Literary Hide & Seek

cassadyandkerouac

Neal Cassady (left) and Jack Kerouac

City Park already features important literary elements with the Shakespeare Elm and a statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns. The City Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee (CPNAC) would like to enhance the literary elements in the park by adding a tribute to Denver’s own Neal Cassady.

Cassady attended East High School where he met Hal Chase who introduced him to Jack Kerouac and other writers associated with the Beat Movement. Cassady became a muse for Kerouac, who attributed his writing style made famous in his Novel, On The Road, to a letter received from Cassady. Kerouac called this letter, now known as the Joan Anderson Letter, “the greatest piece of writing [he] ever saw, better’n anybody in America…” Cassady’s writing inspired Kerouac’s style, and his outsized personality inspired some of Kerouac’s characters, like the thinly disguised Dean Moriarty from On the Road. 

The Project

The City Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee received a grant from the City of Denver as part of the P.S. You Are Here grant program, to celebrate Neal Cassady through a temporary art project in City Park. The City Park Alliance has agreed to support this effort as a non-profit fiduciary agent from which the grant funds can be managed. The Neal Cassady tribute is designed to bring people to the park to celebrate his influence and further enhance the literary elements in the park with a vision of eventually bringing a long-term tribute to Cassady into City Park and/or the East High School Esplanade.

The project will use Rainworks paint, a paint which is visible only when it is wet, to showcase excerpts of Neal Cassady’s work onto the sidewalks of City Park. Clues will be provided on social media as to the location and content of these paintings, and people will be encouraged to bring water bottles or use existing water sources to uncover Cassady’s musings. CPNAC recognizes that City Park often functions too much as an event space; a place where people drive to an event, then leave shortly thereafter. In addition to enhancing the existing literary elements in the park and celebrating the influence of East High School graduate, Neal Cassady, this project will improve “placemaking” in the park by providing a unique experience that encourages people to linger and explore City Park.