Sculpture brings life to gardens, and perhaps nobody in metro Denver understands that truth more than the people at the Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA). Now in its 32nd year, John W. Madden, Jr. and his daughter Cynthia Madden Leitner founded the Museum of Outdoor Arts to integrate fine art, architecture, and landscape design into the local community and business environment, offering art as a part of everyday life.
MOA extends Denver’s reputation for fine art from the city to the suburbs and concerns itself with site-specific public art: just the right pieces in just the right places. MOA includes indoor galleries at its headquarters in Englewood Civic Center, but gardeners will especially enjoy MOA’s outdoor installations in metro Denver business parks and other public places.
One of MOA’s most popular sites is Samson Park, a sculpture park adjacent to Fiddler’s Green, MOA’s outdoor amphitheatre. But you don’t need a concert ticket to enjoy Samson Park. Entrance to the park is free of charge, and in addition to a wide variety of sculpture, visitors can enjoy inspiring views of Colorado’s Front Range.
Visit Samson Park virtually: check out the slide show at left.
Samson Park includes a one-of-a-kind installation of half a dozen bronze sculptures by Harry Marinsky.MOA’s founder and executive director Cynthia Madden Leitner developed an interest in the characters from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll as a girl. She still admires Alice, she admits in a question and answer session about Marinsky’s Alice in Wonderland series in MOA’s Samson Park.
• Why are the sculptures depicting characters from “Alice in Wonderland” ideal for MOA’s Samson Park?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: Samson Park was designed with a featured- vignette style of English Garden art with botanicals in which Alice in Wonderland completely fit as an installation for the park. Anyway, Samson Park started as a “story park.” The gate is Victorian; the cupola by the Queen of Hearts is also from a building in London. There is also a path established through the park that follows the story line.
• How did Samson Park get its name?
Samson [a small dog sculpture memorializing a beloved Madden family pet] was the first piece installed. The story behind Samson is consistent with Donegal’s Bobby. Walt Disney made a wonderful movie about this famous dog. Edinburgh has wonderful sculpture dedicated to Bobby with a doggie drinking fountain.
• What was your early interest in the book? What drew you in to the story?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: I’ve always liked the adventure side of Alice. And the illustrations. Harry Marinsky’s bronze “Alice” pieces are very much like the Sir John Tenniel drawings in the book by Louis Carroll. Many of us were read the story of Alice and the Disney movie brought a lot of popularity in the 50’s. By the time the 60’s came around, our generation was including Alice references in rock and roll. There was the psychedelic side of Alice, too.
• Tell us a bit about Harry Marinsky and these pieces. They’re bronze? Were they created with the lost wax process? They’re big pieces. How much do they weigh?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: The challenge for Harry was to model the drawings from the original book in three dimensions and keep with the original lines.
Yes, they are bronze pieces cast using the lost wax process. They weigh between 400 pounds for the White Rabbit to 3,800 pounds for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
• Did you acquire the pieces all together, or piece by piece?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: We commissioned the installation—it’s one of a kind–and it took several years to purchase each piece before they were installed in Carson Park prior to the gardens being created in Samson Park in 2007.
• When did you acquire the pieces?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: From 1992 until 1999. The collection began with the contribution of the “White Rabbit” and was completed with “Alice and the Cheshire Cat.” There are six pieces altogether: White Rabbit, Alice and the Caterpillar, Father William, Alice and the Cheshire Cat, The Tea Party, and last but not least the Queen of Hearts.
Harry would complete one; I would raise the dollars, and it would be sent from the foundry Pietrasanta, Italy.
• What are some favorite details you’d like to point out to visitors?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: We give the line of the story when each character is met in the park. I like the detail about what made the Mad Hatter mad: the glue used to make hats.” Look for the wonderful bronze stamp that the foundry in Italy put on each piece. Sometimes we tell a bit from the Father William poem.
The Tea Party was in Rodney Dangerfield’s movie “Ladybugs” while it was temporarily placed at Harlequin Plaza in Greenwood Village, Colorado.
• Anything else you’d like to add about the Alice series?
We installed the pieces carefully to place them in the order that Alice meets the characters in the novel.
Anything else about Samson Park you’d like to add?
Cynthia Madden Leitner: Samson Park is a magical place! We encourage you to visit. And we also offer bang up tours.
Note to readers:
Samson Park also includes other sculptural art works, including Weidenblume. With gardens and trees, as well as sculpture, Samson Park is a perfect place to take children, an ideal spot for a romantic date, or a place to contemplate the wonders of nature and art, creation and creativity.
For more information about the Museum of Outdoor Arts, check out their website, www.moaonline.org, as well as the links provided below
Museum of Outdoor Arts’ Sculpture Garden
I included Samson Park in an article I wrote for The Denver Post about museum gardens. Click this link below for details about other gardens at or near Denver museums.
Denver’s Museum Gardens
••• “Cultivate your corner of the world.
You grow your garden; your garden grows you.” •••
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• Colleen Smith’s first novel, “Glass Halo”—a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize — is available in hardcover or e—book.
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