Meet the MasterMinds at Artopia 2017

In the early 2000s, Denver was all about the creative class. Author/big thinker Richard Florida had labeled the metro area one of the top creative spots in the country, an honor that John Hickenlooper used to promote the city that had just elected him mayor. Fifteen years before, he’d been one of those entrepreneurial adventurers — an unemployed geologist who joined with other visionaries to found the town’s first brewpub, the Wynkoop Brewing Company, still going strong more than 25 years later. And Hickenlooper, too, is still going strong: Today he has a starring role as governor of Colorado.

But we didn’t need Florida’s seal of approval, or Hickenlooper’s unusual career path, to know that Colorado is full of creativity. For generations, the Front Range has drawn artists and other aesthetic explorers, people who want to make their mark — people every bit as daring as would-be brewmasters or new politicians, but rarely as high-profile. Or highly compensated.

Molina Speaks, a 2017 MasterMind.
Molina Speaks, a 2017 MasterMind.
Photo by Ric Urrutia; mural by Jay Michael Jarmillo.

In honor of the groundbreaking, often underappreciated and almost always underpaid work that so many of these artists were doing, in 2005 Westword created the MasterMind awards, a grant program that every year gives no-strings-attached cash awards to arts organizations and individuals who are changing the cultural landscape.

We inducted our first class in 2005 and are now rolling out our thirteenth class: The first two members, Curtis Bean and Molina Speaks, are both featured in the current issue of Westword. They will be honored at Westword’s Artopia on February 25; once again, Land Rover Denver and the Art Students League of Denver are each sponsoring a MasterMind award.

With the announcement of the 2017 class of MasterMinds, we have now honored close to sixty artists and arts organizations, giving cash awards totaling well over $150,000.

Keep reading for a roster of the Westword MasterMinds.

Curtis Bean founded Art of War to help veterans.
Curtis Bean founded Art of War to help veterans.
Anthony Camera

2017 MasterMinds (so far)
Curtis Bean/Art of War
Molina Speaks

2016 MasterMinds
Rhinoceropolis and Glob
Jeromie Lawrence Dorrance/Dateline
Mar Williams/Cabal Enterprises

2015 MasterMinds
Kalyn Heffernan/Wheelchair Sports Camp
Anthony Garcia Sr./Birdseed Collective
LadySpeech Sankofa
DeeDee Vicory/D’Lola Couture

2014 MasterMinds
Adam Stone
Eric Dallimore/Leon Gallery
Karen Lausa/Words Beyond Bars
Kim Shively
Lisa Elstun

2013 MasterMinds
Ietef Vita/DJ Cavem
Counterpath Press and Bookstore/Julie Carr and Tim Roberts
GroundSwell Gallery/Danette Montoya and Rebecca Peebles
Nix Bros./
Evan and Adam Nix
Kitty Mae Millinery/
Susan Dillon

2012 MasterMinds
Ken Arkind/
Minor Disturbance
Andrew Orvedahl
Dianne Denholm
Lance Stack/
Flat Response

2011 MasterMinds
Slam Nuba
Sarah Slater
Tricia Hoke
Illiterate/Adam Gildar
Tiffiny Wine

2010 MasterMinds
Fallene Wells
Jennie Dorris
Jolt/Guerilla Garden
Eric Matelski
Laura Goldhamer

2009 MasterMinds
Brian Freeland/LIDA Project
Viviane LeCourtois
Ravi Zupa
The Denver Voice
Vicky Nolan

2008 MasterMinds
Creative Music Works
RiNo/Jill Hadley Hooper and Tracy Weil
Jason Bosch/ArgusFest
Art From Ashes
Mona Lucero

2007 MasterMinds
Jessica Robblee
Jimmy Sellars
Tony Shawcross/Denver Open Media
Vox Feminista
The Fabric Lab/Josh and Tran Wills

2006 MasterMinds
Dragon Daud, aka Dave Denney
Katie Taft
Deb Henriksen
Cafe Nuba/Ashara Ekundayo
Johnny Morehouse

2005 MasterMinds
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Emerging Filmmakers Project @ Bug Theatre
Brandi Shigley
Denver Zine Library
Buntport Theater

Many of these MasterMinds will be at Artopia 2017. (And MasterMinds, if you didn't get the e-mailed invitation, please send current contact information to


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