Two American cities with two distinct styles have an appreciation for fine art. One opts for international flavor; the other reminds those with sense what kind of non-sense has been advocated. One has hosted Worlds Fairs and is the gateway to the West; while another seems hell bent on being the arm pit of the West. The cities: St. Louis vs. Denver.
To be fair both have major reasons to appreciate other aspects of life – from the business climate, the outdoors or perhaps just the golf or professional sports. Yet look deeper and see that the commitment to the arts is just night and day. In St. Louis’ Clayton neighborhood, corporate and public foundations have seriously placed works of significance. Walk out the door of a local favorite restaurant, in this case called Cafe Manhattan, and before you is a monument to all sculptors and artists – Fernando Botero’s “Man on Horse.” Courtesy of the Gateway Foundation, this sculpture is just one of many resting before the public – that typically are in private collections, museums, national parks or corporate lobbies. Jaunt towards the grand Forest Park and you will likely encounter a Calder or Rodin.
Now head West. The minute you hop onto your flight with Sheba the Mountain Goat on the tail you land in Denver greeted by amazing vistas ruined by “Billy’s favorite devil horse sculpture.” Denver’s neighborhoods of similar caliber to Clayton are Cherry Creek North, Hilltop or Bonnie Brae. While there is a welcomed improvement in the district, restaurants – with a new entry almost each month- the closest example of fine art is four miles away.
In June, developers, merchants, and passer-by’s gathered for an unveiling. The honor being bestowed – Cherry Creek Art’s Festival donated “The Tower of Man” by Bill Starke. Now Starke has some interesting works and is quite talented. Yet this little gesture – a 15 foot bronze installed by landscapers – hardly builds on the relationship required of a marque neighborhood boasting Hermes, Neiman Marcus and million dollar pads. The gesture is laughable until you realize that the beer festival passed off as an arts festival for 22 years reflects a no progress mentality for corporate, public and private connoisseurship in the area.