Last Chance to See Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America and Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze, Phantom Canyon Opens, Untitled Final Friday: A(me)ricana and Other August Highlights

Time is running out to see two amazing exhibitions on view at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) this summer.

Jordan Casteel, Charles, 2016. Oil on canvas; 78 x 60 in. Collection of Jordan Casteel. Image courtesy of Sargent's Daughters, New York. ©Jordan Casteel

Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze is the first major museum exhibition for one of the most acclaimed emerging artists working today. On view through Aug. 18, the exhibition showcases 29 paintings made by Denver-born artist Jordan Casteel from 2013 to 2018, including new paintings that reveal the artist’s evolving practice and a shift in subject matter ranging from cityscapes and subway scenes to women and local business owners.

Casteel’s approach to selecting subjects involves walking around her neighborhood and taking photographs. By transforming these photographs into larger-than-life portraits with subtle shifts in light, bold colors and gestural brushwork, Casteel reveals individuals and atmospheres that often go unnoticed. A 45-minute public tour of the exhibition is available daily at 2 p.m. through Aug. 18. Included with general admission, which is free for DAM members and youth 18 and younger. #JordanCasteelatDAM

Installation view of Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America. Photo by Jeff Wells.

Through Aug. 25, Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America explores how employing playfulness allowed designers to bring fresh ideas to the American home, children’s toys and play spaces, and corporate identities.

Diverse materials and manufacturing techniques opened up possibilities for new approaches to design and larger-scale production during the 1950s and ’60s, while an increase in disposable income and leisure time of a growing middle class offered more options for designers to help Americans discover a new way of living at home through thoughtfully designed objects. An emerging focus on child development prompted an interest in children’s furniture and placed a fresh emphasis on the importance of smart toy design, while pervasive Cold War anxiety created a desire to bring positivity and escapism into everyday spaces.

Serious Play includes over 200 works ranging from works on paper, models, textiles, furniture and ceramics to films, toys, playground equipment and product design. Organized around three themes—the American home, child’s play and corporate approaches to design—the exhibition encourages visitors to consider how design connects to their daily lives. Daily 45-minute public tours of the exhibition are available at 1 p.m. through Aug. 25. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. #SummerofPlay2019

Serious Play-related programming

Midcentury Design: A Closer Look (a three-part course)

Session 3: Fun, Taste & IKEA — Aug. 10, 2:304 p.m.

The final session examines Fun, Taste & IKEA. Tickets for individual sessions are $22 DAM members, $25 nonmembers. General admission tickets, which include entrance to the exhibition, available separately.

Design After Dark: PLAY

Aug. 24, 7-11 p.m.

At this special party and fundraiser for the department of architecture and design, celebrate the closing of Serious Play: Design In Midcentury America with midcentury-inspired catering and whimsical decor created specifically with PLAY in mind. Additionally, playful objects—created by local creatives for this event—will be available for purchase during the course of the evening. For more information, email Early bird ticket price (on/before Aug. 1) is $85; tickets are $100 after. No discounts. Sponsored by Design Council, a DAM support group.

Mark Wallinger, still from Angel, 1997. Video with sound; 7 min 30 sec. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Polly and Mark Addison, 2010.430.1-4. © Mark Wallinger

Phantom Canyon: A Digital Circuit

Opening Aug. 25

Journey along the circuit of balconies, landings and stairs within the atrium of the DAM’s Hamilton Building to discover 15 digital artworks that make up Phantom Canyon: A Digital Circuit. A moving image is comprised of a series of still images, shown in rapid succession, to produce the illusion of fluid motion. The afterimage—or ghost—of one picture stays in our eye for a fleeting moment, allowing our brain to merge it with the next. Action on a screen is created through a succession of blended phantom images. Each of the artworks on view depends on the afterimage to create the appearance of movement. As visitors discover each of the artworks in Phantom Canyon, perhaps this space will feel more like a canyon filled with scenic stops that offer a glimpse into each artist’s imagination. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. #PhantomCanyonatDAM

Museum visitors enjoying La Musidora during an Untitled Final Friday event.


La Musidora

Through Oct. 1

La Musidora is back to delight visitors throughout the summer! The name La Musidora is a combination of the Spanish words "la música" (music) and "la mecedora" (rocking chair). Take part in this interactive outdoor art installation and make musical sounds by gently rocking colorfully woven chairs in tandem. Installed on Martin Plaza near the museum entrance, this 90-foot artwork seats up to 20 visitors at a time. Designed by Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena of the interdisciplinary design firm Esrawe + Cadena in Mexico City. La Musidora is generously funded by the PB and K Family Foundation.

Treasures of British Art: The Berger Collection

Through Jan. 5, 2020

Treasures of British Art displays about 60 paintings gifted to the museum by the Berger Collection Educational Trust in 2018. This exhibition presents 500 years of British cultural history through the stories of its people, captured by the enduring brilliance of artists of the time. The exhibition features devotional images, portraits, landscapes and sporting scenes by the greatest artists of the British School—including Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence and John Constable—as well as non-British artists who spent significant time in Britain, such as Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck and American artists Benjamin West and John Singer Sargent. A 45-minute public tour is available daily at 1:30 p.m. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. #TreasuresatDAM

Installation view of The Light Show.

The Light Show

Through May 3, 2020

The Light Show explores physical and symbolic representations of light in art through a thought-provoking narrative. Presenting about 250 objects drawn from the DAM’s nine curatorial departments, the cross-departmental exhibition focuses on the quest by humanity and artists to understand physical light in the natural world as well as metaphorical, spiritual and divine representations of light. The Light Show examines interconnected aspects of the overarching subject through sections including Qualities of Light, Enlightenment, Altars, Firelight, Shadows & Shade, Darkness, Mirrors & Reflections and Transparency.

Works on view include visitor favorites such as Lucas Samaras’s immersive Corridor #2, El Anatsui’s Rain Has No Father? and the Tibetan Hayagriva sand mandala, as well as a major new acquisition, The Way the Moon’s in Love with the Dark by artist Fred Wilson. The Light Show prompts visitors to reflect on a variety of light-related themes through a broad range of artworks including ancient sculptures, paintings, photography, textiles and contemporary installations. Included in general museum admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. #LightatDAM

Blue Star Museum Program 2019

Through Sept. 2

The summer 2019 Blue Star Museum program is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America. The DAM will offer free general admission to active duty military personnel and their families, including the National Guard and Reserve, through Sept. 2, 2019. To find other participating museums, visit the Blue Star Museums map.


Creative-in-Residence Teejay with museum visitor.

Creative-in-Residence: Juntae TeeJay Hwang

Wednesday Happenings, 1-3 p.m.

Observe, reflect and interact with the DAM's current Creative-in-Residence, Juntae TeeJay Hwang, as he explores performance art in the museum during Wednesday Happenings. Included with general admission.

Making Strange & Participation

  • Aug. 7, level 2/Serious Play
  • Aug. 14, Martin Plaza

Freedom & Dystopia

  • Aug. 21, level 4/The Light Show
  • Aug. 28, level 3/The Light Show

Saturday Studies: Performance Workshops, 3-4 p.m.

Learn a performance and participate in a museum happening at Saturday Studies: Performance Workshops. TeeJay will guide visitors through a thematic performance workshop that will end with a performance in the museum. Included with general admission, but space is limited. Online registration required.

Voice & Breath

  • Aug. 3, Martin Plaza

Making Strange & Participation

  • Aug. 10, level 2/Serious Play
  • Aug. 17, Martin Plaza

Freedom & Dystopia

  • Aug. 24, level 4/The Light Show
  • Aug. 31, level 3/The Light Show

Hands-on creativity in the Paint Studio.

Paint Studio and Weekend Artist Demonstrations

Open during museum hours

This summer in the studio on the first floor of the Hamilton Building, explore how painters use color and light to capture the world around them, experiment with watercolors, paint a portrait or create your own abstract masterpiece. The Paint Studio is open seven days a week. Demonstrations by local artists from noon to 3 p.m. each weekend. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.

August Artist Demonstrations

  • August 3-4: Lucía Rodríguez, Color as Light
  • Aug. 10-11 & 17-18: Quána Madison, Expressionist Painting: A Path to Emotional Well-being
  • Aug. 24-25 & Aug. 31-Sept. 1: Caleb Hahne, What We Feel: Painting Emotion


Free First Saturday

Aug. 3, 10 a.m.5 p.m.

Enjoy the DAM’s art collections and family-friendly activities for free. There’s bilingual fun with the storytelling program Cuentos del Arte at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Stop by the Paint Studio for artist demonstrations from noon to 3 p.m. Free general admission tickets will be available on-site starting at 10 a.m. Free First Saturday is made possible by Your 6 Hometown Toyota Stores and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). #ThanksSCFD #GraciasSCFD

Create Playdate

Aug. 14, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. (extended summer hours!)

Drop in with your little ones, ages 3 to 5, and meet up with other tots and their grownups for storytime, artmaking and more! Included with general admission, which is free for members and kids 18 and younger. No reservations required.

Hands-on activities are available in First Light Family Space.

First Light Family Space

Open during museum hours

Step into the shining world of the new First Light Family Space and try hands-on activities inspired by The Light Show. Capture nature’s shadows with moveable silhouettes, experiment with transparency and color on overhead projectors, mix patterns to cast bold shadows and design a wearable mirror. Located on level 3. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.


Drop-In Drawing

Aug. 13, 1–3 p.m.

Join artist Anna Kaye at this fun and informal monthly creative art session. In August, take inspiration from Eyes On: Jonathan Saiz and his central installation #WhatisUtopia. Bring a drawing or sketching project of your own or get started on something new. All ranges of drawing experience welcome! Drawing materials provided, but you are welcome to bring your own supplies. Please note that only sketchpads 14 x 17 inches or smaller, graphite pencils and kneaded erasers are permitted in the galleries. Meet on level 1. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. No reservations required.

Unplugged: Meditation

Aug. 16, 4–5 p.m.

Wind down your week in the galleries with Unplugged, a program that explores different ways to turn down the tempo and step into a state of relaxation, reflection and calm. In August, enjoy a "happiness hour" with guided meditation. The Unplugged experience changes each month. Included in general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.

Mindful Looking

Aug. 20, 1 p.m.

Every month, Mindful Looking invites you to slow down and spend time with a single work of art. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.

Drop-In Writing

Aug. 27, 13 p.m.

Explore your creativity through the written word in our informal writing sessions with Michael Henry, executive director of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. This month, take inspiration from Eyes On: Jonathan Saiz and his central installation #WhatisUtopia. Bring your own writing projects or get started on something new. Open to all levels, from published authors to the occasional journaler. Materials available onsite.

Untitled Final Friday: A(me)ricana featuring Kate Speer

Aug. 30, 610 p.m.

August's Untitled event highlights the creative practice of performance and dance artist Kate Speer, with the theme "A(me)ricana," inspired by The Light Show. Watch for an interactive baseball performance, a pie-eating contest and line dances. Untitled Final Friday also includes a cash bar and yummy eats available from a different food truck each month. Free for members and youth 18 and younger; students with valid ID receive two-for-one tickets during Untitled. Untitled Final Fridays are presented by Your 6 Hometown Toyota Stores. #untitledDAM

This overview of August happenings does not include all exhibitions, events and programs available this month. See the museum website for complete information.

Download PDF of press release.