When you think of Colorado what is the first thing that comes to mind??
If you are like me I have thoughts of snow capped mountains, beautiful lakes and wildlife. I also think of the cities known for their sports and a handful of movies which reference the state. But one thing I never really have thought much of when it comes to Colorado is the art, boy was I wrong!!
Just a short drive north of Denver, the community of Loveland brought to my attention a side of Colorado which I had never really put much thought into. Sure, I was familiar with some of the larger sculptures of Denver like the big blue bear and the broom and dust pan, but being in a metropolitan area, that is typical. But Loveland was different, a smaller community with a HUGE legacy in art.
I was drawn in almost by accident when passing though the area on the way to Estes Park and a sign drew me into he Chapungu Sculpture Park. With a name like Chapungu in the midst Colorado I was intrigued, pulled over and started down the path of discovery which led me to an amazing park which told the stories of the Zimbabwe people.
The Chapungu Collective itself was founded in 1970 by Roy Guthrie, an African Art Promoter and Advocate. The location, while unlikely now occupies 26 acres in the midst of Loveland, Colorado. The park carries the mission statement of promoting Stone Sculptors of Zimbabwe through world wide exhibitions, documentation and workshops, makes viewers aware of expressive power of the contemporary African Artists and brings awareness of the culture.
Now visitors from around the world can plan trip or stumble upon this amazing location and, like myself, enjoy a leisurely walk through the garden of so many messages. There are 8 themed areas within the collection of now 82 monuments which highlight the life and times of the villages of Zimbabwe and paint the story of the world from which they live. Including Nature and Environment, Village Life, The Role Of Women, The Elders, The Spirit World, The Family, The Children and Customs And Legends the park conveys relatable stories which no matter the difference in culture and belief you can find that you will have a common thread to relate.
The park opens at 6 a.m. and is open til 10 p.m. nightly.
I personally found the location early on Monday morning. I parked in the adjacent lot used for business and made my way into the park. There are numerous entrances you can enter the park through, each starts you in a different area of the story and collection. I began at entry 8, where I was quickly immersed into the story of the legends. This story depicted a vivid representation of the gods for and their impact on the culture.
No matter your belief system, the stories shared through the art are amazing and intriguing. I found that as I roamed deeper and deeper into the park that it was almost as through I was reading a story as the sculptures one by one played a part of the unfolding of the information and collectively created small relatable books. Each new theme could be seen emerging as though it was a new chapter in the greater story as a whole.
The park is a preservation vehicle for the unique sculptures but also for the areas wildlife and vegetation. As a part of the high desert, the area creates zones which foster growth of prairie style grasses, allows safe harbor for small animals and creates a haven for the sounds of nature in the midst of the urban setting.
You can peacefully walk throughout the entire park or explore on large handicap accessible paths which circle. Restrooms are provided, benches are frequent and shade is abundant for the warm summer days.
The unique and beautiful quickly will have you changing your mind in regards to what you think of when it comes to Colorado. From seemingly a world away to something in our own backyards the love for art, the expression of culture and the intrigue of education merge in the community of Loveland.