In her work as a photographer, East Coast emigre Samantha Johnston focuses on fleeting things — the way the light momentarily falls across the wall or a flowered tendril curls along a garden fence. But in her role as the new director of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, she’s looking at bigger stuff, including how to further the mission of CPAC in the coming years, as the center settles into its new digs at Ironton Studios. Where is she headed with all of this? Learn more from her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Samantha Johnston: I think of collaboration as a way to explore new ideas. I would collaborate with Johannes Vermeer. I have always been drawn to the quality of light in his paintings. Light plays a huge role in my own work, and I would love to sit with him and discuss light and domestic spaces.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Ai Weiwei is someone who is interesting to me right now. I saw his work at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and his exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014. I am continually astounded by the amount of work he produces, his multidisciplinary approach and his ability to weave culture, history and politics throughout his work.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Artist statements that are so theoretical they don’t really explain the work.
What's your day job?
I am the executive cirector at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. Come check it out — we just moved into Ironton in RiNo. It’s a fabulous space!
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would use it to expand the Colorado Photographic Arts Center to have a permanent space with classrooms, more exhibition space and an artist-in-residence program. The funding would also be used to create further outreach programs in the community.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver, I moved here from the East Coast in 2010. I love the balance of city life with easy access to the outdoors. While I miss being near the ocean, I can’t get enough of the mountains. Every day I love looking out at the horizon.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Denver is so fortunate to have funding from organizations such as SCFD and Colorado Creative Industries. The new Imagine 2020 culture plan is exciting, and it’s important to continue thinking about the city’s role in connecting people with the arts. Denver is fortunate to have some truly passionate people involved in the arts, such as Mark Sink, who put Month of Photography in Denver on the map, and remains a strong supporter and advocate of photography in Denver.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I am excited about Black Cube and the opportunities it provides for artists in Denver and beyond. Thinking outside the confines of the traditional museum or gallery is exhilarating.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This year the focus is on further promoting CPAC and growing the organization. Starting to plan for our involvement in Month of Photography 2017. Looking for a permanent facility for the organization.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I don’t have one person in mind, but I was so energized to see the statewide exhibit Art of the State at the Arvada Center. What a fantastic example of the diversity of artists in Colorado!
See Maybe: Phil Toledano, CPAC’s inaugural show in its new space at Ironton, through March 12. Keep up with CPAC news and exhibits online. Learn more about Samantha Johnston at her website.