Alternative art spaces are a hot topic in a town where the physical ones seem to be in flux or, worse, falling off the map. But it’s a good thing, indicative of the Denver art community’s willingness to take big leaps and risky chances in a failing world. Sommer Browning is a poet, but she’s opting to take one of those chances by turning her own garage into a creative incubator where artists, writers, performing artists and filmmakers can all mingle freely. Browning calls it Georgia Art Space, and the pop-up venue makes its debut this weekend with an exhibit by artist Joshua Ware.
Why Georgia? If you're wondering, it's named for Browning's daughter, but the impetus to open the space goes deeper. “I’d been thinking about how visual art and the art scene in Denver has been becoming more and more exciting, and I wanted to be a part of that,” the poet explains. “And then my friend Joshua started to do visual art, and I was thinking of ways to collaborate with him. When I moved to Mariposa Street two years ago, I was excited to live near the Santa Fe arts district and thought, ‘Oh, wow! I could benefit from the traffic that goes past there on First Friday.’ All of those things inspired me to do this.”
“I once went to a reading in Lincoln, Nebraska, a long time ago, and it seemed like everyone in town was there,” Browning recalls. “There were sculptors and teachers and writers and baristas — they all came out. I don’t know if that was because the community was actually collaborative, or maybe there’s just not much else to do in Lincoln. But that’s what I’d like to see here.”
So Browning’s extending a welcoming hand to others like her: “I want this space to be a connector for all different sorts of art. When I first moved to Denver, I felt like the literary and visual art scenes never really crossed over. I always wanted the scene to have a place where people could all gather together and cross-pollinate.”
And as far as cross-pollination goes, there will be a threefold taste of that at Georgia this weekend, where Browning begins her experiment with a showcase for her inspirational artist friend. “Joshua Ware is a Denver guy and a poet who has a book or two out,” she says. “More recently, he turned his focus on visual art and started making small-scale collages. Those blossomed into bigger collages, and now he’s working with other mixed media on an even larger scale.” With the garage newly drywalled and painted, it’s the perfect test ground for a gallery show.
The next part involves Counterpath, a similar space and small press that Browning knew from the poetry world, which will reciprocate with an interactive element: “I moved the stuff from my garage into Counterpath, where the garage will be re-created from photos I took in that space, which used to be a garage,” Browning divulges. “We’re going to try to livestream both openings on Friday.
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“Tim [Roberts, of Counterpath] has musicians who will be performing among the detritus of my garage, and we’ll be showing that on TV at Georgia,” Browning continues. “And we’re going to try to film our opening to be shown at Tim’s space, if the technology part goes well.
“A lot of that was Tim’s idea,” she explains. “But if I continue with Georgia, maybe I could eventually move the contents of my garage to different places in different contexts. Can I put it all in an empty lot and take pictures of it as the weather destroys it or people take pieces of it? Or maybe not. There are some things that I want to keep.”
On the last day of the pop-up, Browning will stir up the discussion about alternative spaces with an invited panel of Denver people who’ve also dabbled in the new gallery medium. “It’s a way to start some kind of community channel with all of the people who are trying to open alternative spaces,” she adds. “I’m mostly excited to meet all these people. Everyone I invited to the conversation was so enthusiastic. They all want to meet me and talk about space and ideas of how to collaborate.”
This could be the start of beautiful relationship. Georgia Art Space, located in the alley behind 952 Mariposa Street in the Lincoln/La Alma Park neighborhood, debuts with the art exhibit Joshua Ware: Future Bodies; attend the opening reception, featuring sounds by Path of Totality and visuals by Jeanne Liotta, from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, September 8. Gallery viewing of Future Bodies continues from noon to 6 p.m. September 9, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. September 10. In addition, “OtherSpace,” a discussion about alternative art spaces with guest speakers Cortney Stell, Jessie de la Cruz, Kate Crowe, Yasmeen Siddiqui, Tara Rynders and Katie Taft, will take place at Georgia from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, September 10. Learn more about Georgia Art Space online.