The Colorado Convention Center, already known for its innovative public art that includes the 40-foot high Blue Bear peeking into the building, just added eight new pieces to its permanent collection.
The additions are the result of a public-private partnership between the City & County of Denver and the convention center’s management firm, SMG, which commissioned the $235,000 project. Denver-based art consulting firm NINE dot ARTS was hired to select and install the new work.
The pieces, created by established and emerging local artists, were able to make use of the vast space in the convention center to create dramatic and engaging works. A 95-by-95 foot mural by Mindy Bray, titled “The Heavy is the Root of the Light,” covers an entire wall behind a two-story escalator. The painting is based on photographs of the Platte River at nearby Confluence Park, the site where gold was first discovered leading to the founding of Denver in 1858.
Another piece by Sandra Fettingis entitled “I Know You Know That I Know” is 160 feet long and spans an entire hallway in the convention center. The painting creates an environment that envelops the viewer in a repetitive pattern-filled corridor.
“Convention centers are also learning centers where people come to be engaged and broaden their knowledge, so it’s appropriate that art be an important part of the building’s environment,” said Kent Rice, executive director of Arts & Venues for the City of Denver, which oversees the Colorado Convention Center. The new convention center art became a cornerstone for the launch of Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s new cultural plan for Denver, IMAGINE 2020.
“Convention centers today must provide practical, green, efficient and easy to use space, but art and atmosphere are just as important to create surroundings that are conducive to learning and to conducting business,” said John Adams, general manager of the Colorado Convention Center.
The new art adds to downtown Denver’s growing reputation as an art center. “Denver has a very progressive public art program, so as people walk from our 8,500 downtown hotel rooms to the convention center, they will encounter many other public artworks. There are also five art museums within walking distance of the center, so it’s wonderful to keep this feeling of being surrounded by art as you come into the building,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER.
Art has also become a symbol for the Colorado Convention Center. VISIT DENVER has incorporated one of the convention center’s older artworks, a 40-foot tall Blue Bear, officially titled “I See What You Mean” by Lawrence Argent, into an icon for the city and the lead element in the Bureau’s advertising campaign.
“The first thing you see coming into the convention center is the Blue Bear, and now as you walk through the two million square foot building, you will continue to encounter art everywhere you go,” Scharf said.