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.

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