A Week in Denver Part One: ART

By: Corey Jenkins, Communication Volunteer/Visitor Services

In December, I completed my B.A. in Communication Studies at Kent State University, and I decided it was time to take a short break. Two of my close friends had relocated to Denver last year, so I chose the Mile High City as my destination.

The Denver area has many geographic and cultural offerings, including everything from the Rocky Mountain foothills to Coors, the world’s largest single site brewery. One thing evident in the city is a strong commitment to art. In the late 1980’s Denver established a percent for art ordinance in which one percent of the design and construction budget of any single City capital improvement project over $1 million must be set aside for the inclusion of art in the new project. I was lucky enough to experience some of the city’s art offerings during my week in the area.

First Friday

I happened to be in town for First Friday in the Santa Fe Art District. The area reminded me of the Chelsea Art Galleries on a smaller scale and offered a wide variety of art. A highlight of this experience was my time at the Denver Art Society, an open-minded co-op in which many of its members keep workspaces. The artists involved in the Denver Art Society work in a wide range of mediums, and one member, Bill Manke creates “Tipsies” which are wooden toys that walk down a ramp. I was fortunate enough to purchase a piece from Travis Hetman, a Minnesota native who is an artist in residency at the Denver Art Society.

“My work is more or less a visual continuation of existential curiosity.  The treat of visual art to me is the privilege of making wild associations and the general lawlessness that comes with creative thinking.”  –Travis Hetman

I purchased a print of a drawing Hetman completed in 2009 titled The Volunteer and I returned later in the week to photograph several of his new works so that Hetman can upload them online.

Additionally, on my First Friday art walk was a visit to Core New Art Space, which was exhibiting Juego by Lola Montejo. Juego featured vibrant works that feel very active and full of motion. According to Montejo, the “work is about the process, the play.” The artist functions on intuition and considers the image to be “secondary to the art making.”

During my visit to the Denver Art Museum, their staff was in the process of taking down their Anatsui exhibit and the major exhibition was the world exclusive “Becoming Van Gogh.” Unfortunately, “Becoming Van Gogh” was sold out on the day of my visit. Fortunately, the Denver Art Museum is enormous and plenty of exciting exhibits were available to view.

fox games

I loved walking through Fox Games by Sandy Skoglund, the opportunity to view Oceanic art and the museum’s wonderful displays of design before and after 1900. The exhibit that left the most lasting impression with me however was the historic Western American art. Located on the top level of the North Building, the pieces are displayed along with small windows that do not affect the lighting within the gallery space, but provide stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. The museum makes fantastic use of its space, and provides many fun hands on activities, for example: I made a postcard!

MCA Heart

Finally, I made my way to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Of the several exhibitions at MCA Denver, I favored Pie-Fights and Pathos. The paintings, by Adrian Ghenie are complex, thought provoking and pull inspiration from a range of sources such as early cinema pie fight film stills to twentieth-century acts of extremism. MCA Denver also offered hands on activities including a Bubble Garden for relaxing and an area to create a butterfly to pin up on the wall. The building also boasts a deck providing a great view of the city.

Bubble Garden

Denver is a town with a deep commitment to art; however, viewing art was only part of how I spent my time. Stop back next week to read about my experience having dinner at the Breckenridge Brewery and my visit to the Coors Brewery in nearby Golden.