Contemporary understanding of how monuments may represent oppression has led to the destruction of certain monuments and historical sculptures cross the country. In an effort to provide the RMCAD community with knowledge and understanding of which local monuments, sculptures, and murals do just the opposite, we’ve put together a few Denver public arts to explore and celebrate. Although we can’t change our past, learning from it to be better for the present will assure a more productive future. The Denver art and design community has demonstrated the cognizant ability to celebrate diversity. Its parks have been embellished with various pieces of art to learn from and celebrate.
Douglas Kornfeld, “Meeting of Minds” 2005
Image Credit: https://denverpublicart.org/public-arts/meeting-of-the-minds/
This public sculpture in City Park depicts the profiles of an Africa American woman and man. The female head is looking out into the North-Denver neighborhood, while the male seems to be sinking into the ground. The head of the woman appears to be an oval that looks like a brain but is filled with figures similar to the international male and female symbols. The purpose of this 16-foot tall piece is to depict men and women in a variety of shapes and sizes, as opposed to the stereotypical way. The brain of the male is filled with the standard male and female icons seen every day, lined up in precise rows. This symbolizes a corresponding regimentation of thinking. Douglas Kornfeld sought to initiate a dialogue about symbols and how they affect diversity, stereotypes, and identity through this piece.
Ed Dwight “I Have A Dream” 2001
Image Credit: https://denverpublicart.org/public-arts/i-have-a-dream/
Also located in City Park, this piece was commissioned by the City of Denver to create the largest, Dr. King Memorial, to date in the United States. As an attempt to represent the depth of struggle surrounding Civil Rights and freedom, there are four panels, each depicting a different theme. It includes a sculpture of Dr. King metaphorically standing on the shoulders of Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and Mahatma Gandhi. The Memorial includes a historical representation using elements of bronze, granite, and engraved text that highlight the chronological quotations of Dr. King’s quotes about slavery through the promise of freedom.
Thomas Jay Warren “African American Spirit of the West” 2004
Image Credit: https://warrensculpture.com/project/african-american-spirit-of-the-west/
The African American Spirit of the West is installed in front of the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver. The role of African Americans in the American West is without a doubt, not portrayed accurately in popular culture or historically. It is estimated by historians that one in four cowboys came from African descent, and they had a semblance of equality and respect in the country. The two 15-foot porcelain mosaics of an African American male and female are surrounded by bronze frames. They represent the strength and pioneering spirit of the people of African descent in the West. It is one of two pieces that the artist, Jay Warren created that made its way to the Public Art Archive. This website represents an expansive database of art installations available to the public all around the world.
Public art adds enormous value to the cultural, aesthetic, and economic vitality of a community. It contributes to a community’s identity, helps foster pride, and can enhance the quality of life in an area. Communities can gain real value, honor the past, and learn how to be better for the future through these works of art here in Denver Colorado.
This piece was written with the help of Juliette O’Brill, Outreach Specialist at RMCAD. To learn more about local Black Artists in Denver and how to support them, check out these links: