Kayvan Khalatbari is a serial entrepreneur. He first landed on our radar with Sexy Pizza, a venture that helped found more ventures, including Sexpot Comedy, which in turn fed Denver's growing comedy scene, and Denver Relief, one of Denver's first dispensaries. This month he sold Denver Relief to Willie Nelson for his Willie's Reserve operation, and that deal will give him time (and cash) to continue contributing to Denver's ever-evolving cultural landscape.
Khalatbari just announced a free event, called art&, that "explores the link between art and everything else life has to offer," from civics and entrepreneurship to drug policy and livelihood. The inaugural art& is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, September 16, at the newly remodeled McNichols Civic Center Building in Civic Center Park.
“Art has a way of softening topics that may otherwise be unapproachable by many, allowing for a dialogue that has the ability to incite great progress in understanding the root of the issues we’re currently facing as a city,” says Khalatbari, who talked about those issues in his recent run for Denver City Council. “As Denver continues to evolve dramatically, we need to bring the leaders in our creative collectives together with those in government, business and our neighborhoods to understand one another and fully realize our potential as a cultural influencer in America."
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Khalatbari had given us a hint of his plans in a recent interview after the sale of Denver Relief. "The cannabis industry and the art community — those are two communities that do not trust the city and are very hesitant to work with the city," he told us. "But there are people — not necessarily in the mayor’s office or in city council, but in these departments — who want to work with residents and have really great intentions and can make a lot of cool things happen. I want to be someone who’s trusted on both sides, who can engage in a dialogue."
And apparently he's succeeded in that, because at art&, panel discussions, interactive workshops and creative demonstrations will feature everyone from candidates for Denver district attorney and the head of Denver Health to poets and street artists, as well as numerous business owners and civil-rights activists. A collage of local artists will also be on display, along with booth spaces for local service providers geared toward supporting Denver’s creative communities. The event will end with Civic Center SOUNDS, a free outdoor concert series in Civic Center Park, presented by Levitt Pavilion Denver; comedian Janae Burris and the Young Dubliners will perform from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The event is being organized in partnership with Denver Arts & Venues and Imagine 2020, as part of a grand reopening weekend for the McNichols Building. Birdy magazine, Denver Relief Consulting, the Drug Policy Alliance and Nerd Riot Productions are also providing support. Find more information at artanddenver.com.