Art Review

Patty Ortiz leaves the Museo de las Americas

There's a major changing of the guard in the art world right now in Colorado.

The biggest news came this past fall, when Cydney Payton, the powerhouse director of MCA Denver, announced her departure. Then, two Western art curators at the Denver Art Museum — Ann Daley and Peter Hassrick — decided to retire. Then, a couple weeks ago, Larry Padgett, founder of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, said that he was leaving his post. And this past week, Patty Ortiz (pictured), revealed that she is quitting after nearly four years as director of the Museo de las Américas; that vacancy is effective in March, and a search for an interim director is to start almost immediately.

Ortiz's departure is shocking, and it even took the Museo's staff by surprise. A key figure in the Denver art world for almost thirty years, Ortiz has been a practicing artist here since 1980 and earned a number of public commissions, including "Experimental Aviation," the 146 suspended steel planes (inspired by paper ones) that hang over the escalators in the Jeppesen Terminal at DIA, and "Leap of Faith," at Speer Boulevard and Elitch Circle, a pair of gate standards surmounted by silhouettes of children.

Ortiz has also been an arts administrator, and from 1999 to 2005, she served as the director of programs and the education specialist at what was then called the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver. She left MCA/D to take the reins of the Museo, where she has distinguished herself with interesting programming, including the current offering, Fine Line, made up of contemporary work by Latin American artists.

In consideration of the pending regime change, this exhibit, meant to come down at the end of next month, has been extended into the summer.

Luckily for Ortiz, it's onward and upward. She's to become the director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Texas, her home town, and where her extended family still lives. It's a great opportunity for her, but she'll sure be missed by her many fans here.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia