Chalk Art Festival, Denver

Some of Colorado’s most breathtaking sights are found in art museums

As you come in for a landing in Denver or Colorado Springs, some of America’s most awe-inspiring backdrops are right in front of you. The Rocky Mountains rise higher than 14,000 feet on 53 peaks, which makes Colorado far and away the most dramatically elevated state in the nation. Toss in rocky canyons, rushing rivers, deep forests and alpine lakes, and it’s obvious a wildly inspired Mother Nature has painted this state as an artistic “canvas” unlike any other.

As a result, we may understandably overlook the many spectacular canvases painted in the Centennial State. The same may be said for creations by human hands that carve, weave, sculpt and fire their kilns. Often, these artworks are crafted of materials more common in construction or engineering, dam-building or technology. The landscapes inspire artists to conceive boundary-breaking as well as beautifully traditional art.

Whatever the reason, Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs are alive with vibrant communities of visual artists. The state is increasingly becoming known as much for its artists, world-class art facilities and arresting mix of traditional and push-the-envelope art forms as it is for its nature-created wonders. This, in turn, has made it an especially alluring meetings destination.

Boulder’s Bold Art

Boulder’s got one foot in yesterday, one foot in tomorrow and both feet in art.

Boulder is, well, bold. This town has always fostered an environment that encourages artistic expression of all kinds. Boulder has the eighth-highest concentration of artists in the country, along with more than 30 art galleries, four museums, 32 movie and stage theaters, and a huge variety of cultural performances each year. Many of these facilities have meeting or event space for rent.

The highly regarded Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is filled with works from well-known artists from all over the globe, in gallery spaces that can also be used for meetings or events.

The museum count will soon jump to five. The brand-new Museum of Boulder will open early next year in the former Masonic Lodge building. This state-of-the-art facility will delve into Boulder’s past, present and future, and include the work of many Colorado artists. The facility will also have meeting space, although plans have yet to be finalized.

Dairy Arts Center, Boulder

After an extensive renovation, Dairy Arts Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary. This venue for the performing, cinematic and visual arts (in four different galleries) features imaginative displays you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Four separate theaters are available for rental, with seating ranging from 70 to 250.

In Boulder, even the hotels are artistic. Hotel Boulderado, for example, is itself a work of art dating from 1909. With 160 guest rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, the building has a red-brick exterior and fanciful interiors of Old West and Victorian decor. Many furnishings are considered artworks. No less artful is St. Julien Hotel & Spa. With 201 guest rooms and 16,518 sq. ft. of meeting space, this architecturally striking hotel is filled with eclectic design elements.

Boulder will be welcoming two new, side-by-side hotels by the beginning of next year. Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder and Hilton Garden Inn Boulder will offer two price points, with a combined 375 rooms. The 8,435 sq. ft. of meeting space at the two properties will comprise the largest hotel meeting space in the city. Another welcome addition to the city’s hotel inventory, Residence Inn Canyon Boulevard, will be opening early next year, with 155 guest rooms, space for intimate meetings and 1,006 sq. ft. of event space.

“Boulder’s a very historic town, and its artsy flavor is even symbolized in its beautiful old buildings, which are lovingly preserved,” says Lindsay Rogers, program associate for WaterNow Alliance, a San Francisco-based organization assisting cities in their sustainability efforts. Rogers brought 140 attendees to Boulder for the WaterNow Alliance Annual Summit in April.

“What better place to hold our meeting than in a city known for its conservation ethic and love of the outdoors?” Rogers asks. “The downtown is compact and walkable. The University of Colorado is right in town, with its great museums. The dining is eclectic. And the city is very much geared to outdoor activity.”

Boulder Marriott
Walking distance to downtown, University of Colorado; fitness center; on-site Starbuck’s; Canyons Restaurant & Bar features farm-to-table offerings; 157 guest rooms; 4,979 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Colorado Chautauqua
Features classes, symposiums and lectures by renowned figures; at the foot of Flatiron Range; excellent dining; 58 rustic, but fully equipped cottages; six meeting spaces, with capacities from 25 to 100.
Hotel Boulderado
Legendary Western hotel opened 1909; Victorian-era, Western furnishings; lobby with brass railings and grand staircase; restaurant, two bars; pool; 160 guest rooms; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hyatt Place Boulder/Pearl Street
Located in new Junction Place district; Gallery Market open 24/7; free hot breakfast; 24-hour fitness center; Coffee to Cocktails Bar; 150 guest rooms; 4,963 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Millennium Harvest House Boulder
Modern hotel set on 16 downtown acres; Thyme on the Creek offers fine dining; mountain views; tranquil outdoor meeting spaces; business center; 269 guest rooms; 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
St. Julien Hotel & Spa
Stunningly designed hotel, with stylish decor and art; award-winning Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro; English-style afternoon tea; luxurious Spa St. Julien; 201 guest rooms; 16,518 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space.
University of Colorado
More than 25 areas available for rental, including Rec Center, Center for British Studies, Coors Events Center, CU Art Museum, Fiske Planetarium and spaces at 65,000-seat Folsom Field football stadium.

Colorado Springs was Founded on Art

Colorado Springs was envisioned as a “little London,” an oasis of culture in the Wild West, when it was founded in 1871 by Gen. William Jackson Palmer. Only a few decades later, in 1919, The Broadmoor Art Academy was established in the former home of Spencer Penrose, who built The Broadmoor resort. Before long, the city was attracting artists from around the country. It is now a center of world-class art.

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

The Broadmoor (see sidebar) is art incarnate—a peach-colored Italian Renaissance palace in the Great American West. This world-class resort offers 784 guest rooms, 185,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, three pools, an acclaimed spa, a fitness center, 16 restaurants, an Irish pub, three championship golf courses and 24 retail shops.

Fittingly, the Italianate palace also showcases one of the world’s greatest collections of Western Art. The collection is on long-term loan from The American Museum of Western Art in Denver, and is owned by the same entrepreneur who owns the resort. Last year, The Broadmoor opened Estate House, a historic mansion with 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs

Colorado’s second-largest city is also known for nearby Pikes Peak, U.S. Air Force Academy and Olympic Training Center.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College creates a unique artistic environment for meeting attendees, as exemplified by its spectacular Smith Gallery Glass Corridor. This elegant building, too, is an artwork; it’s a 1936 structure that somehow harmoniously combines Art Deco with a Southwest aesthetic. There is flexible event space, indoors and out, for 400.

ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy, Colorado Springs

This being the West, of course, you might want to consider holding your meeting surrounded by the historic artifacts of a prototypically American sport in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. Meeting space there totals 11,700 sq. ft., with a beautiful garden outside.

Colorado Springs welcomed a new meetings hotel in January. Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs is a family-friendly resort with 311 guest rooms, 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, a fitness center and eight restaurants, as well as attractions such as water parks, stuffed-animal making classes, ropes courses, gold panning and a kids’ spa.

In addition, Hilton Garden Inn Colorado Springs will open late this year with 154 guest rooms and 2,400 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Jessica Kokos, meetings and education planner for the Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association, brought 759 attendees to Colorado Springs in March.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

“It was our first time there, and the CVB was great,” she says. “It’s really a vibrant city, surrounded by natural wonders like the Garden of the Gods—awesome! Some of us also took a hike up to the top of Seven Falls. And our attendees loved the art at The Broadmoor; it was so interesting to see this quintessentially American art in a classic European ambience. In fact, several of our people said they want to come back with their families.”

Cheyenne Mountain Resort
Colorado Springs landmark; three restaurants; 35-acre lake with Colorado’s only beach; Pete Dye golf course; spa; fitness center; five pools; 316 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of IACC-certified meeting space.
Colorado Springs Marriott
Free shuttle around town; fire pit; fitness center with pool; signature restaurant The Ascent, with regional cuisine; 309 guest rooms; 26,823 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs
Opened in January; area’s only indoor water park; family-friendly resort; fitness center; eight dining options; 311 guest rooms; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hotel Elegante Conference & Event Center
Old-Time charm; indoor and outdoor pools; Gateway Massage; 24-hour fitness center; business center; two restaurants, bakery-ice cream shop; 500 guest rooms; 61,382 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Antlers, a Wyndham Hotel
European palace-like hotel that opened in 1883; business center; fitness center; spa; views of Pikes Peak; elegant Antlers Grille features American cuisine; indoor pool; 273 guest rooms; 27,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Broadmoor
One of America’s great hotels, a palace in the Rockies; longest-running Five Star, Five Diamond resort in the world; 16 restaurants; renowned spa; magnificent art; three championship golf courses; 784 guest rooms; 185,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Broadmoor World Arena
Hosts hundreds of business, sports, entertainment events annually; adjoining Ice Hall is U.S. Olympic training site; Penrose Club for elegant meals; 8,000-seat arena; 19,500 square-foot exhibit floor.
The Club at Garden of the Gods
Surrounded by 100-foot sandstone monoliths; infinity pool; championship golf; fitness center; full-service spa; 56 guest rooms, with views; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Denver: World-Class City, World-Class Art

Once a rowdy cow town, Denver is now an impressive array of shiny-glass skyscrapers, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Front Range of the Rockies.

Brown Palace Hotel and Spa Joy Meadows, Denver

The city combines a colorful past with a pulsating art and cultural scene that is evident seemingly everywhere you look. Locals say the city’s most revered treasure is the graceful Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, which opened in 1892. Restored to its original glory, it’s once again the grand dame of Denver hotels. Across the street, in another beautifully preserved historic building, is American Museum of Western Art, perhaps the greatest collection of Western paintings in the world.

The museum has a collection featuring artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, N.C. Wyeth and Thomas Hart Benton. Meeting planners can utilize reception space for 130 and seated-dinner space for 70. Attendees have access to the entire museum, which was once Denver’s busiest bordello!

Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum’s dramatic Frederic C. Hamilton Building, designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is considered an architectural masterwork. In addition, the museum’s iconic North Building will soon undergo a $150 million revitalization. In this building, you can stage an event for up to 3,000 people.

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver brings a whole new meaning to the word “contemporary,” and it will certainly widen your own horizons. The museum, in a brash David Adjaye-designed building in trendy LoDo (Lower Downtown), is an incubator for art and ideas, artistic exchange and dialogue. It presents exhibitions featuring local and other artists, and offers programs that explore the relationship between art and contemporary life. Up on the rooftop, MCA Cafe offers 1,100 sq. ft. for events and a 360-degree view of the city.

The Art, a Hotel, Denver

Denver even has a hotel that’s an art museum. At The Art, a Hotel, you can’t enter a guest room or roam the halls without seeing works by noted contemporary artists. The hotel has 165 guest rooms, 4,100 sq. ft. of meeting space and floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outside in. Opened two years ago, readers of USA Today voted The Art, a Hotel one of the top five new hotels in America.

Other recent and notable hotels include The Maven in the LoDo district, with 172 guest rooms and 2,100 sq. ft. for meetings. True to the Denver ethic, the hotel has 400 works by local artists. Another new artsy hotel is Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown, with 180 guest rooms and 1,388 sq. ft. of meeting space. It features hardwood floors, interior sliding barn doors, and paintings depicting Denver and Rocky Mountain scenes in guest rooms and public spaces.

Kimpton Hotel Born opened in July, with 200 guest rooms and 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. It’s situated in a cultural landmark itself, the old Union Station, a Denver landmark that’s had as many lives as a cat. Originally built in 1881, the station burned down in 1894, and has been re-built a couple of times since.

For much of the 20th century, it served as a major Western transportation hub, until falling into disrepair with the decline of rail travel. In 2012, it was given yet another life—as a transportation, lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment nexus. Now it’s thronged with people day and night. This wonderful old building is considered a work of art, too, and still retains the Beaux Arts style with which it was endowed during its last rebuilding in 1914.

Colorado Convention Center
Modern glass exterior brings the Rocky Mountains inside; striking artworks throughout; award-winning sustainability programs; 2.2 million sq. ft. of space.
Denver Marriott City Center
Glass hotel; Rocky Mountain views; fitness center; pool; Prospect’s Urban Kitchen and Bar; 613 guest rooms; 50,934 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Grand Hyatt Denver
Downtown location, close to shopping, dining, attractions; 38th-floor Pinnacle Club Conference Center; fitness center; Pub17 restaurant; on-site Starbuck’s; 516 guest rooms; 52,600 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hotel Teatro
Boutique hotel in trendy LoDo district; built in 1911 as Denver Tramway Building; two restaurants; 24-hour fitness center; 110 guest rooms; 5,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center
City and mountain views; close to convention center; upscale restaurant and rooftop lounge; spa; health club with lap pool; 1,100 guest rooms; 60,600 sq. ft. of meeting and event space.
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel
Close to attractions, museums, shopping and convention center; Yard House offers upscale American cuisine; fitness center; outdoor pool; 1,231 guest rooms; 133,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa
Classic Western hotel now celebrating its 125th birthday; fitness center; three restaurants, two bars; afternoon tea; legends and ghost stories; 241 guest rooms; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space.
The Curtis–a DoubleTree by Hilton
Stylish, avant garde hotel with 13 differently themed floors; near 16th Street Mall; impressive art; Corner Office Restaurant & Martini Bar; 336 guest rooms; 28,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

American Museum of Western Art

Philip Anschutz thinks big. He’s built an estimated $12 billion fortune in ventures that include oil, technology, entertainment, real estate and sports. He owns 300,000 acres—that’s right, 300,000—in Wyoming, on which he’s planning to build the world’s largest wind farm. He owns one of America’s greatest resorts, The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs.

He also collects Western Art, and arguably has the best private collection in America. And he donated 400 of his artworks to establish American Museum of Western Art (pictured) in Denver in 2012—creating the world’s greatest public collection of this art.

Here, you’ll find “schools” going as far back as when the “West” was still really in the East. The collection stretches back 200 years, to the Expeditionary and Hudson River schools, and takes us through the New Deal School of the 1930s and into modern times.

Your group will see paintings by immortals such as George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, N. C. Wyeth, Ernest Blumenschein, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keefe, Thomas Hart Benton, Helen Frankenthaler and Maxfield Parrish, as well as more contemporary figures including R. Brownell McGrew, whose portraits of Native Americans are almost haunting in their authenticity.

The Anschutz Collection is housed in the historic Navarre Building, built in 1880 as a school for young ladies. Since then, it’s been a hotel, private club, restaurant and nightclub. Its most famous incarnation, though, was as Denver’s most fashionable bordello. So fashionable, in fact, that it was patronized by many local political and civic leaders, who would book a night at The Brown Palace Hotel across the street and sneak through an underground tunnel to get to the bordello without being seen.

Steve Winston is an award-winning writer who has traveled extensively and writes for national and international magazines.