Loveland, Colorado: “A sweetheart city which has a love affair with the arts”

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Lovers – Centerra Mall. It seems an appropriately named statue for Loveland

Just as children have been sending letters to Santa in the North Pole for decades, thousands of folks from all over the world send their Valentine’s Day cards to Loveland, Colorado to be re-stamped with the Loveland postmark. Since 1947, this farming community-turned-arts centre has been known as America’s “Sweetheart City, due to the postal program. Loveland’s annual Valentine Card program re-mails some 110,000 valentines each year, to every state and 110 countries around the world. Of the international valentines, the United Kingdom sent the most in 2018.

The valentines are hand-stamped with a cachet and verse, and a specially designed postal cancellation. A new verse and stamp are selected each year. Information this programs is available through the With Love From Loveland website.

Visitors to Loveland can find hearts all year, all over town, with the town’s ‘Loveland: A City With HeArt’ project. The project’s individually designed and painted colossal fiberglass hearts are five feet tall, and almost as wide.

logo of Rocky Mountain

the centenary of the Rocky Mountain National Park designation was held in 2015. © NPS

There’s a lot more to Loveland than Valentines, however, including easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park and a wealth of recreational and scenic offerings, a surprising mix of artistic and cultural venues and 41 bodies of water, sixteen of which have some type of public access, (a recreational and aesthetic delight in this very arid state.) Nestled at 4,982 feet against the foothills of the Rockies, 46 miles north of Denver on the I-25 corridor, some 30 minutes south of Fort Collins, Loveland’s 76,000+ residents enjoy its peaceful small town ambiance mixed with big-city benefits.

In 2005, The 100 Best Art Towns in America’s fourth edition named Loveland as its number two town, after only Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since the ‘70’s, artists and sculptors have flocked to this area with 475 unique public sculpture pieces, three major art shows annually and two of the nation’s largest foundries (with two more in neighbouring towns.) You will find sculpture and artwork everywhere. Public works are creatively decorated, including large wall murals on buildings and sculpture pieces all over town as well as in two expansive parks.

in the Benson Sculpture Garden

The Benson Sculpture Gardens, opened in 1985, and is home to 164 permanent outdoor sculpture pieces displayed along with exquisitely landscaped gardens and ponds, enjoyable at any time of year – indeed, the sculptures are quite hauntingly beautiful when dusted with snow. With the Rocky Mountains as a majestic backdrop, Benson Sculpture Garden has been described as “one of the most unique sculpture gardens in the nation”. It has also been recognized as “one of the 200 most important modern and contemporary art sites around the world” and as “one of the 20 must-see contemporary art sites across the USA”.

Nearby, the Columbine Gallery showcases works by the National Sculptor’s Guild, with work in various media by many artists.  Loveland is also home to three foundries. Both Art Castings and Bronze Services offer fascinating tours to the public of how the enormous bronze statues they produce for sites around the world are made.

On 26 acres along the eastern side of the Promenade Shops at Centerra Mall, sits the fascinating Chapungu Sculpture Park, focusing on Zimbabwean stone sculpture (Shona,) with 82 enormous sculptures made by hand from solid Zimbabwean rock. This peaceful and moving park, dedicated to themes of “family,” is the largest of its kind in the world.

Sculpture in the Park

On the second weekend of August each year, Loveland hosts “Sculpture in the Park,” hosted by the Loveland High Plains Arts Council. It is the largest outdoor juried exhibition of three-dimensional artwork in the U.S., featuring 2,000 pieces of sculpture from over 160 artists from all over the world and annual sales over $1 million. About 20,000 art lovers attend this yearly. The Sculpture in the Park show and sale has expanded its diversity of work to include representational, stylized, and abstract sculpture in a variety of mediums including bronze, stone, wood, ceramic, glass, metal and mixed media. 1,238 different artists have participated in Sculpture in the Park through the years. Included in the show is a “Take Home A Piece of the Park” display, which features maquette sized editions of some of the sculpture pieces that are on permanent display in Benson Sculpture Garden. These pieces are available for sale throughout the show and during the year. There will also be a Silent Auction tent throughout the weekend with pieces available to bid on from many of the artists.

On the same weekend, the Loveland Fine Art and Wine Invitational  Art Show & Sale features 150  artists and fine craftsmen, along with a wine tasting, live entertainment, art demonstrations, and gourmet food trucks.

Scenes at the Bensen Sculpture Park in Loveland Monday May 29, 2017.

Loveland has more than romance and art. Known as “Gateway to the Rockies,” Rocky Mountain National Park is just 30 miles (40 minute drive) west of town and is the top vacation destination in Colorado, with millions of visitors each year. With more than 265,000 acres of land, 178 mountain peaks over 10,000 in elevation, 355 miles of hiking trails and more than 140 lakes, it is truly spectacular and stunning. Don’t miss a hike at Devil’s Backbone – a spectacular open space park with breath-taking views from unique rock formations. Visiting in early fall? Don’t miss the aspen trees’ golden glory or the elk bugling spectacle, especially awesome in neighbouring Estes Park. Oh, and you movie buffs can visit the Stanley Hotel here, where cult classic ‘The Shining’ was filmed.

Downtown Loveland is a delightful, historic area filled with art galleries, a museum, restored theatre, eclectic bistros, book stores, antique shops etc., as well as lively pubs. Spend a day here in the unique non-chain shops and you’re sure to find something to take home, perhaps an original piece of local artwork or ceramics.

Boyd Lake State Park  is a water-sports enthusiasts’ haven, offering boating, water-skiing, swimming, fishing and ice fishing (bass, catfish, crappie, perch, rainbow trout and walleye,) windsurfing, jet skiing and stand-up paddle-boarding.

Whatever YOUR reason might be for a first visit, you can count on it only being the first. Loveland is an undiscovered gem and you’ll find your own special experience here.

All images unless stated are © Mark Rush Photography.

 

 

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