Vail Valley Character: Leslie Fordham |

Vail Valley Character: Leslie Fordham

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyLeslie Fordham, Vail, Colorado's art in public places coordinator, stands underneath one of Vail's latest art installations, a bell by artist Jim Moore

VAIL, Colorado “-For the past nine years, Leslie Fordham has been the invisible hand sculpting Vail, Colorado’s art scene. She finds new artists and plans and organizes exhibits. When The Windmill Project landed on Vail’s golf course a few years ago, Fordham trudged in the snow alongside the artists, helping to set up the massive project.

Though at times Fordham’s job as the Art in Public Places coordinator for the town of Vail is stressful ” “It’s easy to criticize art and artists and we hear a lot of that,” she said ” she’d be quick to tell you she has “the best job in Vail.”

“Artists impress me with how much they know about a myriad of subjects and use that information to solve problems,” she said. “The Windmill Project was a wonderful learning experience and earned Vail a great deal of respect in terms of its commitment to the visual arts.”

Vail Daily: Where did you get your love of art, Leslie?

Leslie Fordham: I’m one of five girls. On Sundays our parents would take us to museums, stately homes and historic sites around Philadelphia and later Washington D.C. Mostly I was bored but the Manet exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art really made an impression. It was one of the first “blockbuster” art exhibitions to take place in the U.S.

VD: Is there an artist that you’ve discovered recently that inspired you?

LF: Two very different artists have caught my interest recently. First is the Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang. His paintings (see one and you will think it’s a photo) are eerie, monochromatic, flat and say a lot without much fuss. The second is a particular 15th century portrait of a woman by Phillipo Lippi that was on an easel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence. There was something about this portrait being on an easel and at eye level rather than hanging on a wall that was striking. Or, maybe I was just jet-lagged. Mostly one sees Lippi frescos in churches.

A third artist comes to mind too. Dan Graham makes roofless glass enclosures that from the exterior seem suited for the garden center. Walk inside and wow, It’s a whole other reality ” different views, different sounds.

VD: Are you an artist?

LF: No, I just like to look.

VD: You lived in London while you worked on your master’s dissertation, right?

LF: Yes, I lived in England from 1989 to 1999 and never once stopped complaining about the weather.

VD: Tell me about an upcoming art exhibit that you’re the most excited to work on?

LF: I’m working on two exhibitions where the artwork is scheduled to arrive in the next two weeks. One is in Ford Park. The sculpture is on loan from the Denver Art Museum. The other is on International Bridge where four sculptures by George Tobolowsky will be installed. Those are made from discarded metal and invite exploration.

Know a character we should profile here? E-mail High Life editor Caramie Schnell at

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