One more day before the National Performing Arts Convention begins, but there’s already quite a bit going on. As I sit typing this in the middle of the exhibit hall, folks around me are madly setting up their wares for what promises to be a very heavily-trafficked area over the next four days.
The last 24 hours were my one opportunity to explore the Mile High City. Once NPAC gets under way, there will be precious little time for the world beyond the convention center (except getting to and from NPAC events taking place elsewhere). The area immediately surrounding the convention center—like all-too-many urban downtowns in the U.S.—does not have a lot of local character, but a bit of wandering off the beaten path quickly pays off.
The Denver Art Museum, which now boasts a wild asymmetrical new building designed by Daniel Libeskind, which alone is worth a visit. Once inside the largest collection of Native American art awaits—everything from rare 19th century relics and an iikaah (a traditional Navaho sand painting) to baskets weaved in the early 1900s by Elizabeth Hickox, a Karuk innovator who revolutionized the medium. I was particularly drawn to several of Towa native Mateo Romero’s provocative Bonnie and Clyde paintings. The Museum also has a solid contemporary art collection offering work by the late Denver-based modernist Vance Kirkland and a generous supply of Clyfford Still abstractions—they’re opening a new space in 2010 to house hundreds of paintings from his estate.
Last night we found Denver’s oldest continuously operating restaurant and saloon, the Buckhorn Exchange (established 1893), where we ate rattlesnake dip, buffalo, and elk accompanied by Buffalo Bill Cocktails (bourbon and apple juice) as a dozen taxidermized antelopes stared down at us. We never got to meet Elizabeth—the ghost who haunts the place ever since her husband-to-be was shot as she was standing on an altar at a nearby church—but were regaled with stories about her.
But much as I’m intrigued by all this history, the National Performing Arts Convention is about the future. The state of the arts is at a critical juncture, but there is hope if all of the constituencies represented here this week can reach a consensus and initiate plans both to address the problems we are facing as well as better articulate what makes us a significant demographic in this country.
This page should be treated as an open forum to anyone (both folks attending NPAC and others who are not able to attend) to voice their thoughts about what the organizations representing the performing arts in the United States should be talking about this week.