DENVER (CBS4) – Across Denver a prominent figure of the Beat Movement of the 1950s is being remembered. A library exhibit highlights the life of Neal Cassady, as Denver residents work to bring a permanent monument in his honor to a park in the city.
Inside the Denver Public Library on 13th Avenue and Broadway, you’ll find excerpts and photos of Neal Cassady. Alongside Jack Kerouac, the two were major leaders of the Beat Generation that used literature and art to go against social norms, post-war in America.
“They weren’t feeling part of post-war society and wanted to break out of conformity that was building at the time,” explained Brian Trembath, Special Collections Librarian. “They really wanted to break out of that and do their own thing in terms of how they lived, how they created art, and they just wanted to be more expressive then they felt that society would let them be.”
While Cassady never published work himself, his life and friendship with “The Beats” was the basis of Kerouac’s famous novel “On The Road.”
“Neal’s impact is felt throughout the world through literature,” explained Mark Bliesener, who is organizing a monument and Neal Cassady Birthday Bash event. “Neal grew up in this neighborhood and represents the creative spirit of Five Point and Curtis Park that still exist today.”
The library exhibit coincides with efforts by Denver residents to install a permanent monument of Cassady and Kerouac in Denver.
While Cassady lived a troubled life, his spirit defined the movement that Bliesener wants to permanently capture here in Denver. He’s working with others, including sculptor Sutton Betti, to create a life-size statue.
“As Denver changes and we lose so much of our history every day, it’s important we remember our past and remember the important vital stuff that came from Denver,” he explained.
Bliesener said he is currently working with the city, proposing that the monument be placed at Sonny Lawson Park. It’s a prominent place cited in Kerouac’s book, as well as the first Denver park dedicated to an African American.
“In ‘On The Road’ you read how breathtaking it was that all humanity assembled here for the game. There was no segregation, no limits to what people could do besides watch baseball together,” Bliesener told CBS4. “This is the perfect place for the monument to go.”
Bliesener said they will start fundraising efforts for the monument at the Neal Cassidy Birthday Bash at 8 p.m. on Feb. 7, at the Mercury Café.