Artist Cassandra Cole takes stock in Barack Obama.
Artist Cassandra Cole takes stock in Barack Obama.

Denver artists button up the DNC

It's getting close to the DNC donkey hour in Denver. And to celebrate the national spotlight and promote the Denver art community, marketing expert Julie Byerlein has enlisted a group of artists to make a series of cool, artsy buttons, each depicting a donkey doing something different in Denver.

The project, called Dems Do Denver, includes work by Tracy Weil, Jill Hadley Hooper, Sharon Brown, Matt Holman, Katie Taft, Bill Amundson, Sharon Feder, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and Eric Zimmer.

"I think it's really cool that Julie is doing this, because so many people collect political pins, and I haven't seen anyone do artistic ones like this before," says Weil, co-founder of the River North Art District (RiNo), whose Weilworks studio is located at 3611 Chestnut Place.


Weil liked the way his first button — a boldly striped red-and-white donkey, called "Ode to Change" — turned out so much that he did a second one, "Elevate," with a cityscape and snowcapped mountains in the background, along with images of a blue donkey, Denver International Airport and an angel. "The angel flying in represents Obama coming into Denver and hopefully saving the world," he says with a laugh.

Then there's Amundson's "Pepsi Donk," showing a donkey wearing a Pepsi Center crazy hat; Murphy's "Donkey Silhouette," which depicts the animal against a colorful evening skyline; and Zimmer's "Hiker," which has the donkey decked out in boots, walking sticks and a backpack.

All the buttons retail for $4 online at; they're also for sale at the Tattered Cover stores in LoDo and on Colfax Avenue, at the Artisan Center in Cherry Creek, and — soon — in the Denver Art Museum gift shop. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee — which is a little ironic, since it's supposed to be the power structure aiding the starving artists rather than the other way around.

But Weil just says that's his way of helping out.

The Dems Do Denver crew aren't the only artists trying to make their mark during the Democratic National Convention. Cassandra Cole has fashioned a single, though unmistakable, portrait of Barack Obama wearing a cowboy/farmer hat and looking as happy as a bull at a cow convention. She was greeting the crowds and selling copies of her painting, as well as mugs and T-shirts with the image, last Friday in the Santa Fe Arts District; she says she'll start selling her work at Café Europa on August 15 and then move somewhere near the Pepsi Center during the convention. Cole also says she plans to donate some of her proceeds to Obama's campaign.

Maybe that's why her subject is grinning.

One mall does it all: Just in time for the convention, the Downtown Denver Partnership is adding new vending carts to the three dozen already on the 16th Street Mall — just in case DNC delegates have a hankering for something other than the waffles and fake designer purses and genuine Rocky Mountain artifacts made in China offered by the regular mall vendors, who learned just last week that they'll be able to continue peddling their wares through the DNC.

"We've identified forty different locations on the mall for specialty vendors and food vendors," says the Partnership's Sarah Neumann. "Currently, we've filled about 27 of those, and all the slots for DNC-related merchandise are filled."

But that leaves more than a dozen opportunities to actually bring some world-class shopping to the mall. And should one of the possible locations go unclaimed, the Partnership could do worse than offer it to Dems Do Denver. And with any luck, that crew of talented, civic-minded artists might invite cartoonist Kenny Be to join the fun. For an idea of what swell souvenirs he'd offer for visitors to our town, see this week's Worst-Case Scenario.


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