SNAPSHOT: Art & History Adventures in Denver

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When you find yourself in the Denver area with an adventure sports injury, broken wrist in this case, that prevents you from enjoying the amazing adventure sports opportunities that CO offers up, you have a few choices: do nothing, drink, check out the “Wild” side or check out the art scene. I decided to do as much as I could in the week leading up to TBEX, Travel Blog Exchange, conference in Keystone, CO. It did involve lots of quality micro brew drinking, but only after long days checking out all the sites. The best part is that all of these venues are within short walks of each other, including the micro breweries. If your feet get too tired to make it back to your hotel or car just grab one of Denver’s many pedicabs.

KIRKLAND MUSEUM:

The first stop on my art tour of Denver was the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. The first great thing about this museum is the FREE parking right across the street, super rare for a downtown attraction. Open air parking at that, which allowed me to park my Sportsmobile with no issues, as it does fit in a single spot but is quite tall. The Kirkland is a quirky small museum that houses a huge collection of really interesting items. It encompasses Vance Kirkland‘s works, the largest collection of modern decorative art in North America and a collection of over 600 works by more than 170 CO artists. It is worth visiting this museum just for the chance to talk with Hugh Grant, the museum’s director and curator, in order to absorb just a fraction of his passion and knowledge for modern art. Kirkland’s works are quite impressive and the modern decorative pieces really captured my imagination. I love great functional design and have always enjoyed unique high quality furniture.

The Kirkland museum is an eclectic collection of buildings that have been built off Kirkland’s original art studio.

Vance Kirkland’s original art studio. The hanging straps allowed Kirkland to suspend himself above and work on his larger works.

Kirkland used bright colors and his paintings expressed a lot of emotion.

Extremely unique and interesting furniture is a large part of the immense collection on display at the Kirkland Museum. I really like the unique chairs on display, especially the orange ones:)

Decorative art is a major part of the Kirkland Museum collection and they have some truly unique pieces! I’m not sure what this artist was thinking, but I like it:)

Fine art from CO artists and some influenced by CO can be found throughout the museum. I just really appreciate this piece from Otto Bach as it resonates with me for its combination of natural forms, geometric shapes and bright colors.

The dress on the left was influenced by the Kirkland painting above it and matches the paintings colors. An amazing amount of work went into the creation of that dress! The dress on the right is of course an Andy Warhol designed piece.

“Anguish of Man”. Great piece and I appreciate its placement in the museum, just outside the men’s room.

HISTORY COLORADO CENTER:

The next stop on the broken guy downtown Denver adventure train was the History Colorado Center, which just opened end of April this year. The building is brand new and currently being LEED certified. The museum has big plans over the next few years for some amazing new exhibits, as they have only completed phase 1 of the 3 phase opening. A big push for the museum has been to engage local Coloradans as well as the typical tourist following. They are doing this by being different from most other state history museums by creating hands on exhibits designed to put you personally into the stories. Great examples are being able to sit on all the furniture, “ride” in a mine shaft elevator and get on a ski jump simulator. The idea is to give you a taste of what things where like throughout history in CO and intrigue you enough to follow-up on your experience through research and experiences of your own, as well as many events, tours and classes that the museum offers. I’m a LEGO fanatic and if you’re in the area before August you must see the “LEGO-rado” exhibit. It is impressive!

The History of CO Center’s main atrium has a huge CO state map embedded in the floor and a really cool “Time Machine” component that lets visitors experience historical stories about different people and places in CO.

The exhibits are meant to create personal experiences and connections to the history of CO. Mining is a vital industry in CO and this exhibit included a simulated mine shaft elevator ride and a blasting wall.

The history of skiing is deeply rooted in CO’s history.

Bloggers, and all the other visitors no mater their age, enjoyed the ski jump simulator. And yes you can crash!

“LEGO-rado” is a really cool current exhibit. The huge LEGO display city even has its own Apple store:)

CLYFFORD STILL MUSEUM:

The Clyfford Still Museum is quite unique in the art world. Never has there been a man, Clyfford Still, of such provenance who removed himself from the art world in the prime of his career, kept creating masterpieces, kept 94% of all his life’s work and then donated the entire collection to an American city that would agree to build and maintain a home for his work exclusively. That American city is Denver, and the museum is very new, just opening Nov. ’11. Still’s widow locked down the estate upon his death in 1980 and much of his works where never shown to the public, making this an amazing opportunity to get the first glimpses, in over 50 yrs, at one of America’s master painters full body of work. The museum prides itself on letting the visitor peek behind the curtain of how a museum is run, with glass walls and doors on storage, research, archives, study and conservation rooms throughout the building. The interactive timeline exhibit allows you to relate to history and how Still’s works were influenced by his surroundings and the happenings of the world. Besides the amazing art of one prolific master painter the museum building itself really spoke to me. The architecture is quite impressive and the entire building is made of poured in place exposed concrete. The effect is quite dramatic and really helps to focus attention on the art. I also immediately related to Still and his work because he retired from the art scene in Westminster, MD, my childhood home town. This is a small country town and I’m quite disappointed that local history and education did not bring this artist to my attention.

The Clyfford Still Museum’s architecture fascinated me as much as the art within its walls.

The entire building is made of poured exposed concrete. The ceiling is a really cool 3 dimensional design that lets in a ton of light from the skylights above.

There are very few museums anywhere that let you experience this quality of art so close and personal. This is the conservation studio and yes those are bloggers inches away from millions worth of fine art!

Still lived all over North America, even my little hometown of Westminster, MD!

Still’s early work.

Still did many drawings and the museum as essentially all of them.

Dean Sobel, the museum’s director explaining how Still’s works got bigger and bigger.

@NicksTravelBug checking out the impressive interactive timeline displays that allow you to see Still’s life and art as well as how it relates to events and happenings of the time.

DENVER ART MUSEUM:

The final, all to quick, stop on the broken adventurer’s Denver art tour was the Denver Art Museum. After a long day of running  around town our group of travel bloggers had a quick guided tour of the Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective special exhibit.  This exhibit is at its last world stop and closes July 8th, so check it out quick! The exhibit shows off Laurent’s full 40 yr body of work through 200 haute couture, high fashion, garments. The brilliance of this man I think is best shown through his use of single colors, whether it be bright or black, with amazing forms to create timeless designs. The first question I was asked when leaving the exhibit, by the many female visitors, is how I liked it as a man. For me it is easy to appreciate quality design in all forms, and make no mistake Laurent was a master designer.

On my next visit to Denver I very much look forward to seeing the rest of this immense museum and checking out more of the building’s unique architecture as well. The next special exhibit, “Now Boarding,” is also something that I very much look forward to seeing. It is a multi-media tour of airport design of the past, present and future. Functional quality design that we overlook everyday needs to be more appreciated.

BIG cows outside the Denver Art Museum.

The Denver Art Museum always uses this space to create an interactive space to highlight their featured exhibit. In this case a full fashion design studio complete with resident designer.

Re-creation of Laurent’s office. (Photo: Denver Art Museum)

Laurent loved colors and textures and kept samples of every piece of material he used and cataloged them by color. (Photo: Denver Art Museum)

The “Tuxedo” collection was my favorite. I love how design on its own can create emotion and quality, without the use of color or embellishments. (Photo: Denver Art Museum)

I finished off my night with a Colorado Brewers Guild beer sampling at Wynkoop Brewing and a ton more networking with quality travel bloggers from around the world. You can’t beat hanging with good people and good brews after a long day of exploring Denver’s diverse art scene. I will be back to check out many of these and other Denver museums in the future. Hopefully next time without broken bones;)

I found the Yeti at Wynkoop Brewing!

A huge thanks goes out to the Denver Tourism board, TBEX organizers, and all the welcoming passionate people at each of these museums: Kirland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, History Colorado Center, Clyfford Still Museum and Denver Art Museum.

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