Arna Miller came late to her chosen discipline as an artist and printmaker, but arrived at it ready to be completely immersed, and now she is emerging as a skilled maker of beautiful and whimsical works. With her husband and art partner, Ravi Zupa, she’s created a sustainable home and studio workplace, equipped with all they need to make and finish artworks, individually and in collaboration, in every medium in one place, much of it affordable to the masses. Art life is simple and rewarding in Miller’s world; learn more as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Arna Miller: Magical moments and interesting characters I see from the window, like a squirrel burying a nut and then covering up the area so thoroughly (placing a leaf here, a blade of grass there) that no one will ever know.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Kanye West. He would be really fun, and I could tell him how much I appreciate him. I would be intimidated, though, because he’s so cool.
Jordan Peterson. He is good at talking and listening. Also intimidating.
Ravi Zupa. He is hilarious, insightful and handsome. Also good at talking and listening.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The screen printing community is the best. We share secrets, materials, techniques and friendship. The places where I have shown art are also supportive, taking a low percentage and being welcoming and excited about my art. Working at Indyink years ago really helped push me into the art world. They put my art on shirts and in their gallery shows, and I met a ton of people.
There is no worst thing. Responsibility lies so much on the artist, and how hard one wants to work, and what sacrifices one can put up with.
How about globally?
Ravi and I made some cat matchboxes this summer, and they really took off. We saw them on Pinterest, and Axl Rose was wearing a shirt with our design on it when performing in Taiwan. There were knock-offs and people getting tattoos — you can see on my Instagram page @arnamiller. All we did was show the matchboxes on Instagram, and people found us, resulting in a book-cover design for Bloomsbury Publishing and retailers in Europe wanting to carry them. I guess the worst thing about putting art on the Internet for the whole world to see is that people rip it off. But it doesn’t bother me much.
What’s your dream project?
To buy a plot of land in Colorado with trees and a river running through it, that is quiet and dark at night, and design an underground house on the lot. I will use mostly salvaged materials and the house will be off the grid. It will have radiant floor heating, no wi-fi, a big bathtub, a guest room, using all the best and most beautiful materials. And there will be a hammock under a tree.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
A monk. I would grow up in a small village in the Himalayas that is untouched by time. When I am young I decide to join a zen monastery. I grow up learning meditation and practice diligently each day. I sift through the soil in the garden and read the ancient texts under a tea tree, fully present in each action I take. In the evenings, after the bells have heralded everyone into their stark cells for the night, I dream about being an artist in the United States.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I’m actually in Commerce City now, and I love it. I lived in an apartment on Broadway and Bayaud for five years, and it was $500 per month. This was one thing that helped me become an artist; I didn’t have to work at a job much to cover my expenses. Anyway, last year they evicted everyone and remodeled the building. I was ready to leave, for sure, since it’s so loud on Broadway. Every football game, there was this food truck with a generator that ran all day outside my window. In the summer it was motorcycles and firetruck sirens and all year long, drunk people yelling. I get so overwhelmed by sounds, and it got worse every year. Ravi and I bought a big house on a big lot in spring 2017, and the previous owner left us ducks and a goose.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Dan Huling and his partner, Annabelle Reader, started the Colorado Shoe School in Bellvue, Colorado. They provide materials like rubber (for soles) from an old conveyor belt, and people can come and design and make their own shoes!
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
On December 10, I will have an installation art piece at the Dairy Block on 18th and Wazee (details below). It will be auctioned off, and the proceeds go to Denver’s Road Home. I will be in an art show in L.A. in January; I’ll be part of a group show in Aspen in March; and I plan on doing murals around town and hopefully throughout the US.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Arna Miller is one of more than twenty artists commissioned to turn wooden milk crates into artworks that will be on display during business hours on Monday, December 10, in the Wazee Street lobby of the Dairy Block, 1800 Wazee Street. Created under the theme of “Warmth in Winter,” the art will be auctioned off to benefit Denver's Road Home.
Learn more about Arna Miller and her work online.