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And not just kids. "I have artists who rent studio space from me," he says. "Maybe I'll pay the rent for them with the MasterMind money and let them do things to help the Guerilla Garden."
In the meantime, he has an art opening at the studio on February 19.
"I like the underground, out of the newspapers," Ulibarri says.
— Patricia Calhoun
The first time I remember talking to Eric Matelski, he was walking around the heart of Denver, leaving canvas-wrapped wooden blocks in random places: in front of businesses, on street corners, under trees. It was part of an art project he called "Flux," and attached to each work was a questionnaire and a web address to which the anonymous block-finders could post a reply. It was a delightful act of guerrilla art, the sort of thing that you didn't encounter often in Denver, and Matelski seemed totally sweet and ingenuous about the whole project.
But there was no denying its impact: With "Flux," Matelski was reaching out to people, involving them in art, and it wasn't just the artsy folks he was targeting. He was reaching the Average Joe walking down the street, who'd suddenly stumble onto something goofy and unexpected. That was — and is — the Eric Matelski I've come to know through the years: a gregarious arts mover with an underground perspective and a little bit of the huckster, albeit a charming huckster who loves to promote art and its people. Little and big names, they're all the same to him: He just loves to bring them all together in one big room and see what happens.
That's especially evident in Matelski's three-year-old-and-counting First Monday Art Talk series at Dazzle, for which he chooses a local cultural figure — maybe an artist or a fashion designer or an author or a poet — and throws that person's life and influences out there for a shake-and-bake with an audience. It is, as I once wrote, "a party and a lecture and a concert and schmoozer all at once, where faces old and new mingle with ease and friendly curiosity."
And as if FMAT weren't enough to keep him busy, Matelski also curates shows for numerous eateries, and last year inaugurated the Art Farm, a seasonal series of outdoor art shows in community gardens; he's also organized shows addressing baseball, the end of analog television and hip prayer candles. He once sent four ceremonial groups dribbling four different colors of paint through the streets of the Golden Triangle, and in the future hopes to offer shows with voodoo and steampunk themes.
"There's always gotta be a gimmick," Matelski says. "I was in a band for years, and you always had to find some way to get people to come to a show. There are two things you can do: You can make it serious, or you can make it corny, but the best way to approach it is to follow through. If it's going to be corny, make it as corny as possible. Otherwise, it'll just seem flaky." And that's the thing about Eric Matelski: He may be corny, but he's never flaky.
Here's hoping he never changes.
I spent several days last March chasing after Laura Goldhamer, the local musician and animator who'd just lost her post at Brooks Center Arts, a church-based venue that she'd turned into a cultural hot spot — but she didn't want to dish. "I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity to help foster a young arts community there, and I feel super-appreciative of that time," Goldhamer says today. "For me, in Denver, it was a beginning of a group movement that thrives beyond a particular space."
At the time, Goldhamer was also doing animation for a new song of hers called "Humpty Dumpty," which expounds on singer-songwriter Ian Cooke's made-up vasoon, which describes "an injury that is beneficial." So "when news came of the closure of the venue I had created," she remembers, "the message of the song, and the act of painstakingly animating the accompanying video, was a good and constant reminder that change is good, although it maybe painful at the moment."
And in Goldhamer's case, change has been very, very good. She's kept busy doing more animation — for her own music, and for San Francisco artist Sean Hayes — as well as playing in a handful of bands (including Dovekins), recording and engineering albums for friends and teaching banjo lessons. "I've been able to continue with the cooperative, collaborative musical work with people I was glad to connect with over the last several years around the Brooks Center," she notes. "That community definitely continues."
A Denver native, Goldhamer attended high school at Colorado Academy, then headed off to Wesleyan (the alma mater of John Hickenlooper) before doing veggie-oil fuel work and some kinetic sculpture, along with a promotional video for affordable housing in the San Juan Islands. After nine months of frequent moving, though, she decided to "move back to Denver and find a good community, a good project, and make something of quality," she says. "I couldn't really do that bouncing around like I had been."
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