In the year and a half since their first show at GroundSwell, Montoya and Peebles have grown it into one of the city's most interesting spaces, with a reputation for anything-goes shows. "Our biggest goal is to provide artists with the opportunity to have an exhibition with no strings attached," Peebles says. Many galleries, she notes, don't want to see experimental or unsalable works from their artists — what she calls their "real work." And, as she herself has found, the alternatives to such traditional venues often aren't any better: "When you do need a place to exhibit, you often end up with the least-appealing space," she says.

Not so at GroundSwell. "I don't think many other galleries or curators see us as the incubator place, where you can see what the real art is before you have to make a commitment," Peebles notes. "But the artists get it, and they want to use the opportunity in that way."

Montoya and Peebles still sling java when they're not hanging shows, the artist's life being what it is. But they can feel good about giving their compatriots a fair place to try out their heart's work in public, and there's always room to grow. "We can be more supportive through a stronger framework," Peebles says. "We could look into a non-profit status; we're thinking about applying for grants. Now that we have a better understanding of how it functions, we can work toward making it more of an institution." — Susan Froyd

2013 MasterMind, Fashion/Design

Kitty Mae Millinery/Susan Dillon

I'm not a hat person, but the first time I saw Susan Dillon's handmade toppers, I had to throw my hat into the ring. Under the moniker of Kitty Mae Millinery, she makes hats that aren't just something to cover your head: Each piece is a sculptural work of art, and in the process of creating them, Dillon has revived a fine-craft tradition that's nearly disappeared — swept in the dumper by modern times. Amazingly, she is self-taught as a milliner, and her passion for keeping the art alive is deep. She recently even entered a one-of-a-kind hat in an international contest to design a special chapeau for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. The results are so stunning that few browsers can walk into her Kitty Mae storefront at 3559 Larimer Street without wanting to start trying things on; her fanciful creations are pretty much irresistible that way.

Dillon's latest project, a Kentucky Derby line for spring funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, marks a step in a new direction. The campaign allowed her to buy hat forms in new shapes that will continue working for her into the fall and winter seasons ahead. Also on Dillon's agenda for the coming year: classes. Encouraged by the turnout for a free crafting party she hosted on Super Bowl Sunday, she plans to start those up regularly in March with a basic fascinator workshop, then branch out to more intensive hat workshops in the fall. "Right now I'm going full steam ahead, about 900 miles an hour with no sleep," Dillon says with a smile. "I'm really expanding what I can create: I'm making my own silk flowers now, and my bridals are more elaborate and successful than before. And I'll have a dozen new styles for the Kentucky Derby season. I'm just hoping to continue coming up with the most original hats that I can make."

That'll come in handy leading up to the derby: Along with creating her official derby line, she'll be working with a group of fifty Cherry Hills couples on custom designs to wear to Churchill Downs in May. Yes, things are looking good for Kitty Mae. Keep it under your lid. — Susan Froyd

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Laura Bond
Laura Bond

Great choices, Westword! Ietef Cavem Vita is a genius; glad more people will get to find out.


i wish i knew how to enter for this before hand :(


Great article and congrats to all of the winners! (Although I do disagree with "the desirable 25-to-34-year-old demographic " reference at the start of the article, simply because there are soooo many outside of that age range that are also 'Colorado's Creative Capital'.) :-)