Joan Mangle: A Matter of Degrees

In the art world there is Art and what everyone else calls and does – art. A fine line perhaps, but someone who lives in the real Art world and lives in Lowry is happy to say, “Oh I’m just an artist. I love art, drawing, and expression. It’s really a love and lifestyle.” Meet Lowry’s Joan Mangle.

That lifestyle began in Rockford, IL, in an arty family where her father was a retired Army reservist who then worked with the Illinois Central Railroad. “My aunt was a ‘real artist’ and was trained in art schools and made jewelry. Mom was creative, too, and was helpful to my sister and me. I attended a summer program at the Art Institute of Chicago at age eight so I was very encouraged to follow my passion.”

In high school, she was on student council and outgoing and “still interested in art, but after high school, I attended Johns Hopkins Hospital’s three-year nursing program.” She later went on to earn a BS at the University of Illinois and eventually an MS in nursing. “I liked the caring part of medicine and public health.”

She met her husband, Jim, who was in dental school at the time and after his graduation they chose Denver, so they moved out here and started a family. Meanwhile, she volunteered at the Denver Art Museum and helped open up the big new tower building in 1982. “I could fulfill a lot of art study and influence while surrounded by a wonderful variety of fabulous art while helping in the museum.”

A move to Ft. Collins and three children later, she earned a teaching degree at UNC and began teaching reading to elementary students in Ft. Collins. “I felt I could really reach students by teaching them to read- such a fundamental part of school. I opened up worlds for them.“ Her youngest child was in kindergarten then so a teaching schedule worked perfectly into her lifestyle. But where is her palette? Her brushes?

“Oh, I was always working on pieces, taking classes, trying various mediums. “After retiring from teaching Poudre School District, I became  an adjunct instructor at CSU’s department of Early Childhood Education which I enjoyed. And then I decided to get a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at CSU to continue my love of the arts.” Another degree was added to her resume, giving her a lot of areas in which to focus her many talents.

In Ft. Collins, she had  an art studio downtown where she could paint and show her pieces. “It was a wonderful experience learning to become a small business person, learning about sales, taxes, studio rent, etc. It almost became a full-time job. And then Jim decided to retire.”

They moved to Denver to Congress Park and enjoyed being close to downtown and all the tall buildings; she began volunteering at History Colorado, the Governor’s Mansion, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. There were so many places where she could spend the day in museums, be a docent, look at art and still paint on the side.

Her paintings have been shown in various Denver locations including Logan’s Coffee (Joan’s work is currently on display at Logan RINO on Brighton Blvd. through April 30) and the Cake Crumbs Bakery and Cafe. Her pieces also had a three-month display in Mad Greens, a restaurant in the pavilion area of the Denver Art Museum and are in private and public collections. She calls her style contemporary western landscapes.

When not painting, she is active in Lowry’s East Park neighborhood. In the Renaissance Housing area, she is always dropping off children’s books that she gathers from various sources. “Of course, I want all kids to have a lot of books of their own, so I am constantly rounding up books for them.” She helps out in the Eisenhower Chapel with the Lowry Foundation doing various office jobs to help out the Director, Deana Miller.

During the summer, she’s off in the Denver Botanic Gardens “which gives me time to think of flowers and colors, and the Gardens just  breathe life into me. I love my time there.” An artist can find inspiration in all places. She also finds joy in her three grandchildren. And yes, she does supply them with pencils and paints to get them started on their own art highway.

And how easy is this job of painting? “I think you have to create a 100 paintings before you know what you are doing. Sometimes a painting just shows up. Many times, I just have to repaint it. I learn from each painting – and I have made every mistake possible. It takes a long time to paint a piece.”

Joan has spent her life creating art, earning degrees (four of them), building a family, volunteering, teaching, handing out books, and then she’s back in her art studio doing what she loves best: starting a new painting.

 Her business card reads: “Joan Mangle, painter”. With the lower case “p” it’s as if the word can mean Artist or artist; Painter or painter. But seeing Joan’s work, she is truly a very fine Painter. It’s all a matter of degrees.

Meet Your Lowry Neighbors is a monthly feature written by our intrepid reporter Sally Kurtzmanwho knows everyone in our community. If you have a suggestion for a Meet Your Lowry Neighbor, please send us an email to