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DU's Connections to Downtown Denver

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Alyssa Hurst

Walk around downtown, and you’ll find the DU spirit everywhere, if you just know where to look.

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The University of Denver is only 7 miles and a handful of light rail stops from downtown Denver. Over the school’s long history, that proximity has allowed DU’s reach to seep far beyond campus into the city’s core. 



With his snout and paws pressed curiously against the Denver Convention Center’s glass, the famed big blue bear is Denver’s favorite giant blue mammal (a close second goes to the Denver International Airport’s notorious rearing mustang, nicknamed Blucifer.) While most locals simply call the statue Blue Bear, his real name is “I See What You Mean,” a title given by his creator, the late Lawrence Argent. Argent’s works have won him international acclaim, but around campus he’s remembered as a treasured member of the family, having taught in DU’s School of Art and Art History for more than 20 years. So while the big guy’s blue hue is unmistakable, take a closer look and you might see a wash of crimson and gold.



Expecting out-of-town arts lovers? Direct them to the Brown Palace or Renaissance Marriott for a touch of art royalty. The hotels themselves are worth seeing for their architecture alone: The Brown Palace is one of Denver’s oldest and most beloved establishments, and the Renaissance Marriott was built inside the stunning former home of the Colorado National Bank. Both are home to murals that depict Western history and show off the considerable talents of DU alumnus Allen Tupper True. Tupper True, an American art pioneer, spent two years studying at DU and would go on to elevate several Denver sites with his famous works. The Renaissance Marriott is home to “Indian Memories,” a series of 16 murals completed in 1925, and the Brown Palace’s walls are graced by two transportation-themed murals circa 1937. Those aren’t the only Tupper True paintings on display downtown. Keep an eye out for them as you explore.


Milk Market

Don’t worry: Denver is not missing out on the food-hall trend. In fact, for those who like to pair their arepas with poke and soft serve, Denver has plenty of options, including Avanti Food & Beverage, Zeppelin Station and The Source. And at the Denver Milk Market, the trend gets a DU twist. That’s because the man behind the milk, Frank Bonanno, counts himself as a DU alumnus. With several successful restaurant concepts under his belt, Bonanno’s Milk Market occupies a block just south of Coors Field and offers pre- and postgame treats. For another alum-owned food-hall experience, venture just outside the city to Aurora to snack at Stanley Marketplace, founded by Mark Shaker (MBA ’11).


Wellington Webb

Say you’re plopped down at Civic Center Park after a tour of Denver’s top sites. You’ve halted traffic for the perfect Instagram shot under the lights of Larimer Square and climbed up the golden dome of the Capitol building. Now, you’re wondering what to see next. Direct your attention to the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, which blends a mid-century modern edifice with a crisp addition. On first glance, its starched name and clean lines strike you as a pretty interesting blend of architectural panache. Better yet, its past is a treasure trove for DU history buffs. Built in 1949, the building’s original purpose was to house the University of Denver Law School. Though the law school now has an expansive building on DU’s University Park campus, the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building is a reminder of DU’s longstanding history in downtown Denver.



In 2016, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art literally picked up namesake Vance Kirkland’s former studio and carted it all the way to the museum’s new location in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District. The museum is home to a mesmerizing trio of collections — one focusing on the internationally renowned artist’s work, one showcasing the works of Colorado artists and one spotlighting the decorative arts — celebrated by art buffs. Beyond its value to the local art community though, the museum represents one of DU’s boldest marks on the larger art world. In fact, it was Vance Kirkland who served as founding director of the University’s School of Art and Art History, and the modern artist spent more than 25 years pushing DU art students to new heights. Among the DU alums and professors exhibited at the Kirkland are the late potter Mark Zamantakis (BFA ’50, MA ’51) and former DU ceramics professor Maynard Tischler.

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