Art News

Cortney Stell's Black Cube Will Take Art Out of Museums and Into the Community

In an ever-evolving art scene, a new space will challenge Denver’s perception of the typical museum. Black Cube, a large container and “nomadic contemporary art museum” set to launch at the beginning of October, will function as a pop-up exhibition space, a gallery and a museum shop that will travel to various sites around metro Denver. 

“If you think about a museum, it’s usually something that puts on an exhibit or preserves objects,” says Cortney Stell, Black Cube executive director and chief curator. “Black Cube turns the idea of a typical museum on its head.”
Since Black Cube will not have a permanent space and will instead travel around town, Stell says, it will increase the community’s access to art while supporting the sustainability of artists through site-specific exhibits. “Black Cube’s first exhibit will be an outdoors project at Red Rocks,” Stell says. “Our first artist-fellow, Desirèe Holman, will be doing a live cinema performance to showcase the different character types of the rocks. In this case, Black Cube will function as the museum gift shop.”

While Red Rocks itself will serve as the gallery for that October 1 exhibit, Holman will use Black Cube to sell pants, a tunic and a cape, all inspired by her live cinema performance.

“What’s unique about Black Cube is that our artists will keep 70 percent of their sales, in contrast to the 50 percent that typical museum gift shops take,” Stell says. “Normally artists will have to fund their entire project to sell, but Black Cube will back the work itself.”

Because of the museum’s commitment to cultivating professional development, Black Cube is the first arts outfit in Colorado to receive W.A.G.E. certification, a program operated by Working Artists and the Greater Economy that recognizes nonprofit arts organizations that voluntarily pay artist fees that meet a minimum-payment standard. Only fifteen organizations in the country currently hold this certification.

“Another important element of Black Cube is that we will support our artists for a full year after their exhibition,” Stell says. “We’ll help the individual with whatever they may need.”

Stell has an extensive background in research-based curating, and says she frequented arts and crafts festivals and consulted artists she'd worked with while searching for Black Cube’s artist-fellows; currently all 2015 artists have been booked and half of 2016's artists are under contract. Black Cube is still looking for submissions from artists who are interested in exhibiting via something beyond the “white walls” of a typical museum. Until the Black Cube website debuts next month, you can stay up to date by joining their mailing list or visiting the Black Cube Facebook page

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Lauren Archuletta is a contributor for Westword's arts section, covering Denver's health and wellness scene. Follow her work for tips on cheap workouts and which yoga classes include mimosas and beer.