Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt is a woman of the world, a traveler and a wanderer, a collector and a curator of rare and beautiful things and places, who settled down long enough to grow roots in Denver and call it home. Sometime photographer, Tennyson Street shop owner, gallerist and reader of coffee grounds, she brings a global view to our Rocky Mountain solitude. How does her world spin? Find clues in her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt: I have always felt a great kinship to writer Anais Nin. She was highly prolific throughout her life not only as a writer, but also as a flamenco dancer, printmaker, psychoanalyst, muse. I appreciate her multi-faceted talents. Photography and installation art is what I fantasize creating together with her, and I'm sure we would end up doing a documentary of some sort. Probably on our iPhones. I'm also very keen on interior design and would love to travel the world and decorate homes, river boats, castles, yurts in the mountains, tents in the desert and tiny houses with those Dolce and Gabbana guys.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Not just one person. I'm in awe of everyday people who are committed to telling their stories, through art or just in their travails as ordinary people, being jostled about in a politicized world where they are shoved about like chattel. They are the courageous who risk everything to speak up. That group of men that sewed their lips together in Macedonia! Amazing! The whole refugee issue, which seems like a European thing but it is of utmost importance for Americas to tackle, moves the activist in me. Migration, displacement, the redefining of self and culture. The result of cultures clashing manifests itself in art, always.
Specific people: Bosnian-American artist Aida Sehovic, who uses interactive installation to tell her story moves me deeply. Shirin Neshat, her photography and film work — amazing. I find the gender fluid sevdah singer Božo Vre?o fascinating. Though he is so obviously “the other,” the way he presents himself and his music really resonates with people on every level.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Well, to each his or her own. However, I would like to mention that building insta-communities — housing communities, art communities, food growing communities or what have you — does not really mean we are actually living the authentic thing. It's more a type of experience, like Las Vegas is an experience, and if that's how we identify it, I will respect that. I just don't buy the pretense that food courts are the same experience as going to the central market in Rome. I want to feel soul and authenticity, and in my experience this does not happen overnight. Culture as fermentation: The nuanced layers of living — movements and migrations of people, language, preferences, prejudices and integration, and years of culling, adding and separating, texturing the good, bad and the ugly, all of it slow cooking over time, organically.
What's your day job?
I have a long history with Tennyson Street, so it is pure synchronicity that I found and recently opened a small space behind the ancient Oriental Theater. I always design a space with world culture and diversity in mind and so the placement of objects is deeply layered, rich with history and texture. It's a store and a gallery and an idea space. With it I hope to continue developing a living and vibrant space that changes often, maybe even moves here and there, but one that flows with energy from the objects to the artists to the people that come in. I share an office space with Colorado ArtSeen magazine, and with them we are open for First Fridays along with the other remaining galleries.
I plan to rotate shows featuring local and international artists and schedule monthly events, including music eventually. I'm really excited to be back on Tennyson, and I've created a beautiful little homage to globally influenced home decor. I've focused on a good fit for small spaces like the lofts that are popping up everywhere, but I do have a secret stash of antique architectural elements I've been collecting, including carved corbels, doors and pillars that are perfect for designers and custom homes, too.
The other big news is that I've moved my Turkish coffee reading parlor to the premises and made it a pop-up in the gallery, and that's now where I see my clients. The space is the perfect backdrop for the readings, which are a special brand of healing arts therapy that I have been providing privately since I closed the shop at 3939. It is a unique form of divination, and I have acquired a following for reading and interpreting the symbols in the cups, which I inherited as part of my matrilinial culture and through years of study. Like so many forkloric elements, there is an inherent art and ritual to the making and drinking of the Turkish coffee, which people love. The energetic space that is created centers you, makes it personal. Introducing others to this and doing the readings has totally enriched my life on so many levels. I find sharing and participating in ritual so important in contextualizing our every day lives, and I love passing on the knowledge. There is a site to make appointments for that, and an online gallery is in the works.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would set up a fund for people to take a minimum of three months in another country, to explore the art and the food, history and culture in an authentic setting. Mostly, I'd give out wads of cash, with minimum questions asked. That's what creatives need, freedom. Or at least an unlimited credit at Meininger's and Home Depot. Right?
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Growing up a nomad, I've never really fit in anywhere, and Denver is no exception, even though I've now been here so long I practically count as a native. I think my hybrid sense of culture can be a lot to handle, and people don't know what to do with it. It isn't Denver's fault. Denver is perfect as it is. I do love the pristine mountain beauty of it though — it reminds me of Bavaria, where I spent my childhood. Also, my children were born here and love it. They wouldn't think of living anywhere else, and so for now, neither will I.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Oh gosh, really? The funding process is ridiculously tedious and arbitrary and with the exception of getting paid council, it's near impossible: urban farming, women's collaborative's, teen entrepreneurs, what have you. Who ever gets money? I say, give out bundles of cash to creatives and see what they do with it. Wait, is that not realistic? Oh well. That leaves only one thing. All of us must, on a grass roots level, buy and shop local, support local art with our dollars. That's it. That's the bottom line.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
My fellow Euro girl Sabin Aell, who has been creating community with her Hinterland monthlies since RiNo was just a blip on the screen. She is out there everyday, creating art and taking risks, showing and supporting under-the-radar artists, offering and taking opportunities where she can. I admire her absolutely. I'm also crazy about the people who produce the Denver Film Festival and run the Sie FilmCenter programming. They bring the world to Denver through films that we would never get to see otherwise, and they rule supreme. Also, a very underrated artist, Brian Comber. His work is intelligent, complex and inspiring.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Curating and defining the store part, collaborating with designers who use the architectural elements I have available. I of course have a bigger goal of transitioning my pop-up concept and the iconic personal experience that's related to it, so that will set it apart from anything else around. I'd like to expand to numerous venues, work with other intuitives, artists, photographers and others who also embrace the globe as their inspiration. We will set up shows, have kind of a traveling gypsy caravan of happiness and mysteriousness fueled on sweet black coffee and good fortune. This is how I want to share experiences and hopefully, I will give something authentic back to the community.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi-Sink, in general, but Denver Month of Photography in particular: With it, Denver goes out into the world, and the world comes back to Denver — it’s so exciting! The artist Taryn Andreatta, using her lovely muse of a body to convey her art and concepts. Also, anonymous guerrilla art, impromptu installations, graffiti and street art will pop up everywhere near you as artists have to juggle for space to work. Keep your eyes open.
Learn more about Silvana Vukadin-Hoitt and Silvana Mondo Gallery, 4420 Tennyson Street, online or call 739-0399 to schedule a reading. See additional posts from Vukadin-Hoitt on Instagram: @silvanamondogallery.