May 2019: Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America Opens, Stampede: Animals in Art Closes, Untitled Final Friday: “Sit. Stand. Play.” Features Kenzie Sitterud and Other Highlights

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) kicks off a Summer of Play on May 5 with the opening of Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America. This exhibition presents the concept of play in postwar American design as a catalyst for creativity and innovation. Serious Play will explore how employing playfulness allowed designers to bring fresh ideas to the American home, children’s toys and play spaces, and corporate identities.

Charles and Ray Eames, House of Cards, publicity photo, 1952. ©Eames Office LLC (

During the 1950s and ’60s, diverse materials and manufacturing techniques opened up possibilities for new approaches to design and larger-scale production. Larger 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 will be offered at 1 p.m. Serious Play will be on view through Aug. 25. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. #SummerofPlay2019

Henry P. Glass, Swing-Line Toy Chest, 1952. Lacquered Masonite and birch; 31-3/4 × 33 × 17-1/2 in. Manufactured by Fleetwood Furniture Company. Milwaukee Art Museum: Purchase with funds from the Demmer Charitable Trust, M2015.85a,b. Photograph by John R. Glembin.

Serious Play-related programming

Insight: Curatorial Collaboration—Serious Play

May 3, 6–7 p.m.

Serious Play co-curators Darrin Alfred (DAM) and Monica Obniski (Milwaukee Art Museum) share their adventures in planning this much-anticipated design exhibition. Peek into the development of Serious Play and listen as they share behind-the-scenes stories from this project. $10 DAM members, $15 others.

Luncheon By Design

May 9, 11 a.m.–1 p.m.

Four Seasons Hotel Denver, 1111 14th St.

The DAM’s 2019 Luncheon By Design will feature an exclusive presentation by Alexandra Lange, renowned architecture critic and author of The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids. This year’s event marks an exciting year for design at the DAM, aligning with the exhibition Serious Play and looking ahead to the new galleries for the architecture and design department. Luncheon tickets $150; $350 for both the luncheon and the May 8 Patron Party. Reservations are required: contact Violet Mantell at or 720-913-0034.

Drop-In Drawing

May 14, 1–3 p.m.

Join artist Anna Kaye in our fun and informal monthly creative art sessions. In May, take inspiration from Serious Play. 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; no reservations required.


Jonathan Saiz, Study for Utopia, 2018. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist and K Contemporary Gallery, Photo by Wes Magyar. ©Jonathan Saiz

Eyes On: Jonathan Saiz

Opening May 12

Jonathan Saiz’s installation, #WhatisUtopia, is comprised of a column covered with 10,000 tiny drawings, paintings and sculptures and five framed works. By definition, utopia is “an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.”

The artist employs social media to spark conversation and document responses about our ability to re-envision and embody a modern utopia. After the exhibition closes, the artist will give away the 10,000 artworks from the column. Follow the story on Instagram via @utopia_is_free with #WhatIsUtopia and #JonathanSaizatDAM.

Eyes On: Jonathan Saiz will be on view through Nov. 17. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.


Stampede: Animals in Art

Through May 19

See how animals have captivated artists throughout history. Stampede: Animals in Art brings together more than 300 objects from across the DAM’s collection to explore animals in art throughout centuries and across cultures. Visitors can discover and consider the role animals play through themes such as personal connections with animals, how animal materials have been used in art, how animals are used to tell stories or represent political ideas and how artists use animals in imaginative ways. The exhibition includes visitor favorites such as Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculptures, a four-faced Hamat'sa mask, and artworks by Frederic Remington and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Drawing stations for visitors to use in Stampede, in front of Deborah Butterfield’s sculptures Willy, Argus, and Lucky (1996-97). Painted and patinated bronze. Funds from the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank Trustees, 1996.198.1-3. ©Deborah Butterfields

Visitors can explore drawing in the gallery, spend time closely looking at smaller objects in a “cabinet of curiosities” and stop by A Walk in the Woods on level 3 for animal-inspired activities. Stampede also features an interactive space where visitors can learn about the creative process behind the Never Alone video game created by Native North Alaskan storytellers. Note: The Stampede galleries on level 4 will close April 19 to be reinstalled with the first phase of The Light Show, which will open on May 19. A 45-minute public tour of Stampede is available daily at 1 p.m. through May 4. Included with general admission, which is free for DAM members and youth 18 and younger.


Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze

Through Aug. 18

Showcasing 29 paintings by Denver-born artist Jordan Casteel, now based in Harlem, New York, this presentation represents Casteel’s first major museum exhibition, and provides audiences with a first look at new work by one of the most acclaimed emerging artists working today. Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze brings together a body of work made from 2014 to 2018, with 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 offered daily at 2 p.m. Included with general admission, which is free for DAM members and youth 18 and younger. #JordanCasteelatDAM

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-related programming

Drop-In Writing

May 28, 13 p.m.

Explore your creativity through the written word in our informal writing sessions led by Michael Henry, executive director of Lighthouse Writers Workshop. This month take inspiration from Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze. Bring your own writing projects or get started on something new. Open to all levels, from published authors to the occasional journaler! Materials provided. Included with general admission, which is free for DAM members and youth 18 and younger. No reservations required.

Eyes On: Erika Harrsch

Through Nov. 17

Erika Harrsch, a New York-based artist who was born and raised in Mexico City, first exhibited her project Under the Same Sky… We Dream in El Paso in 2017 just as regulations became more stringent for those seeking asylum in the United States. This multi-media installation comprises imagery, music, text and furnishings that reference the circumstances faced by immigrants and refugees subject to the DREAM Act. Vocalist Magos Herrara collaborated with Harrsch to produce the soundtrack for the installation. Included with general admission, which is free for DAM members and youth 18 and younger. #ErikaHarrschatDAM

Gallery view of Treasures of British Art: The Berger Collection.

Treasures of British Art: The Berger Collection

Through Jan. 5, 2020

This exhibition showcases about 60 paintings gifted to the museum by the Berger Collection Educational Trust (BCET) in 2018—the largest gift of European old masters to the DAM since the museum received the Kress Collection in the 1950s. Treasures of British Art 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


Free First Saturday

May 4, 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., and a Spanish-language tour of Stampede at 1 p.m. Stop by the Print Studio for artist demonstrations from noon to 3 p.m. Free general admission tickets 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

May 8, 10 a.m.1 p.m.

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. Meet near A Walk in the Woods on level 3 for program location.

Foxy and Shmoxy: Art Detectives

May 12, 10:30 & 11:30 a.m.

Help Foxy and Shmoxy, the DAM's art detectives! Find the mailbox in the first level lobby and pick up a letter from the foxes directing you to the mystery in the galleries. There are two chances to see the foxes in action: 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger. No reservations required. (The foxes will be on summer break June-August, returning in September.)

Print Studio

Through May 5, 2019

Design your own printing plate, experiment with color and layering and learn about the magic of reverse image and making the most of multiples. On May 4 and 5, watch artist Virginia Diaz Saiki’s demonstration, Collagraphy: Neighborhood Monsters, from noon to 3 p.m. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.


Image courtesy of Dr. Bilha Moor.

East Asian Symbols in Islamic Painting with Dr. Bilha Moor

May 15, noon (doors open at 11:30 a.m.)

East Asian symbols have been found in Islamic art and architecture since the Abbasid period (9th century CE), but has their meaning migrated with them? Dr. Bilha Moor, assistant professor of Islamic art at the University of Denver, will present an overview of the reception of East Asian forms in Islamic art, and discuss images in Islamic illustrated manuscripts that bear a striking resemblance to the East Asian symbol of the ‘Dark Warrior’—an entwined tortoise and snake. Free for members of the Asian Art Association, $5 for DAM members, teachers and students, $10 for others. Sponsored by the Asian Art Association, a DAM support group.

Mindful Looking: Architecture of the Hamilton Building

May 21, 1 p.m.

Designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the DAM’s Hamilton Building is an expression of energy and creativity. Tour and explore this dynamic piece of architecture from multiple perspectives with interpretive specialist Ann Lambson. Every month, Mindful Looking invites you to slow down and spend time with a single work of art. Discover overlooked details, explore ideas and make connections as we linger, look and discuss. Included with general admission, which is free for members and youth 18 and younger.

Charles Ratton and the Invention of the Modern “Tribal Art” Market with Dr. John Warne Monroe

May 23, 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:50 p.m.)

In its general aesthetic approach, the present-day market for historical African, Oceanic and Native American art relies heavily on the norms and values that govern the market for modern and contemporary art. However, its conception of authenticity and approach to connoisseurship derive from the antiques trade. This unique mixture is largely due to the innovative commercial strategies developed by noted dealer Charles Ratton between 1927 and 1939.

Dr. John Warne Monroe is an associate professor of history at Iowa State University and author. His book, Metropolitan Fetish: African Sculpture and the Imperial French Invention of Primitive Art, will be out in September 2019. $5 for Friends of Native Arts members, $10 for DAM members, $12 for others. Sponsored by Friends of Native Arts: The Douglas Society, a DAM support group.

Untitled Final Friday: “Sit. Stand. Play.”

May 31, 610 p.m.

May's Untitled Final Friday highlights the creative practice of Kenzie Sitterud, with the theme "Sit. Stand. Play." inspired by Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America. Each month at Untitled Final Friday, you can explore new perspectives inspired by artwork on view with performances, tours, artmaking activities, a cash bar and yummy eats available from a different food truck each month. Free for DAM 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

Talk at 12 Tours

Wednesdays & Fridays, noon

Join a docent for a 30-minute, in-depth look at an aspect of the museum’s collections or something special happening in the galleries. Included in general admission. Meet in the first level elevator lobby of the Hamilton Building. Topics this month: May 1 & 3—Allan Ramsay, Portraitist; May 8 & 10—Mark Bradford’s Realness; May 15 & 17—Erika Harrsch: Under the Same Sky; May 22 & 24—Jonathan Saiz: What Is Utopia?; and May 29 & 31—A New Way of Living (Serious Play).

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

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