Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives 4.0: Eric Shumake

Eric Shumake, Stop the Homeless Sweeps! political action, Denver Art Museum, April 2016.
Eric Shumake, Stop the Homeless Sweeps! political action, Denver Art Museum, April 2016. Courtesy of Eric Shumake
#69: Eric Shumake

An artist and an activist who makes no distinction between the two, Eric Shumake throws his energy into issues of social justice and support for Denver's homeless community. Shumake speaks out as a people's advocate for those at ground level; through his work, including this past year's Cherry Creek Bridge Project painting series, he's raised funds to support the Harm Reduction Action Center safe needle-exchange program. Learn more about the relationship between art and politics as Shumake answers the 100CC questionnaire.

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Portrait of the artivist.
Courtesy of Eric Shumake
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Eric Shumake: I plan to collaborate somehow with pretty much everyone in history, which is what we all can do when we study the past.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

Sogyal Rinpoche, for his tireless work in preserving Tibetan Buddhism.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

Art-washing the liberal arm of capitalism.

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Eric Shumake, “Grant Steet,” Cherry Creek Bridge Project.
Courtesy of Eric Shumake
What's your day job?

Digital design and strategy at the Integer Group, a Denver classic.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

Channel it all into long-term solutions to promote human dignity, health and happiness. Denver Homeless Out Loud and the Harm Reduction Action Center would be at the top of my list.

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

Love it. Every time I fly back to DIA, I feel like a big-horned sheep returning to my evolutionary ecosystem. I see myself as some half-assed Lorax who regrets helping to gentrify LoDo and Baker, which is lame, but hey, there it is. I'm also really excited about the social work of PJ D’Amico and support Kayvan Khalatbari as Denver's next mayor!

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Eric Shumake, “Portraits of Gun Violence: Michael Brown,” oil on canvas.
Courtesy of Eric Shumake
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

Stop the process of art-washing over social problems with exhibitions that give the illusion of helping while covertly codifying capitalist oligarchy. Well-intentioned museum shows on cultural issues don’t effect change — they neuter it by placing it in giant opulent iceboxes on expensive real estate. The newly homeless displaced by this “growth,” for example, freeze to death outside, or are stripped of their basic constitutional rights in homeless “sweeps.” I'm talking to you, Adam Lerner.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Robin Rule, because she has left a powerful legacy, and her vision carries on with Valerie Santerli and the crew at Rule Gallery. Dead people count, right? I see her work as ongoing.

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Eric Shumake, Stop the Homeless Sweeps! political action, Denver Art Museum, April 2016.
Courtesy of Eric Shumake
What's on your agenda in the coming year?

One band and one song: Stay Human and "Stayin' Alive."

Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Denver artist Jonathan Saiz, because he is innovating new economic models as a fundamental aspect of his artistic practice. He is often at his best when curated by my dear friend Eric Nord of Leon Gallery.
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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd