to Buenos Aires, and she sailed to join them. After three wonderful years there, he was transferred again, this time to Rio de Janeiro, where Christine worked for Paramount Films, married, and had two children. Christine’s son, Dr. Christopher Neale, is Director of Research at the University of Nebraska’s Water for Food Global Institute. He and his wife, Sonia, have two children, Michael and Julia Neale. Christine’s daughter, Jennifer Sands, is a Western Spirit Trustee. Jennifer and her husband Charlie are great supporters of our Museum. They have one son, John Usher Sands.
By 1962, Christine’s parents had moved to New York and were working for ITT. As so many women did at the time, Christine had to travel to the West to secure a divorce from her first husband. A friend of her father’s, an attorney, offered to help. On a Sunday, Christine was dropped off at the Horn Drug Store in Casper, Wyoming, where she was to wait to be picked up by some friends who worked for Shell Oil. She was there for hours. The streets were empty. “One could have shot a cannon down the street,” she says, “and not hit anyone!”
Three months after her divorce became final, she met Ted Mollring at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo. He first spotted her on the Pan American Petroleum float and again, later, with a bunch of friends at the local watering hole! “The rest,” as she says, “is history.” Christine and Ted married in 1965 in Cody, Wyoming. Senator Alan Simpson and his wife, Ann, hosted their wedding reception.
Shortly afterwards, Ted’s former father-in-law asked him to run a group of movie theaters he owned in Hollywood. Christine, who speaks four languages—Portuguese, Spanish, French, and English—found work at Warner Brothers as Assistant to the Director of Public Relations and Publicity, where she looked after the Foreign Press. Her office was above Frank Sinatra’s. After 3 years, Ted had had enough of Tinseltown. They moved back to Wyoming. Neither one had any job prospects…
Ted attended real estate school and began to sell ranches. Christine was offered a job in Jackson Hole managing the Rendezvous Art Galleries, which featured the paintings of Carl Roters, a former Professor of Art at Syracuse University. Roters had been brought to Jackson by the Rockefellers to create panels and murals in the dining room of Jackson Lake Lodge depicting the early Fur Trade, subjects previously rendered by Alfred Jacob Miller. Roters will be the subject of an upcoming exhibition at Western Spirit.
Eventually, Christine and Ted purchased Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, which offered historic artworks by Russell, Remington, Farny and others, as well as works by contemporary artists such as John Clymer, Tom Lovell, Robert Lougheed, R. Brownell McGrew, and the founders of the Cowboy Artists of America.
The Mollrings discovered that the Jackson Hole selling season was short—only 3 to 4 months in summer and fall—not long enough to promote their stable of artists properly. As a result, in 1971, they opened a satellite gallery in the newly built Scottsdale Mall in Old Town. Candy Bedner, wife of CAA founder, artist John Hampton, was the first Director. “It was very tough as a woman to break into a set boys’ club then, and actually,” Christine adds, “it still has not changed greatly! One had to be tougher and work harder.”
In 1986, Christine was the only woman invited to join Herb Drinkwater’s Cultural Task Force. “Phoenix was changing” she says. “Western Art was being relegated to the basement. This is when we came up with the idea of a Western Art Museum in Scottsdale—the ‘West’s Most Western Town.’ We formed a great group and began meeting at Messenger’s Mortuary for lunch, often brainstorming over our sandwiches while the corpses were passing through! Gradually, we got some seed money, and Jim Bruner, who was on the Scottsdale City Council, served as liaison, and was highly influential in moving everything forward during his tenure from 1986 to 2022. We owe him a great deal of gratitude. He hired Michael Fox, who has been instrumental in making Western Spirit what it is today.”
“The idea behind Western Spirit,” Christine observes, “is to preserve the Old West, the West that would have been lost—the Cowboy, the Indigenous Peoples. We want to keep the history of the West alive for future generation to come and for visitors from around the country and the globe. We have offered some spectacular exhibitions and I urge everyone not to miss the Edward Curtis Photography Exhibition currently on view.”