The art of the library: new exhibit showcases Denver Public Library treasures

Husband-wife team donate time, talent and art to curate “A Visual Rendezvous”

Art collectors and philanthropists Deb and Warren Wadsworth believe that an important aspect of art is that it is shared. The husband-wife team have given their time and expertise to curate a new exhibit, “A Visual Rendezvous,” in the Vida Ellison Gallery at the Central Library, which features the best of the library’s 5,000-piece Western Art collection.

Not only have the Wadsworths given countless hours, but they donated pieces from their personal collection. To them, it’s all part of giving back to their community. The exhibit features paintings, prints and sculptures with categories such as nineteenth century, Works Progress Administration, Latino, Western photographs, Native American and recent acquisitions.

“Deb and Warren are remarkable advocates for the library,” says Western History and Genealogy manager Jim Kroll. “They donated several pieces from their collection and also brought their knowledge and passion to this exhibit.”

We recently caught up with Deb and Warren to ask them about the project.

How does it feel to see this amazing art come together as an exhibit?
Warren: It’s rewarding to see so many pieces that haven’t been on display for a long time or in some cases ever on display.
Deb: I’m amazed at the diversity of the collection. There is so much variety. It’s really sort of exhilarating.

What are some of your favorite pieces and why?
Warren:  I love the big Di Benedetto sculpture and the Sushi Felix above it. I think they are having a great conversation.
Deb: I’m particularly fond of the historic pieces because that’s the type of art Warren and I have collected for over 45 years. I especially love the Elisabeth Spalding of the waterfall, a piece that only recently came into the DPL collection. But I have to say, I love so many of these works, it’s like being asked who your favorite child is.

Were there any challenges with this endeavor?
Warren: Yes, trying to figure out how to hang paintings from so many different styles in a coherent way.
Deb: Choosing pieces from such a huge variety in the collection. I wanted to hang them all. We hung over a hundred works but that’s less than one percent of the collection of originals and prints.

So far, what has been the best part of this project?
Warren: Seeing the DPL employees’ reactions to the art and how positive they’ve been.
Deb: Hearing the responses from customers seeing the art and having such individual responses. Everybody is picking a favorite piece and they’re all different.

Do you have a philosophy about art being shared?
Warren: Seeing the real art rather than depictions of it enhances the appreciation of the art. A photo doesn’t convey the immediacy of the real painting.
Deb: Some of the historic art is too fragile to display for long (we will be rotating pieces) but, for me, art lives when it is viewed so display brings the art alive.

Tell us about the art you donated and why.
Warren: The progression of Colorado art is a particular interest of ours. We had a few pieces that filled in gaps in the collection, from some artists who were noted in their time but have been forgotten. The Denver Public Library is an ongoing resource for Colorado historic art.
Deb: We had some little pieces that we thought would be helpful to researchers and others and should be shared.

Why do you believe it's important that the public be able to enjoy this art?
Warren: Museums can feel intimidating. The library is one of the few places to see this kind of art in a friendly, non-intimidating location that can be a great introduction to art.
Deb: The Denver Public Library’s collection is so diverse–there’s something for everybody to love. And there’s a chance to expand your acquaintance and appreciation of some types of art you might not have interacted with before. The collection has so many purposes, not only appreciation of the art for its own sake, but for its historical and research values as well.

Anything else you would like to share?
Warren: Seem some of the art is like visiting family after a long absence. There are lots of warm feelings seeing works we’ve loved for years.
Deb: It’s going to be wonderful for more people to become acquainted with the library’s important collection. Many people know about the photographic collection or the genealogy collection. I’m so happy for the art to be out for more people to see.

“A Visual Rendezvous” will be on display for the remainder of the year.



Written by ChrisH on September 10, 2018

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