#68: Annie Geimer
Denver Theatre District mover and shaker Annie Geimer has what it takes to plan huge music festivals or bring public art projects to downtown streets. But like Geimer’s creative collaborator David Moke, her partner in Communitas Consulting, her skills flow out of a world of free-form DIY ideas that she’s been inspired by. Juggling big and small projects from the ground up, from giant sidewalk murals and outdoor installations of blue trees to more intimate concerns, she rides a wave of culture-making on the cutting edge. Surf the future of the arts in Denver with Geimer via the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Annie Geimer: Always the dance floor. Dancing is my most pure expression of joy and energy. And I have a lot of energy. I’m not talented, but it brings me so much happiness. Watching other people dance is thrilling. I have learned that fluid expression is important to me.
More specific to my career, I give a lot of credit to where I am professionally to my college education at DePaul University in Chicago. DePaul's philosophy was to use the city itself as an extension of its curriculum. I had several pivotal influences, but two that really shaped me. I took a course in urban communication called City at Night, a first-of-its-kind course held from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. and designed to give students the opportunity to study urban communication and culture in the context of the night. I credit this class and my professor (and still friend) Daniel Makagon with exposing me to subcultures and subsistence models present in a city that I might have otherwise been blind to. For instance, learning that Starbucks has the best dumpster diving in the city. This exploration developed my interest in public spaces and pushed me to be a critical thinker, examining my own participation in the public sphere. I saw the seaminess of urban life. The work I did in the class showed me how to be curious and use the city as an avenue to learn.
The second was my internship at a small gallery and performance space in Chicago called the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS). Owners Lou Mallozzi and Sandra Binion became my mentors and have inspired me to do the work I do now. Championing everything from experimental noise performances with fixed pianos to multi-sensory shows in DIY venues, this place taught me how to invest in my community, how to support artists and how best to use my skills to build a sense of place. That city and the culture of creativity made an indelible impression on me, and I am forever grateful.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Michael Jackson. Most people who know me know I have a healthy obsession with the King of Pop. Bad was my first cassette tape, and I have fond memories of staying up all night with my brother hoping to catch an MJ music video on MTV or VH1. He was a pure, honest, raw talent with a huge heart. He was a visionary, and I have always been moved by his compassion for the world and his ability to reinvent himself and the boundaries of pop music. I love to dance, and nothing would make me happier than being able to dance with him and give him a big hug.
Tilda Swinton, swoon. She has always been a source of inspiration to me — my permanent lady crush. An artist with intellect and wit, impeccable style and seemingly limitless ability to transform, she is equal parts grace and absurdity, and that resonates with me. I would have killed to see her sleeping in a glass box in MOMA. Who knows what weird things could come from a party with Tilda? The last slot on my party roster is a toss-up between #TheNotoriousMMA Conor McGregor and skateboarders-turned-filmmakers Spike Jonze or Harmony Korine. You wouldn't have guessed that I like UFC, but I do, and I have an affinity for McGregor's outspoken persona. It’s a guilty pleasure, and he would be an entertaining guest.
But I suppose I’m more interested in Jonze and Korine. I have alway loved film. Jonze and Korine are responsible for some of my favorite movies, and I am fascinated with their ability to capture raw, unfiltered human interaction, build twisted stories about nothing, and foster insight into deep introspective moments. I see this deep connection between art and skateboarding — skateboarding being a visceral reaction to movement and environment, and art being the same way.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
What’s good? People here tend to be receptive rather than competitive. What’s bad? The term and fixation on “Old Denver.” There is a natural resistance to change that people feel necessary to criticize. I am not dismissing the issues around growth and development, but I am also more interested in discussing how to be positive about the future.
How about globally?
I’m excited about the emergence of multi-disciplinary art and resource spaces like ESS. There are spaces where the public can learn a skill and create, without necessarily having to be “artists.” Want to learn how to circuit-bend? Or how to solder? Or make your own vertical garden? The importance of these spaces in communities is undeniable, and they are redefining what being a creative means and looks like.
Are trends worth following? What’s one trend you love and one that you hate?
I don’t really follow trends, but I always have my antenna up. I don't know if this counts, but — people talking on speakerphone or Facetime in public. What is that?! I will never understand it. It’s rude and inconsiderate.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as a creative?
Weird Touch, an all-vinyl dance party at Syntax Physic Opera. Three years ago, after I returned from living in San Francisco, I was seeking a new cultural scene, so I started going to Adrift where Matthew Brown, Tyler Snow and Shannon Kelly used to spin records. I didn't know any of them very well, but I was bewitched by their musical taste and the community of people who came out to dance. We joke about it today, but I was embarrassingly eager to become friends with them and sort of “forced” them into accepting my friendship. They wanted to expand the audience and welcomed me into the fold as another creative contributor. I came up with the name, Weird Touch, inspired by a bruise. My role is one part creative, two parts den mother and “manager."
It is everything I could have hoped for in a dance party: a swirling, dark mixture of the most amazing people, music and magic. These guys are my best friends and truly some of the most talented, creative and lovely people I have ever met. I love them fiercely and feel humbled and honored to be a part of the project. There is joy in watching people having fun! If you haven’t been, we look forward to seeing you there.
I am also incredibly proud of the work I have done with my colleague and friend David Moke at the Denver Theatre District. Our recent public art installation with artist Shantell Martin was a career highlight, as was opening our arts incubator space, Understudy. This newest project is the embodiment of creative change in the Denver art community.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I don’t have a bucket list. I’m excited to be a part of what happens next!
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it. I’m proud to have grown up here and thrilled that I am able to contribute positively to my community. I was fortunate to live in Chicago and San Francisco for several years, which allowed me to appreciate the quality of life Denver has to offer. Denver represents home. Travel keeps my wild heart fulfilled and the ideas flowing.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
There are so many people deserving of this title. Big love to Alex Milewski from Block 1750 out of Boulder. Alex is one of the most talented dancers I have ever met, with a heart of gold. If you haven't been to the Block’s summer Block Party or their show Murmuration, you are missing out.
Kaela Martin. From her impassioned days as one of the leaders of Unit E, to a founder of Small Press Fest, to the icy depths of Vermont to open a restaurant, she is a true powerhouse. She recently was the project manager on the reopening of the Campus Lounge, a huge undertaking that she handled with grace. She is fearless, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.
I would also like to give special shout-out to my brother, Max Geimer. He is a DPS seventh-grade science teacher and moonlights as the visual narrator for local band déCollage. Max is incredibly passionate, with a perfect blend of silliness and tough love. His dedication to incorporating art into learning and science is powerful. He’s fighting the good fight, and I’m super-proud of him. Cheers to all you educators out there.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
So many exciting things coming up! I will be focusing on Understudy, and I’m really looking forward to building another creative space with our community. I am also working with Meow Wolf to help them navigate their entrance into Denver and the creative scene. I’m thrilled to be teaming back up with my former house of employment, Superfly, to help them produce their music festival at Overland Park in 2018. And always, more travel!
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Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Esther Hernandez. She is a current artist-in-residence at Redline and a proper weirdo. Her work in stop-motion animation and performance art excites me. Her exploration of play and the boundaries of human interaction is provocative and something I want to see more of.
The guys behind Be a Good Person shop: I support their cause and appreciate their mission. Learn more about their quest for positivity at their website.
Looking to check out projects Geimer's involved with? Denver artist Jonathan Saiz's art-vending kiosk installation, Blue Chipped, a marketing experiment offering $20 original miniature artworks in the Denver Theatre District, opens December 4 and runs though December 24 at Understudy, 890 C 14th Street in the Colorado Convention Center. Get more information on the project and special events TBA, forthcoming online at Understudy’s website.