We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Clapper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
When one becomes involved in public art, and after they win the commission, they effectively become a general contractor. Designing the piece while researching the site and tying the theme into the community is the fun (art) part. What happens next is the real work. First there’s obtaining an engineer. Preferably someone who works with artists. After the piece is tweaked so that it will last the test of time, and satisfies the stakeholders, there’s production. This often involves working with various sub-contractors such as: graphics experts, metal and stone fabricators, painters, lighting specialists, trucking firms and installation teams. All of these various teams have to be coordinated to insure a seamless transition from concept to installation. It takes skills (and patience) that have to be honed over time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a sculptor who works within two disciplines. First and foremost I do public art. This is where I design for municipalities and civic organizations to try and capture the essence of the site. This involves research into the site’s history, and of course, the site’s current, or projected use. Secondly, I make my own, personal if you will, work that I show at the William Havu Gallery here in Denver. This is my opportunity to create sculpture that comes from within myself, using minimal styling and imagery that resonates with me, free of outside restraints. I find it refreshing to be able to go back and forth between the two. My path to a successful career in the arts was not direct, nor easy. I started out in woodworking and historic restoration as a young man, Left wanting creatively, I moved into one-off furniture, and then onto sculpture. There, I felt I’d finally found my home. Marrying my approach to designing for spaces with my interest in sculpture morphed into public art. Once I finally went out on my own, I told myself that would never go back to work for anyone again, and that would try to do something everyday to insure the success of my business. That was a long time ago, and I’m still creating!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, pre-pandemic anyway, I’d combine a tour of nature and culture. Denver has both in spades so mixing them is easy. A typical day might start with a hike to one of my favorite spots on the front range. After catching breakfast at Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax, we’d head to the either the trailhead at Apex, or if my friend was in really good shape, the trailhead to the hike up Mt. Morrison behind Red Rocks. Happy hour would include stopping at my all-time favorite bar, the Thin Man. The place is in my old neighborhood of Cheesman Park and has a unique vibe that seems to attract other artists and writers. For dinner we might swing by Tommy’s Thai in the same area on East Colfax, or take a short drive down to the RINO district where my old studio used to be. The area has transformed into one of the fastest growing, and hippest spots in town. There are too many places to name, but all one has to do is walk a block in any direction to find and amazing restaurant or club. Hit repeat for the next few days to have yourself an amazing time in an amazing city! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Most of my instructors in design school were Brits who had attended the Royal College of Art and Design before coming to teach at the school I attended in upstate New York. What they instilled in me was a philosophy, or approach, to the way I viewed an upcoming commission. Even though the discipline was different, (I studied one-off furniture design) the approach carried over to public art very well.
Website: www.michaelclapperstudios.com (new site coming soon)