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2012 Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts: Emmanuel Gallery

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Every year since 1986, Denver has recognized creative individuals and organizations that make an artful impact on the community with the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts. The 2012 winners were just announced, and for the first time, they were split into three new categories: Youth Arts, Entrepreneurial Arts and Impact Arts.

The winners will get their official awards at the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts reception on November 15 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. But in the meantime, Westword is profiling the winners. First up was the Art District on Santa Fe, winner of the Entrepreneurial Arts Award. Next we present the recipient of the Impact Arts Award, the Emmanuel Gallery.

See also: - 2012 Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts: Denver's Art District on Santa Fe - Photos: Love, murder and death, illustrated, at the Emmanuel Gallery - Eames 100: This Is the Trick

People sometimes scream inside Denver's oldest standing church structure. They throw paint around too. It's no longer used for religious purposes, unless you worship some of the art inside -- which is entirely possible considering the quality of work presented at the Emmanuel Gallery these days. Mayor Michael Hancock liked it so much that he named it one of his 2012 Excellence in the Arts award winners. It's been around for a long time and perhaps now, the Emmanuel Gallery is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

The Gallery was originally built in 1876 -- the same year Colorado gained its statehood -- as an Episcopalian chapel. About thirty years later the religious sector of its surrounding neighborhood began to change and in 1903 the Gallery was converted into a synagogue. It remained a fixture of Denver's Jewish community for over half a century until, yet again, its religious landscape nearby waned and it was sold to an artist who utilized the space as a studio before ultimately becoming a part of the Auraria Campus in 1973 -- almost a century after it was first constructed. Just prior to being adopted by the Campus, the Gallery was approved for listing on the National Register of Historical Places.

In 2005 Shannon Corrigan became the curator and director of the Gallery, which she describes as "one of the most beautiful exhibition spaces and pieces of architecture in Denver." One year after her arrival the Denver Post awarded the Gallery, Art Space of the Year in 2006, stating how Corrigan "injected new energy and excitement into this gallery on the Auraria campus that was all too easily overlooked before." A few years later Westword recognized the Gallery as Best Solo Design Show of 2008 for its Eames 100: This is the Trick exhibit.

Corrigan feels the Gallery is "a real workhorse" and estimates it displays roughly thirteen to fourteen exhibits each year. "We're probably one of the busiest galleries in Denver," she reveals.

The Gallery is the only one of its kind showing student and faculty artwork on the Auraria Campus. It traditionally shows one faculty exhibition per semester. In the spring, students of all three schools that comprise the Auraria Campus -- Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado at Denver and the Community College of Denver -- get their own exhibitions at the Gallery. Work from both students and faculty can be purchased with prices being established individually by the artists themselves.

In addition to art done by those either teaching or learning on the Auraria Campus, the Gallery also displays work from local and even international artists. Last year during Performance Art Week the Gallery hosted a live-performance event featuring an array of artists from different locals. In an ongoing performance Corrigan describes as "an incredible day," artists performed live for about twenty minutes before the next entertainer took the stage. The entire process unfolded over eight hours with no interruptions. "Whether it was paint being splattered, things being built or torn apart, or someone laying onto a floor screaming into a pillow -- performance art has no boundaries," Corrigan recalls.

Another eccentric exhibition at the Gallery took place several summers ago when, like she has for the past three summers, Corrigan invited a local artist to take over the building space to host a piece of installation art. She describes it as "a two-person video installation where the entire Gallery was black and as you walked through the space a computer registered you were there, then created a digital painting on the wall and shot out sound reacting to your movements as well."

Corrigan says receiving the Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts is "really going to help us spread the word. It's wonderful to get this award and to let the people out there who don't know we're here that we're open for them as well."

Next up on the Gallery schedule is the Metropolitan State University of Denver Faculty Exhibition which kicks off with a reception November 8 from 4 to 7 p.m. All receptions and exhibitions at the Gallery are free and open to the public. For more information on all things Gallery related, visit its website at www.emmanuelgallery.org.

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