Notable Neighbor: Dan Cook, Medina native, enjoys second career as artist in Denver
‘I am so thankful for my patron base of collectors and folks who appreciate the positive powers that art can offer.’
A Medina native and brother of three Orleans County residents is enjoying a second career as an accomplished artist in his home town of Denver.
Danyl Cook is a son of the late Journal-Register photographer and sportsman Don Cook and Shirley Cook and a brother of Debbie Morse of Medina, Dave Cook of Lyndonville and Derinda Kwiatkowski of Waterport.
Danyl was only 7 when his mother died. Although he doesn’t have a lot of memories of her, he does remember the night she died. She had a hospital bed in their living room and he came downstairs after arguing with his sister Derinda about something.
“I saw my dad’s firemen buddies (who ran the ambulance then) wheeling mom’s bed toward the door,” he said. “I complained to her about my sister and she said, ‘Don’t argue with your sister. Give me a kiss and go back to bed.’ I was obviously unaware this would be the last time I would see her, and I didn’t think much about the firemen as they were dad’s friends in in the house all the time anyway. I do not remember her voice or her mannerisms. But I do think of her whenever I smell rosewater or rose-scented perfumes.”
Danyl graduated from Medina High School and obtained a bachelor’s degree in business at Buffalo State, however he filled his electives with studio and art history classes.
His love of art was probably fueled by his father, who also loved to sketch and draw and Danyl remembers many nights sitting at the kitchen table and drawing with his father.
He worked as a reporter/photographer for the Journal-Register for about five years before joining the Peace Corps in 1991. He was assigned to a small, rural village in the Dominican Republic, long before the world discovered it was a tourist destination, Danyl said. He worked with fishermen, coconut farmers and women’s groups in a variety of business ventures.
“The life change from working at a daily newspaper where you are hunting stories day and night to being plopped in a third-world country where it could take hours just to get a ride to the village market gives one plenty of time to pause and reflect on life,” Danyl said. “I knew when I returned home I wanted to not only use my newly gained Spanish speaking skills, but also to study art further. My dad was known for his nature photography, but he always liked to draw as well. So growing up with that creative mentoring really struck me as something to pay attention to, rather than a return to life filled with work and only work.”
Danyl spent two years overseas and then moved to Denver, not only to use his new language skills (the city population there is more than one-half Hispanic), but to enjoy a sunny and dry climate that was NOT Buffalo cold or Caribbean humid, he said.
He stayed with the Peace Corps for a total of nine years, flying around the west to recruit new volunteers into an exciting world of adventure on their own. He also started to take art classes at a local university.
“If someone ever tells you art school is easy, don’t listen,” Danyl said. “One professor chopped a class of 50 eager artists down to nine of us by the end of the semester. He was brutal, but I learned so much. Another professor took me under his wing and pressed me to show my work outside. I was hesitant, but he badgered me so much that I found myself entering a juried show, just to get him off my back. Once accepted into that show I was approached by a gallery, and that is when things began to move.”
By 1999, Danyl had left the Peace Corps and was showing in galleries around the Denver Metro area, both in group and solo shows. He joined an artists’ cooperative and began directing the group, mixing his love of art and business.
In 2011, he began attending classes at Regis University in Denver and worked four years to get his dual master’s degrees in painting and art marketing, while showing his work along the way and again benefitting from some tough but awesome mentors, he said.
“I’ve been blessed to have steady gallery representation in Denver for the last 20 years, and until recently had my work in a Santa Fe, New Mexico location, Santa Fe being one of the top art destinations in the nation,” Danyl said. “My art is in the office lobbies of corporations, the halls of hospitals and the walls of restaurants. I have private collectors from New York to San Francisco and from London to Israel and Australia.”
Danyl loves to give business talks about marketing and helping his fellow artists get their work into the public eye. Having grown up in a creative household, he truly believes in the importance and power of art to make people feel good, especially in these trying times.
In mid-March he was planning his latest solo show at Valkarie Gallery when initial Covid-related shutdowns were looming, he said.
“The gallery owner asked if I wanted to cancel my show and after very little thought I responded, ‘No, let’s still hang it because there are some great windows in front that will still allow patrons to see in, and I’ve worked so hard on this body of work to not present it.’ We then discussed strategies to get the word out and devised a plan to make several short videos to stream on social media. I went home to script shots, and hadn’t even entered the door when the gallery owner called and said, ‘You have got to come back right now to shoot. The governor is closing everything down in less than 24 hours.’”
‘You won’t find wordy, existential art statements on my site or in my talks. I think art should be joyful, relatable.’
Danyl raced back to the gallery and with no script or light, they shot a series of short clips on a smart phone. Some were serious, but most were downright silly. They then started sharing the unedited pieces on Facebook and Instagram.”
Later, they held a live painting event where the wide front doors of the gallery were thrown open and cordoned off. The owner painted social distancing circles outside. They invited everyone on their mailing list and Danyl donned a mask and broke out the brushes and canvasses.
“I had one of my best shows ever, despite few people seeing the work in person,” Danyl said. “Loyal patrons and newcomers both flocked to their computers, phones and tablets with commentary on our quickly shot videos, and folks began to buy. I was overwhelmed with the response and support, especially when so many were – and are – facing economic problems because of Covid.
“I am so thankful for my patron base of collectors and folks who appreciate the positive powers that art can offer,” Danyl said. “You won’t find wordy, existential art statements on my site or in my talks. I think art should be joyful, relatable.”
About five years ago, Dave and his wife Carol’s daughter Chelsea and her boyfriend, who is a pilot, moved to Denver so she wouldn’t be alone when her boyfriend traveled so much.
“She and the boyfriend didn’t last, but she loves it here and opted to stay when he went back to New York,” Danyl said. “It’s great for me as I think of her as my kid, and it’s nice to see her on a regular basis. She has worked several years as a sales rep for a local brewery. She is definitely cut from the extrovert Cook mold, and that lends itself well to her job.”
Danyl keeps in touch with friends and relatives in Medina and was recently contacted by someone from the village of Medina asking his advice on the alligator mural which has caused an uproar in Medina.
He often thinks of his dad and how he influenced so many people
“I feel he was all about sharing – sharing his knowledge, his humor and warmth,” Danyl said. “I was actually sitting on my front porch tonight and watched a flock of birds heading home at dusk, and thought of dad. Whenever I see any bird I like to think it’s a sign from dad that he is saying hi to me.”
Danyl invites everyone to reach out to him at danylcook.com. He is also on Facebook at Danyl Cook; on Instragram at danylcookart; and on Twitter.
(Reporter’s note: Danyl’s dad Don Cook is actually the one who encouraged Ginny Kropf to write in the late 1960s. She was the distributor for the Buffalo Courier Express at the time and Don wanted a story done on Canada geese. He said if the Courier would let her do it, he would provide the information and photos. The Courier did accept the story and ran it as the feature Lifestyles story in all its editions. Following that, the Courier hired Ginny as the Orleans County correspondent).