Summertime News

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A last-minute addition to the Havu show was Tony Serenpa's huge, spectacular ceramic vessels. He really does qualify as a newcomer; he just graduated from the University of Denver a couple of months ago. Serenpa, a protegé of the great Maynard Tischler, is already one of the best ceramic artists in Colorado -- even though he's still wet with pottery slip behind the ears -- and that's really saying something. Havu was made aware of Serenpa's work by gallery assistant Kate Thompson, who went to DU with the young genius.

While we're on the topic of introductions, changes have been afoot in the Front Range art world this summer. Several important art jobs have been filled, which means new aesthetics will soon be unveiled.

We won't have too long to wait at the Andenken Gallery, where new director and veteran artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy will open her first exhibit next month. She is pairing painter Sharon Smolinski with sculptors Kate Petley and Gail Wagner, who are being shown courtesy of Ron Judish, their current representative.

With so many annuals and biennials on the calendar, it will take a little longer to see the changes at Foothills Art Center in Golden. New director Jennifer Cook came on board just last week from the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, replacing Carol Dickinson, who retired this past spring after an illustrious run as director. Cook has been deeply involved with arts advocacy in Colorado; she has served on many boards, including a stint as the president of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association, which, in one of those funny coincidences, is having its meeting in Golden this coming October.

The premier art institution in southern Colorado is the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and it has a new director, too. Last winter, CSFAC director David Turner surprised everyone -- even his staff -- when he announced that he was leaving to take the director's job at the University of Oregon Museum of Art. Although Turner never admitted it, surely a part of the reason was the failed campaign to expand the center. Turner got behind the idea of putting an addition across the front of the center, which would have destroyed the character of the 1930s masterpiece by New Mexico's John Gaw Meem.

After a search that lasted several months, Michael De Marsche was selected to succeed Turner, and he took the helm last week. In 2000, De Marsche was the founding director of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University in Alabama. Interestingly, De Marsche was apparently looking to relocate out West, and he'd also applied for the Foothills position.

The Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design is another Colorado art institution with a new person in charge. Stephen Sumner takes over as president from Steve Steele, son of the school's founder. The selection of Sumner has caused a lot of trepidation, as most of the faculty and staff were rooting for Neil King, RMCAD's vice president. But though disappointed, most are willing to give Sumner a chance, since he's been making an effort to network. Steele will stay on as a sculpture teacher and serve as a Steele-family representative on the board of directors.

The news of the selection of a president is somewhat overshadowed by the college's new home. In July, RMCAD relocated from a group of nondescript roadside buildings on East Evans Avenue in Denver to a marvelous old campus in Lakewood that was originally built as the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society. The campus is crowded with charming historic structures accented by mature landscaping, all of it arranged in a delightful quad-like layout. "I feel like I'm working in a park," says Bryan Andrews, who coordinated the move that was pulled off, astonishingly, in a single weekend.

And finally, Denise Montgomery, the former director of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, was appointed the new director of the Mayor's Office of Art, Culture and Film. Montgomery is a former girlfriend of Mayor John Hickenlooper, so there's been some controversy concerning her appointment, which seems to mirror Wellington Webb appointing his wife, Wilma, to head the Mayor's Commission of Art, Culture and Film. But the commission is the more powerful entity, because it has the ability to pick art, unlike the department Montgomery will head, which only does the legwork. One person close to the selection process told me that Montgomery was going to get the job no matter who else applied. I think that's called politics.

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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