Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives: Judy Anderson

#85: Judy Anderson

When Judy Anderson founded PlatteForum a decade ago, it was a good idea. Over the years, with the help of an enthusiastic team, it's morphed into a great idea -- a well-oiled machine that molds a rare product: Kids pumped up on creativity.

The basic idea behind the nonprofit -- pairing inner-city youth with resident artist-mentors for in-depth projects culminating in exhibitions -- isn't unique to PlatteForum, but few programs ever reach the same pinnacle: With help from her staff, Anderson has led PlatteForum and, specifically, its ArtLab program, all the way to Washington, D.C., where she accepted a $10,000 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in 2011. One of only twelve such grants awarded across the nation, it was handed over by Michelle Obama herself.

See also:

- Eyes on the prize: Michelle Obama honors PlatteForum - Book of Life - 100 Colorado Creatives: Theresa Anderson

But there's a lot more to Anderson than her most visible role as artistic director at PlatteForum. A fine artist in her own right and a longtime arts educator, she brings a fat resume and an artist's eye to all that she does, whether welcoming artists to PlatteForum, collaborating with others on her own multidisciplinary projects or showing work at Walker Fine Art. Still, her unflagging love for her day job never wanes. She's just as excited about the arts project opening at PlatteForum tonight -- Reconstruction: Building New Music From Old Denver Records, a sampling workshop for sixteen youth interns (hear the final product from 5:30 to 8 p.m.; admission is free), as she was for the first residency ten years ago.

And on Saturday, she'll be heading up the unGala, an offbeat tenth-anniversary celebration at the Infinite Monkey Theorem. Tickets, if still available, are $75 ($140 couple) for an evening of eating, drinking, pop-up performances and dancing to Conjunto Colores and PlatteForum residents, DJs Memetic and Pho; go online to reserve.

There's a lot to celebrate: In 2002, Judy Anderson had the vision to make it work. Ten years later, PlatteForum is here to stay.

We asked Anderson to take our 100CC questionnaire; her thoughts on the state of the arts in her world and all of Colorado follow. Read on.

Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Judy Anderson: Tough question. Leonard Cohen. [see below]

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

So many to choose from, but to choose just one: Leonard Cohen. I am truly amazed by his evolution as an artist, poet, thinker and human being. And I'm curious about what he might write and create next. I've always been fascinated by writers, perhaps because as a visual artist I feel so clumsy with words. Observing his process -- both how he responds to events and feelings in the moment as well as builds upon past experiences -- is inspiring. And, of course, I love his voice as he sings and speaks his words. Something about the tonality, the raspiness of his voice soothed by the background melodies creates this other-worldliness; it consumes me. Yes, he is pretty sexy, too, and his music feels so full of longing, spirituality and truth.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Art that tries too hard to be important. I am drawn to work that feels authentic and makes me think or see in a new way. It's fascinating that every single person has their own unique voice that no one else has. Finding and feeling comfortable in that gives such an incredible foundation for the risk-taking that the creative process embodies. I love looking both at the way people think, what they obsess about, their craft, and ultimately their ability to put themselves out into the world to have people respond to them.

What's your day job?

I am blessed at this time in my life to work at PlatteForum and be surrounded by the most amazing staff, artists, youth and volunteers ever. Talk about authenticity! After 25 years of teaching in universities, navigating tenure and academic politics, working in my studio, exhibiting my work, volunteering for social justice issues, I helped create an organization that truly celebrates the very grit of what makes us human (in the best sense) in 2002. When you step into PlatteForum you know you are in an amazing place. The spirit, joy and passion everyone brings is palpable. We work together as a team, take risks, collaborate, support each other and the people we work with, and always have something new up our sleeves.

Continue reading for more on Judy Anderson A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

Share the wealth! I would create an endowment for PlatteForum that gives it stability so that we can spend every second of our time in programming and not writing grants and fundraising! Build a permanent home, create scholarships for youth and artists, ensure decent salaries for our staff, and develop a special fund for ongoing infrastructure and facilities that support our programs. Oh, and I would use the money to fund our idea that's not off the ground yet: a new wing of PlatteForum called PlatteForum Pop! that celebrates popular culture, spearheaded by artists like filmmaker Alexandre Phillipe. 

And I would also fund an endowment in my husband Ron Henderson's name for the Denver Film Society that supports contemporary filmmakers. Then I'd give a bunch of money to everyone in my family! What joy!!!

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Bring back some way of funding individual artists as well as organizations and institutions.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I have to say Adam Lerner, Sarah Baie and the whole crew at MCA.

Throughout the year, we'll be casting our radar on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

Who rocks your world locally? Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd