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Published August 19, 2008
byline: Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post Fine Arts Critic
Denver Post


Once Denver was declared the host city for the Democratic National Convention, local officials began looking for ways to involve the public in the event and stimulate dialogue.

As the chief vehicle to accomplish that goal, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs has organized a multifaceted series of privately funded interactive offerings, titled "Dialog:City: An Event Converging Art, Democracy and Digital Media." It will run Aug. 21-29 (720-865-4320 or

A group of international artists and designers, including Minsuk Cho, Ann Hamilton, D.J. Spooky and Krzystztof Wodiczko, were invited to create participatory, site-specific works in neighborhoods across the city.

Although some of these works address such issues as climate change and homelessness, none is meant to be overtly political, said Erin Trapp, director of the cultural affairs office.

"I wouldn't characterize them as political art," she said. "I would characterize them as projects that encourage civic engagement. We wanted to find a way to give voice to different types of expression from the community but not in a way that was partisan or political."

While "Dialog:City" will probably be the most visible visual-arts event taking place in conjunction with the DNC, here's a look at five politically themed exhibitions running at the same time:

"Grey/re(a)d: In Response," through Sept. 5, PlatteForum (303-893-0791 or During her residency at the Central Platte Valley art center, St. Peters, Mo., artist Julia Karll oversaw the creation of an installation dealing with finding hope amid the gloom of so much contemporary news.

She helped seven local teachers create works using fiber-art techniques and constructed her own installation, "Knotted." Its centerpiece is a mass of knotted ropes painstakingly assembled of coiled newspaper threads.

"They're posing the essential questions like: What is news? What is the truth? What is a lie? And getting people to think about it," said Judy Anderson, PlatteForum's artistic director.

"Patriotism: The Last Refuge," through Sept. 20, Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art (970-482-2787 or In today's politically charged environment, even the meaning of patriotism and how it should be expressed have become hot issues.

Curators at this Front Range museum asked a group of area artists to submit works that addressed the nature of patriotism, and those pieces are on view along with images of George Bush's presidency by Time magazine photographer Christopher Morris.

"Dialog: Denver," Saturday through Sept. 20, Robischon Gallery (303-298-7799 or In addition to showing works by some of the internationally known artists taking part in "Dialog:City," Robischon is providing an opportunity for area artists to have a voice, too.

"We wanted to have a Colorado element in play, so it wasn't just all out-of-state artists," said gallery director Jim Robischon. "We wanted to represent the people who are here."

As a response to "My Yard: Our Message," an art initiative taking place in conjunction with the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., 17 Colorado artists were asked to create politically themed works in the format of a 21-by-31-inch yard sign.

Participants include Albert Chong, Chuck Forsman, Carlos Fresquez, Jill Hadley Hooper, Sarah McKenzie, Bruce Price and Floyd Tunson.

"Inside/Outside/North & South," Aug. 21-Sept. 14, Museo de las Americas (303-571-4401 or During an intense five-month collaboration via the Internet, teens from Denver; La Paz, Bolivia; and Puebla, Mexico, examined the growing diversity of an ever-more globalized world.

With the help of noted artists in each community (filmmaker Gwylym Cano and multimedia artist Ana Maria Hernando in Colorado), these students, working in a variety of media, created artworks that address stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

"Because we're a museum based in Latin American culture, it is about art, but what can happen is the art becomes a tool to really start addressing very important issues," said Patty Ortiz, the Museo's executive director and curator.

"Pictures of You, Images of Iran," Aug. 25- 26, temporary installation, Civic Center ( Crested Butte photographer Tom Loughlin has conceived a portable installation that gives Americans a look at everyday Iranians.

On view inside a 90- foot-long tentlike structure, loosely based on Persian architecture, will be Loughlin's portraits on translucent fabric panels along with ambient sounds from Iran and excerpts from interviews with a few of its citizens.

"In a way, it's really simple," Loughlin said. "What we're trying to show, in a way that people can experience viscerally, is that we're all made of the same flesh — Iranians and Americans and, by extension, all human beings."

Although the installation makes no direct statement about Iranian-American relations, it has already stirred considerable controversy, and Loughlin acknowledges that it is inevitably political.

"If this were an installation showing smiling faces of Canadians, I don't think it would be a political installation," he said. "In today's environment, it's going to have political resonance for people, but that's the current state of affairs between Iran and the United States."


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