"The first time she saw me in a wheelchair, she said, 'I can do a fundraiser,'" Wallace recalls. "That was her first and major concern. She's constantly doing that for people. She recently had a garage sale to help raise money for her own gallery, but then Katrina happened, so she gave 50 percent of it to the Red Cross. She just does that."
In the local art world, it seems that everyone has a story about Murphy. During her fifteen years as a working artist in Denver, she has evolved into an understated celebrity of the city's cultural high-art underground: an educator, painter and multimedia whiz who wrests strange visions from stuffed animals, funky fabrics and found objects -- and who has worked hard to harvest a community spirit in the competitive, sometimes downright catty world of art. As the co-creator of Pod boutique and the newly expanded Capsule gallery on Santa Fe, Murphy has created opportunities, taught classes and advised fellow artists on the business side of the art world -- a realm that befuddles many creative types. Murphy's ongoing series of how-to workshops at Capsule bring the community together to learn everything from innovative T-shirt design to marketing.
"These days I see these young artists doing shows, doing all kinds of things because Lauri helped them out," Wallace says. "They're actually practicing their craft now instead of selling their brushes to go work at Starbucks."
Wallace and a group of friends, including gallery owner Jim Peterson and artist Katie Taft, have decided it's time to celebrate with a party and a fundraiser for Murphy, for whom the economic realities of artistic life have recently been made all too clear: In August, she had to close Pod for financial reasons. Lauri Love gets under way on Friday, October 14, at Santa Fe's Den, KOUBOU a Deux and Space galleries. With tarot card readers, poetry slams, and live music from Roger Green and the Perry Weissman 3, the evening should be as eclectic, colorful and energetic as the honoree. The gathering will also feature drawings for artist-friendly prizes like art supplies and a free doctor visit. Wallace plans to make Lauri Love an annual event, with a different cultural catalyst honored each year.
"Everyone said immediately, 'Yes, how can we help? How can we get involved?'" says Wallace. "Galleries have shared their mailing lists to get people to this event, which is totally unheard of in the art world. It was amazing."
So, how does Murphy feel about all the good vibes being showered upon her?
"I'm flabbergasted," she says. "I was a little mortified when I heard it was going to be named after me, because honestly, I hate being the center of attention; I get really embarrassed. But I guess I'll have to get over it!"
Murphy says she loves the idea of an annual celebration of community-oriented arts boosters. Next year, she'll return to her comfort zone -- helping to plan a fundraiser rather than star in one. It's all for the good of the scene, she contends.
"I think of [the Denver art world] as the Horton Hears a Who model: If we all scream at the same time, someone in the Œoutside world' might hear us," she says. "I'm tired of Denver always being considered a cultureless cowtown, because we haven't been that for a long time. And yet, there's really so little support here for individual artists. We obviously can't count on the state funding the arts, so we have to look to each other. It's really just karma: If I can help someone out, then I figure I can count on help being there for me when I need it."