Flashback half a year ago, to when I was visiting N in Colorado. We had such a good time–hiking in the snow, drinking coffee, eating delicious food, wearing warm sweaters and wooly socks–everything we love to do!
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Denver Art Museum. Whenever N and I visit cities, we like to visit the art museums there– he is an art history buff, and I love a good museum (so much so, I’m studying museums in school–but more on that later). This started with frequent trips to the Cleveland Museum of Art (one of our personal favorites–especially since general admission is free!) when we were both in undergrad. The Denver Art Museum certainly did not disappoint! I would highly recommend a visit there; it is one of the best-curated museums I’ve visited.
The Denver Art Museum is extremely visitor-friendly. The exhibits aren’t stuffy or geared toward only those well-versed in art; they are designed so that any visitor could feel welcome and could walk out feeling enriched by their museums experience. Every little nuance of each exhibit is set so that everyone can enjoy and learn from their visit.
For example, a temporary exhibit, Matisse and Friends, provided a brilliant aesthetic environment for the visitor to enjoy the artwork on display. Not only did the exhibit’s designers select 14 brilliant paintings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to display, but the exhibit was also sprinkled with plush, velvety couches, brightly-colored walls, and vibrant rugs, chosen to mimic the style of Matisse’s studio.
Near these seating areas, there were also activity booklets to inspire visitors to have their own unique experience with the art. These encouraged visitors to write their own poetry as a reaction to the art they were viewing, either following the prompts in the booklets or freehand. Others asked interested visitors to, if they were inclined, sketch their response to the art in the exhibit. The booklets enhanced everyone’s visit by making the art a more personal, active experience, asking them to interpret the art in a way that surpasses simply passively viewing the art. This provided a three-dimensional element to the art–it was no longer contained in the four corners of the frame, but jumped out to interact with the viewer.
Another display that stood out to me as being well-designed and exceptionally curated is the Denver Art Museum’s treatment of George Catlin’s The Cutting Scene, Mandan O-Kee-Pa Ceremony, a painting that has drawn up significant controversy in the Native American community. Instead of shying away from displaying this painting, the Denver Art Museum instead decided to make it a teachable moment. It provides an interactive display that asks the question, “Why is this considered one of the most controversial paintings in the museum?” This display stimulates discussion, analyzing the details of the painting and George Catlin’s artwork and allowing the reader to make their own decisions about the work! Developing an understanding of all interpretations of art is important to appreciating the beauty of it, and this display truly hits this home.
In addition to this, each of the major exhibits had themed areas in which visitors of all ages could learn about, interact with, and delight in the era and region of art which they were viewing. Without a doubt, the Denver Art Museum places a major emphasis on visitor education, which is clear through their creative, engaging curatorial style and exhibit design. I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the area, and cannot wait to make a return trip!