#13: Teresa Castaneda
Artist Teresa Castaneda’s motor-mouth mind is always looking for something to do, and more often than not, the result is good for the community. An avid recycling activist who shares her passion through found-object art-making workshops from ReArranging Denver, Castaneda is also an artistic jill-of-all-trades, counting printmaking, drawing, sculpture, painting and photography among her interests, all while also working as a professional certified trade jeweler. Castaneda thinks she’s an over-explainer, but we think she’s just right at home with juggling multiple stories, nimbly telling them all at once. See for yourself, via her 100CC questionnaire, which follows.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
If I had to choose only one? Music, art, physics, architecture? Ugh! The pressure! On the list would be an inventor uninhibited by the norm who defied the landscape, worked in several mediums and used reclaimed materials: Gaudí, a distinct leader in architecture who colorfully echoed nature and religion. He sketched, built models of his ideas, worked in iron and wood, and created from recycled broken cups, glass, tile and other items from the dump to build some of his structures. Maybe a great, great, great relative of mine? I’m obviously wishing.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I’m a bit of a nut about recycling, so I appreciate local organizations such as Art Parts and WeeCycle, which up-cycled on a larger level before "zero use" was a common term. I make art and teach workshops created from supplies in my storage unit, which is filled with donations of broken toys, tattered books and a myriad of other items scavenged on my daily route.
Denise Perrualt of Art Parts is a unique artist who’s also attentive to industry surplus and other reusable goods dumped into landfills because they aren’t accepted by traditional recycling and can't be accommodated at thrift stores or the deconstruction yard. Yet Colorado teachers spend $500 of their own money on classroom materials, businesses spend money on trash-hauling fees and surplus storage space, and families spend approximately $600 annually on new school supplies. Creative reuse addresses multiple issues and helps communities meet and maintain their zero-waste goals. Since founding Art Parts in Boulder in 2011, [Perrault's] outgrown store and gallery has diverted 24 tons with the help of ten volunteers sharing her passion. They host Make ’N’ Take Saturdays and after-hours workshops.
Jayme Ritchie, founder of WeeCycle, is the middleman to freecycled baby joy! She collects and gives gently used baby gear and clothing to the economically challenged. She even donated to my project from her warehouse filled with toys, strollers and cribs. She also pays out of pocket to recycle hundreds of baby car seats that have expired and are deemed unsafe after five years — otherwise known as planned obsolescence.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I don’t usually think of those two words in the same sentence because movements, good or bad, inspire growth or responsive work.
What's your day job?
I am a real, live artist! That means I work in several mediums every day with all demographics. My contract labor ranges from illustration, printmaking, painting, lapidary (stone cutting), trade jeweler (recently cut fourteen stones and made all the jewelry and mountings for them), sculpture/assemblage art, photographer, framing, marketing, shipping and grant writing. I mentor grade-school- through college-aged students with lectures on how to be a living artist. And I teach my own home-schooled children how to build their own clubhouses, doll houses and loft beds, and support their six-year-old business — a traveling art store made from repurposed items that allowed them to purchase a bunny and maintain all of its food, litter and doctor visits, and to rent an RV for a family vacation to the Sand Dunes.
I hold community engagements that connect people through creative reuse with my self-sustaining zero-use project ReArranging Denver. Through the project, I collect and then give away gently used toys from garage sales, donations, local business gift cards and more. This project has also annually been contracted by the Denver County Fair and bridged 50,000 neighbors to their local communities and businesses. Not a bad day’s work!
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
ReArranging Denver: My pop-up art intervention has been done out of pocket for over ten years! Help is welcome, via donations, collecting/sorting, hiring the project and volunteers. I founded ReArranging Denver after recognizing my own low-income community's needs and the amount of unused donations that end up in the landfill. Caregivers in low-income neighborhoods taught me that the lack of transportation left youths in high-risk situations, so I travel to them.
Now "pop-up" is a common term, but in mainstream locations; I built a pop-up, walk-in little free library and mounted it on top of a mobile coat rack to roll through underserved communities and gift everything that was gifted to me by donors. Long and short, I would do more of the same but reach more people. I would also help Jamie in her car-seat endeavor. She just told me that Target recycled seats for one week in honor of Earth Day, through Terracycle. Another tiny step. I connect to economic convictions because of my upbringing, and I witness children and adults who identify well-being with money, status and popular belongings, rather than the who and what is before you.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I am a Denver native, never leaving. I was a high-risk teen and homeless here. Denver raised me, in its resources, job opportunities, art support and proximity to the mountains, and continues encouragement through jobs with university lectures, library workshops, DPS projects, gallery invitations and promotion though local writers with magazines and newspapers such as Westword. I am also a backpacker, so it's nice to escape within minutes to the Rocky Mountains for a couple of weeks with my family.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
I enjoy giving living-artist lectures at the University of Colorado Denver that students identify with, because my start began on the same shared campus with Metropolitan State University Denver and Community College of Denver. Universities and their galleries should seek out and incorporate exemplary art alumni into shows and lectures to acknowledge the success of professional working artists to current degree-seekers. A section of all school galleries should rotate alumna retrospective work in all fields.
Other museums could follow MCA’s lead by seeking out and granting working artists in Colorado free memberships. That allows us to save money toward our creative endeavors and to feed our imaginations when we are not creating. They also connect us to other artists with lunch invites and happy-hour events! Thank you, MCA!
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
My favorite witty refuse-organizer/outdoor-artist/trading-card fanatic, Jerry Simpson. I tend to favor artists who have the ability to express themselves in several mediums and who are whimsical and not pretentious with their work. Jerry is all of these. His art background began in advertising illustration and graffiti design. Photographer John Fielder hired him to design his books, calendars and posters. He continued to work and raise his daughter until computers took over the field, and started making fine art in the late ’80s. Since then, he has shown in hundreds of gallery shows, creating extraordinary assemblages from found objects, and has worked daily for over thirty years at one the greatest art infrastructures/environments in Colorado — his own house/studio/museum.
Jerry started making ATCs (artist trading cards) in 2003 and trading them at CORE New Art Space's monthly trading session. He considers each one (all 22,000 of them) to be concepts for future five-by-seven-foot works of art. In 2005, he started a free MakeEm-TradeEm artist trading cards workshop, which meets once a month at his compound, where myself, my kids and a few other great people, artistically inclined or not, visit while creating from supplies Jerry has accumulated. Jerry opens his doors to the public to use his materials to make a trading card or two — or just stand there and look around in wonder.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
More of the same: inventing, creating and giving. I love my job, because being established in several mediums means work comes from every direction, and it’s never the same! Tomorrow, I might get a call to carve another wax to cast in 24-karat gold for a raw diamond, deliver hundreds of roses made from toilet-paper cores to the Denver Art Museum on the way to teach another photography workshop, explain my printmaking inventions, balance on top of a twenty-foot ladder to install art collaboration with 600 Denver Public Schools kids, maintain restoration of a display train built in 1938 at the Denver Central Library, tighten my 11-year-old’s leathers to protect against 3,000-degree airborne molten iron, book a ReArranging Denver event, upload my portfolio of art I shot alongside proposals I write, or sit silently in a mortuary, making a death mask.
This is a great summary of the lectures I do about how to be a living artist: Embrace what “artist” means. Your artistic curiosity is not about shows or status; it’s about producing fluidly uninhibited work in several disciplines, triggering invention, surviving what most consider a hobby by making it your day job, and keeping the adventure alive.
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Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
The writers! You all ask us questions, come to our studios jammed with jars, smells and works-in-progress, and you listen to endless streams of nonsensical ideas that corner you backwards, because artists over-explain. You ask questions about the trade language we comfortably rattle off, then digest what we were fed since the birth of purists/rituals/archival/sandwiching negatives/pickling oxidation. You untwist the winding visions we distantly describe, while looking off at an imaginary piece of art that doesn’t even exist yet, into a complementary translation that our families, art students and local mystery patrons can identify with. You publish our grandiose abstract answers linearly and decode recordings from our interviews, and then you explain us to the public, creating a positive ripple about our work to the art community and collectors. It’s magic! Writing, to me, is as Walt Whitman described it: opening a vein!
Learn more about Teresa Castaneda online.