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Botanic Gardens Aims To Sprout Conversation Through Art

Denver’s Botanic Gardens is already well-known for a vast diversity of color and flora. Now something inorganic is dotting that landscape: Sculpture.

The Garden’s exhibit, “Catalyst” is meant to create a dialogue between art and nature. That may be lost on three children in hot pursuit of a frog swimming in a reflecting pool. Their chase occurs right in the shadow of one of the installations, a sculptural work by James Surls.

Credit Carrie Saldo
A frog, evading some children, swims toward a sculpture installed for the exhibit Catalyst at Denver Botanic Gardens.

The slightly older set should pick up on that dynamic right away. “We want people to be catalyzed to talk about it. We want people to be catalyzed to look at the landscape in a new way,” said Kim Manajek, Associate Director of Exhibitions, Art & Interpretation, at Denver Botanic Gardens.

The sculptures in “Catalyst” range in size, color, materials and shape. That diversity is balanced by way the pieces interact with the surrounding landscape.

“Many Colorado artists, which this show features Colorado artists only, came to Colorado or stay in Colorado because of their marriage to the landscape,” concluded artist Nancy Lovedahl as she stood in front of her sculpture Fractal Echo.

Credit Lisa Olken
Artist Nancy Lovedahl speaks with Carrie Saldo about her sculptures that were included in Catalyst at Botanic Gardens in Denver.

Hailing from Old Snowmass, Lovedahl has two works at “Catalyst.” She also has public and privately commissioned art work across the state, as well as nationally and internationally.

Lovedahl’s piece Spiral Dance is a somewhat-cylindrical work that incorporates slender aspen tree trunks - painted bright blue - rebar and steel wire. In creating it, she says she took inspiration from the “color of a bright blue, significantly Colorado sky.”

While sculpture in the great outdoors can be a thing of beauty, Kim Manajek of the Botanic Gardens, said the ability for the sculptures to stand up to Mother Nature was paramount.

It was a benchmark that was immediately tested. In April and May as the show was installed, the artists and assistants had to battle snow, then rain. The works will likely meet snow again, as the show will remain through January.

Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS, and KUVO.

A native of Stamford, VT, I call(ed) the Berkshires of western Massachusetts my home. The Berkshires are a culturally rich area -- I’m talking pass the butter and heavy cream -- rich.
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