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Posted: December 22, 2009

A travel agent’s take on the big, blue DIA mustang

I admit it -- I don't have an artistic bone in my body

Robert Polk


Many of you may be familiar with my weekly newsletter, which I have had the pleasure of producing 45 to 50 times per year for almost 20 years. From time to time I am bound to make someone mad.

Well, it has happened again.

If you are a loyal reader of my newsletter, you will know that I have pulled no punches on my thoughts about the DIA Horse. If you are a not a loyal reader (shame on you!), I have said on several occasions that I think the statue is evil and mad-looking and not at all a welcoming sight for new visitors to our great state.

One of my very good and longtime customers called me several weeks ago and said they were not very happy with me and my very vocal opinion of the DIA Horse. The Western States Art Federation (WESTAF) asked me if I would come by their offices to discuss the issue.

(Before I go any further, I feel compelled to warn you that I do not have an artistic bone in my body. When artistic talent was being handed out, I must have been on the golf course. Because of my lack of artistic talent, I have no idea what makes great art and what make art that is not so great. I'm just a good Southern boy who lets my wife decorate the house and does not attempt to take credit for her art selections.)

I arrived at WESTAF and was greeted by Anthony Radich, WESTAF's Executive Director, and Raquel Vasquez, their Manager of Client Services. They had obviously gone to a lot of work to put together a very well done presentation on Luis Alfonso Jimenez, Jr., the artist that created the DIA "Mustang".

The presentation took me though Mr. Jimenez's many works and I have to admit the more I saw the more I liked and understood his work. A graduate of The University of Texas, Mr. Jimenez was very famous even before DIA commissioned him to create the DIA Mustang.

I knew that Mr. Jimenez died while working on the DIA Mustang (which, incidentally, fell on him and killed him), but I did not know the Mustang was actually completed by his staff and family. Had Mr. Jimenez been able to finish the Mustang, there is every indication the final piece would have been very bright and multi-colored. Mr. Jimenez's used very bright colors and neon lights to highlight most of his other works. Judging from these other works, the Mustang would have been far and away the most colorful object on the eastern plains.

While I enjoyed learning more about Mr. Jimenez, and I am extremely very grateful to Mr. Radich and Ms. Vasquez for their time, I still have to admit the DIA horse in its current form still looks scary to me.

For the most part, my newsletter readers agree with me. I frequently receive replies to my newsletter, with questions or comments on various travel related topics. By and far, the "scary horse" generates more traffic than any other topic. I have only received two replies to date telling me to get off my high horse and embrace the stag. One of them, in fact, is my favorite response of all. A gentleman (whose identity I am protecting from the horse) indicated he liked the Mustang because it reminded him of the time he was thrown from a horse and nearly died in Utah. I suppose it reminds him he is still alive, like a scary movie.

Mr. Radich and Ms. Vasquez from WESTAF were very gracious and did not try to make me to like the Mustang, but they did a great job of educating me and attempting to culture this old Southern Boy. I am not sure the culture part took, but I will now look at our DIA Mustang much differently every time I arrive and depart from DIA.

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Robert Polk is CEO of Polk Majestic Travel Group, Denver's largest independent travel agency. He welcomes your comments and questions at

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Readers Respond

This art is so disliked by so many that it is unworthy of its prominent placement in our community. Some years back, stallions were placed in the park outside the DCPA that represented a much more noble form of art. These stallions were breaking over the Berlin Wall. The sculpture was tansferred to Atlanta where it graced the entrance to the Olympics. It was then given to the people of Berlin as a special gift commemorating the Berlin airlift. The artist, Veryl Goodnight, lives in Durango. Art can certainly be provocative, but it can also be noble, and capture the true spirit of the West. By les on 2009 12 29
OK, call me weird , twisted or art object abused, but growing up in NYC we always had wildly opposing opinions on art, both public, gallery, and museum art. That was the fun of it. Forget the whining about how much it cost. Please...(lets discuss the cost of stadiums for non sports taxpayers). We NYer's were taught from an early age that the function of human creation is to evoke a response. The greater the response the greater the power of the object. Art that is pablum for the masses and pleasing to all is art found in Target or Walmart, not considered high value art or art with a message. I personally LOVE the horse, feel its power and intensity, and appreciate the feelings it evokes. Even if its scary. So what? No different then movies, or books, or... Should all of these artistic venues be limited to romantic comedies? Change the eyes? Lets fix Picasso's work while we are at it. No better way to denigrate the artist (who died for the project btw) then to collaborate with the public. Yuck. By Carla Johnson on 2009 12 22
Have you seen the facebook page "I'm afraid of the big blue horse at DIA!" Hilarious!!!! You are definately not alone ... it is quite a scary joke .... at least we all laugh a lot - and thank God every time we pass it safely. By et on 2009 12 22
I have been an artist for 28 years, and I have a few artistic bones in my body. Art that provokes can be a good thing for society, but art also should represent the spirit of it's intention. In this case, I would imagine that the fucntion and intention of this piece of art is to represent the spirit of the west to visitors. Unless the intention of the artist was that the west is apocalyptically scary then it missed the mark. And if that was the intention, then I would say, the intention was ill-conceived. Either way, art is not rigid; it can respond to the will of the people it was created for. It is not sacrosanct - we the community are as much a part of the art process as the people who's hands built it. While it would still be edgy, simply changing the eyes from red to white would remove a bit of the demonic persona and perhaps make it more palatable to the community that paid for it and views it every day. I vote to change it. On a related note, what's up with the total lack of landscaping at DIA? For as much as Denver promotes green building, the landscape of DIA looks like a poster child for erosion and noxious weeds. By Scott Rodwin on 2009 12 22
Mustang isn't my favorite piece of public art, but the main thing that bothers me about it is there's no place to stop, walk around it and get a good look at it. Driving at 60 miles per hour and trying to be safe about it doesn't leave much time to really look at it! And as far as taxpayer money, I notice that a lot more of my money has gone to build sports stadiums that never offer free days or even free tours when there isn't a game... By RMG on 2009 12 22
Very simply stated, Robert,you make me love this horse. By Dave T on 2009 12 22
I really dislike the Demon Horse. I also dislike the Aliens playing basketball. Oh, dancers? They are supposed to be dancers? My hard earned tax dollars going to this kind of waste makes me angry. By Bj on 2009 12 22
OK, Robert, so now we must know: thumbs up, or thumbs down, on the Bear at the Convention Center? By Publisher on 2009 12 22
I've been a real estate broker for 30 years. I've lived in Denver since 1962. The "blue mustang" is always a topic of conversation when friends and clients arrive through DIA. No one that I know, including myself, thinks of this abberation as an enjoyable, pleasing piece of "art" I've heard it referred to as "Satans' Mount", "Denvers' Meth Horse", "Pony from Hell", you get the picture. It's pathetic that this is the image so many people get upon arrival to our womderful city. A better use for this monstrosity would be for target practice for the F-16's from Buckley. Of course it would have to be moved first perhaps to the range at Ft. Carson. By fran on 2009 12 22
I enjoyed your article. We refer to the DIA horse as the scary horse also. I do not look forward to flying, although it is necessary for me to fly several times a year. Being greeted by a scary horse when pulling up to DIA does not help to calm my nerves. The fact that this horse fell on its creator killing him, just reinforces the scary horse theory. By Debra Kay on 2009 12 22
As a driver for a sedan company, I often take visitors to DIA. It is a constant comment about how much the mustang (they say horse) looks like a fire-shooting dragon with mean evil eyes. Not once has anyone commented they liked it or understood it. The comments have always been how strange it is or whose untalented relative was paid to create it. I suspect the mustang is one of the most viewed pieces of art in the state. It is an embarrassment to myself, DIA and our great state with all the great pieces of art and great works of art, this is the image people get. I appreciate the information regarding the artist but it does not change the poor image it sets in people's minds regarding the quality of art we offer here. By Colleen on 2009 12 22

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