Perhaps the most iconic art installation in downtown Denver, the “I See What You Mean” piece, also known as the “Big Blue Bear,” is hard to miss. Spotted leaning its paws against Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, it reaches 40 feet in height and is said to weigh 10,000 pounds, begging the question from onlookers – “how did the bear get there?”
The big blue bear, the creation of late local artist Lawrence Argent, was installed in 2005, and was designed to appear as if it’s looking into the lobby of the convention center located in the heart of downtown Denver. The story behind its creation is an interesting one.
During the design process, Argent faced the task of creating a work of art that represented Colorado while still avoiding the clichés, such as mountains. Knowing that the sculpture would be visible to those driving past the convention center, he felt that a curious bear embodied the curiosity that passersby might feel as they wondered what was going on inside the massive events center on any given day. The inspiration for the form of the art installation (a bear) came from an image Argent saw in a newspaper. The photograph was of a bear peeking inside the home of a Colorado resident. Argent knew that this experience was something Coloradans could surely relate to – the outdoors meeting everyday life right at the edge of their doorstep.
But why is the big bear blue? In the same interview with Visit Denver, Argent stated that its blue color is actually accidental. During the design process, Argent had colors more-so associated with Colorado in mind – sandstone, for instance – until he saw a mockup of the bear that was mistakenly printed to be blue. He thought it popped and the color change stuck.
As might be expected, a bear this big didn’t come without a hefty price tag. By the time all was said and done, the big blue bear cost $424,400. It’s also worth noting that the bear was actually constructed in California before being transported to Denver, Colorado.
A man with a truly creative mind, artist Lawrence Argent was an associate professor of art at the University of Denver during this project. He was eventually named a professor emeritus at University of Denver in 2017 prior to his death at age 60 on October 4, 2017. The big blue bear wasn’t the only oversized mammal Argent crafted during his career. Among his other creations are a 49-foot panda bear that was installed on a Chinese mall and a 56-foot-long rabbit found in Sacramento’s airport.
While Argent may have passed, his legacy lives on via his “I See What You Mean” piece, as the work continues to pique the interest of residents and visitors to Denver, Colorado alike. An iconic facet of downtown Denver, the big blue bear will remain impossible to ignore for as long as it stands, forever curious about what those tiny humans inside of the Colorado Convention Center are really up to.