Initiatives in Art & Culture- Frontier’s Edge: The Arts & Crafts Movement in Denver and Environs

“At the Frontier’s Edge,” confronts what had become conventional wisdom by the end of the 19th century: that the American frontier was closed through an exploration of the Arts & Crafts movement in Denver and environs.

While from the limited perspectives of map making and census taking, perhaps, a geographic frontier of settlement no longer, the energizing quality of frontier life persisted. The frontier, according to Turner, created freedom by “breaking the bonds of custom, offering new experiences, and calling out new institutions and activities”; the nascent Arts & Crafts movement in the Mountain States did just that.

We identify factors that shaped this regional expression, among them the rail lines.

We challenge the generally accepted dates for the Movement (ca. 1876 – 1917).

We also explore ongoing manifestations of the Arts & Crafts movement: while not mimetic in expression, the influence of the Movement can be seen in the work of contemporary jeweler Todd Reed, among others.

Last, we consider whether the “frontier spirit” continues to affect the art, broadly defined, that is regionally welcomed, and whether the reception accorded the work of architects like Daniel Liebeskind and Brad Cloepfil, positioned on the frontier of their discipline, has historic roots.

Among the locations for formal sessions and visits (as of April 2011) are: St. Andrews Episcopal Church (Ralph Adams Cram); the Boettcher Mansion (Lorraine Lodge, Fisher & Fisher, 1917, a National Register Site); the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum representing the cultural history of Gunnison County (begun in 1880 by early pioneers); Hiwan Homestead (a 25–room 1890 – 1930 log lodge illustrating early mountain summer home living, and also a National Register Site); Van Briggle Memorial Art Pottery (the location to which the firm moved in 1956), the Denver Art Museum ([DAM], the 1893 Denver Artists had by 1918 become the DAM which by 1948 had purchased a building on Acoma and 14th St; the 1954 South Wing, Gio Ponti and local architect James Sudlers’ 1971 North Building; the Duncan Pavilion; and the 2006 Frederic C. Hamilton building, by Studio Daniel Liebeskind and Denver firm Davis Partnership Architects); the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art (the oldest commercial art building in Denver, local artist Vance Kirkland’s intact historic Arts & Crafts style studio (1910 – 1911) houses a display of over 3,300 works of Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Glasgow Style, Wiener Werkstätte, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Modern and Pop Art (1860s – 1980) and a major survey of regional art), and the Boulder studio of jeweler and metalsmith Todd Reed. We also visit Denver Mountain Parks and Boulder’s Chautauqua Park; tour downtown architecture; and visit several private homes.

A preliminary list of participants: Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History, University of Virginia; Cheryl Robertson, independent scholar / museum consultant on architecture and decorative arts of the late 19th– and early 20th–centuries; stained glass authority and conservator Julie Sloan; Thomas Noel, professor of history, and director, public history, preservation, and Colorado Studies at the University of Colorado, Denver and author of Buildings of Colorado; Thomas Smith, director, Petrie Institute of Western American Art, Denver Art Museum; Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director and previous curator of modern and contemporary art, DAM; Anita Ellis, Deputy Director, Cincinnati Art Museum and authority on American ceramics and Rookwood pottery; Todd Reed, Boulder–based, renowned metalsmith and jeweler; Liam O’Neill, director, Archibald Knox Foundation; Hugh Grant, founder, director and curator, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art and adjunct curator, Kirkland Collection, DAM; Laura Fry, decorative arts curator, Buffalo Bill Historical Society who has done significant research on regional potter William Long; Katie Davis Gardner, independent scholar and authority on Van Briggle; Robert Rust, who has done pioneering research on the Japanese metalsmiths brought to the region by Van Briggle; Cynthia Shaw McLaughlin, Director, Boettcher Mansion and a Founding member of the Colorado Arts & Crafts Society. The conference is organized Lisa Koenigsberg, president and founder of Initiatives in Art and Culture who established the Arts & Crafts conference series in 1999.

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Boettcher Mansion

Colorado Arts and Crafts Society

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