On a recent trip to Denver and Boulder, Colorado to see theater and visit friends, I discovered a world of art, architecture, design and culture that was very inspiring.
Here are a few of the highlights:
- I was pleased to find so many historic Victorian and craftsman homes that still stand in Denver and surrounding towns like Boulder. Their charming, craftsmanship and character are difficult to replicate, if not prohibitively expensive, in the modern world. I greatly enjoyed the use of bricks, wood and stone, along with very thoughtful details.
- Denver recently became the recipient of over 90% of artist Clyfford Still’s collection, which was a gift to the city and county of Denver on behalf of the artist by his widow. Denver built a museum to house the impressive collection and is curating ongoing exhibits to showcase his more than 825 paintings and 1,575 works on paper. Still is a talented artist known for his abstract expressionism with contemporaries like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. I enjoyed surveying Still’s work, but was equally impressed with the museum’s architecture. Designed by Allied Works Architecture, the building is understated and beautiful. Channeling Louis Kahn and Tadao Ando, the 28,500-square-foot, two-story structure incorporates a limited and elegant palette of materials that blend together seamlessly and play off each other in a delicate and thoughtful way. Vertical board form concrete fades into wood paneling with grace, and the combination is a subtle and wonderfully creative blend. Placed below the glass roof is a beautiful and delicate precast concrete “screen” which allows natural light to permeate the main gallery spaces without being overpowering. There is also a balanced sense of transition to closed and opened spaces throughout the building.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by international architecture firm, David Adjaye, boasts a cool, contemporary space and is worth a visit. I was particularly impressed with the horizontally oriented reflective surface and European feeling café (by far one of the best museum dining spaces I’ve seen.) The current exhibit featuring photographs of the alternative sixties movement was an added bonus.
- I had an opportunity to explore a funky old town called Nederland. The town just west of Boulder is rooted in mining, but has a couple of charming and unique attractions like Buffalo Bill's Coffee & Confections, which is situated in an old train car, and the Carousel of Happiness, which consists of 36 carousel animals carved from basswood and decorated with acrylic paint using techniques employed by carousel carvers for more than a century. The ongoing project has been a work in progress for 22 years. With a focus on conservation and sustainability, this is one of the most progressive historic towns I’ve come across.
The gallery scene in Denver is exploding. One gallery that particularly charmed me is the David B. Smith gallery located Downtown. While I was in town, the gallery was featuring an exhibit called Recalcitrant Mimesis by Liz Miller. Known for her mixed media instillations, she “recontextualize[s] shapes, signs, and symbols from disparate historical and contemporary images to create abstract fictions.” In this case, she utilized the work of Clyfford Still (in honor of the new museum) as inspiration. The result was a colorful, captivating 3-dimensional wonderland that was riveting to walk through. I would highly recommend visiting this particular gallery while in Denver.
Historic relevance combined with progressive and visionary residents has allowed these parts of Colorado to evolve into a wonderful cultural epicenter.