#22: Helen Littlejohn
As a western-states public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Education, Helen Littlejohn is all about people, 24/7, working vigilantly to bring educational opportunities to under-served kids. But she also boasts a creative side, both in her practice as an artist and jewelry-maker and as a gallery curator for Denver’s Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. There she brings together work by a rainbow of often-unrecognized fine artists from around the region. We invited Littlejohn to answer the 100CC questionnaire; keep reading to learn more about what’s on her mind.
"Red Stool," collage.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Helen Littlejohn: There are numerous artists I would like to collaborate with from a variety of artistic genres: the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, artist Romare Bearden as an apprentice, singer Sam Cooke for capturing mood. The reasons would be the same — to try to understand their thought process as inspiration for my own work.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
My four-year-old grandson, Hudson. As he learns to talk and has an unbridled interest in how things work, the budding of expression is fascinating. His emotions are unfiltered and that’s so refreshing.
"Zen Jesus," collage and mixed media.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I want any and all art to live! Things that may seem a little out of sorts are often the start of an evolution that could be amazing; don’t want to kill anything before it has a chance to bloom.
What's your day job?
Regional Communications Director for the U.S. Department of Education, Western States
A beaded necklace by Helen Littlejohn.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
Create an art space for people with mental-health challenges, in addiction and/or recovery. They would have a safe space to come and create art and heal. Having unlimited access to art supplies and a great building for emerging artists would be fantastic. We’d do quarterly art show openings to sell their work. This is my dream!
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Figure out a way to showcase and support the artists who don’t have access to the “big galleries” and large venues. We have great talent in our communities of color who sometimes don’t get exposure.
The artists of On Being Blue at the Blair Caldwell Library.
Photo by David Stevens
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I admire many people for different reasons: Stevon Lucero, Michael Gadlin, Rochelle Johnson, John Davis, Alistair Bane, David Stevens, Kiyasha Newsome, Dan Luna, Thompson Williams, Susi Q. Smith…too many to name. Some are veterans who have made great contributions, some are emerging…all inspire me in different ways.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I’m in a very creative season right now with the success of On Being Blue at the Blair-Caldwell Library, which focuses some interest on mental health. I’ll be curating another show in October, mulling over the concept. I’ve started working on a coloring book for grown-ups combining images from some past work with new ideas. I’m always working on creating OOAK jewelry.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local art community in 2015?
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My vote is for Rochelle Johnson, a very fine oil painter!
On Being Blue — a group exhibition curated by Helen Littlejohn that touches not only on the color blue, but also on the state of being blue — runs through Friday, May 29 at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Five Points. Learn more about the show online.