The Denver Office of Cultural Affairs is facing some changes. On January 3, Denise Montgomery spent her last day as the agency's director; she's leaving to head up the marketing department of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. When Montgomery was picked for the cabinet-level post in 2003, she was well known in the political, economic and media circles that run the city, but little known in the art community, which caused some controversy ("Summertime News," August 14, 2003). A new director has not yet been selected, but Tina Poe-Obermeier will serve as interim replacement.
Last week, John Grant also bolted -- a much more significant loss to the DOCA. Grant had been the public art program director for nine years, overseeing the Percent for Art program. In that time, he got 148 major public artworks completed and installed, including Lawrence Argent's big blue bear, "I See What You Mean", which he personally helped assemble.
Starting on February 1, Grant, who owned the top-flight Grant Gallery in the early '90s, will be at Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art as that institution's director of special projects. The timing is significant, since the MCA has one very special project on the immediate horizon: the proposed David Adjaye-designed building.
Denise Montgomery and John Grant
Someone with Grant's experience and connections -- he knows everyone -- are commodities that will benefit the MCA long into the future, especially since money must be raised for both the building and for ongoing programming. So far, the MCA has come up with around $9 million, with several million more needed.
But let's not forget that it's also an important time for Denver's Percent for Art program. With the new $300 million-plus Justice Center complex about to get under way and millions of dollars in public-art commissions up for grabs, it's definitely not the best time for the Office of Cultural Affairs to lose Grant.
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No replacement for him has been announced yet, but let me be among the first to say that he is all but irreplaceable.