As Arts Organizations Struggle, Some Take Their Work on the Road

As Arts Organizations Struggle, Some Take Their Work on the Road
Charlotte Bassin
Back in April, Doug Kacena, founder of K Contemporary, broke ranks with the cultural institutions that had gone virtual during the state's stay-at-home order and started showcasing art on the back of a billboard truck. He called the project #ArtFindsUs. "I wanted to make a big statement to my artists: I'm going to be here, I'm not going anywhere, and I'm going to come up with innovative ways to support you," he told Westword.

That big statement has grown into a multi-disciplinary collaboration with the Athena Project, a nonprofit empowering women in the arts. The Athena Project teamed up with K Contemporary after Holly Porterfield — a boardmember of the nonprofit who was working with Denver Arts & Venues on migrating the Five Points Jazz Festival from an in-person event to a broadcast — remembered how Mississippi riverboats hosted jazz acts, and imagined flatbed trucks doing the same. When the city couldn’t pull off her vision, Portersfield took the idea to Athena Project Executive Director Angela Astle, who had just canceled her 2020 programming through June.

“Initially, I was like, ‘I don’t know. That seems like a lot,'” says Astle. But then she and Porterfield ran with the idea, introducing themselves to Kacena and eventually joining forces. Starting in June, #ArtFindsUs began showcasing a variety of artists, dancers, bands and more throughout Five Points. They stopped at St. Joseph Hospital, Safeway and Coffee on the Points, with performances from two members of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and jazz from Guerrilla Fanfare.

“It was pretty fucking magical,” recalls Kacena.
click to enlarge CHARLOTTE BASSIN
Charlotte Bassin
The collaborators decided to do similar events in various art districts on the third Thursday of the month through November. The July edition, taking place on July 16 in the Art District on Santa Fe, will include on-stage performances from Samba Colorado, which uses Brazilian dance in the quest for social justice, and poet Tanaya Winder. Musicians will perform from pedicabs, and there will be visual art from Suchitra Mattai, Melissa Furness, Daisy Patton and Access Gallery.

The collaborators hope they can find funding to keep the collaborations going through the fall. They certainly have more than enough ideas, including a pedicab performance by the entire Colorado Symphony. “This is free and accessible,” says Porterfield. “It gives the artists an opportunity to be paid and uplifted."

For more information, go to The #ArtFindUs website.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris