Art News

Why Hip-Hop? Jolt, Curator of Artopia, Explains It All for You

Jolt in the art of the action.
Jolt in the art of the action. Rich Aguilar
Almost a decade ago, we inducted Jolt  — real name Jeremy Silas Ulibarri — and his Guerilla Garden into the 2010 class of Westword MasterMinds, a crew of creative geniuses who are changing the cultural landscape of this city. And for the past few years, Jolt has curated Artopia, masterminding Westword's annual arts extravaganza.

The 2019 Artopia is set for Friday, March 1, at The Church. This year's event is a celebration of hip-hop through the decades, and will be a real blast from the past...and into the future. In advance of next week's announcement of the full lineup of artists and performers, we reached out to Jolt for a quick history of hip-hop and his plans for Artopia.

Westword: Why did you choose hip-hop as the theme for this year's Artopia?

Jolt: Hip-hop culture started in the Bronx toward the late ’70s and had already become a worldwide phenomenon by the mid-’80s. With pioneers such as DJ Kool Herc, GrandMaster Flash, the Rock Steady Crew, Dondi White, Ramellzee and the TATS Cru, to name a few, various MCs, DJs, graffiti writers and breakers became united under the term "hip-hop," which described a subculture of predominantly Black and Latino youth from the inner city.

Hip-hop has taken the world by storm and shaped culture and industry all over the globe, allowing youth from any and all backgrounds to participate. Hip-hop culture is more than rap; it's a lifestyle that has not only birthed a billion-dollar music industry, but also influenced everything from the fine-art world to video games, fashion, theater, language, politics, film and dance. Hip-hop has adapted, redesigned and revolutionized the tools of the trade, from music streaming to spray paint, turntables and beat machines, and fashion. Appealing to practitioners from within the culture, hip-hop has created some of the youngest CEOs in business history.

You're from Denver; how has hip-hop evolved in this city?

Denver has been home to hip-hop culture since shortly after its inception. Champion DJs and breakers who have contributed to the worldwide culture hail from our city; the Mile High City has birthed generations of graffiti artists who are highly regarded throughout the international scene. Yet in its truest sense, the culture still remains underground. In hopes of bringing some of Denver's finest creative exports to the main stage and celebrating the immense amount of talent and culture that our city not only cultivated but attracts from all over the globe, I present to you Artopia 2019, a celebration of decades of hip-hop arts and culture.

Describe a few of the highlights at the 2019 Artopia.

This year will feature art and live painting from Denver's graffiti forefathers Voice, Swek, Tuke and Jher, as well as the 004 Connec Team from Miami and the Burn Unit from ATL. Live video-mixing from internationally recognized filmmaker and Denver native Eric Heights. Photography by Armando Geneyro of Old Denver and Theyshootn. Artopia will also showcase newcomers such as Olivia Lucero, representing Queenz of Hip Hop, along with seasoned vets such as Markham Maes. Patrons will be given a history lesson through installations created by Charlie Ricks, Deep Rawk Dave and DJ A-L that showcase the lineage of the beat machine, rare boombox and spray-can collections, vinyl records and various hip-hop artifacts.

B-boys and B-girls will be rocking the party all night long with special performances by the Freak Show, the BBOY Factory and the Burn Unit. Every nook and cranny of the venue will be filled with live-painters, gallery-style showcased work, performers and fashion. Chubby Robot, Austin Lewis, Zoid Ham and No One Special will have installations created to showcase the many eras of fashion that hip-hop has brought to the world. For patrons interested in having a photo from the event, they can be styled and photographed by Focus4Design.

In an attempt to celebrate the many, many avenues in which hip-hop culture expresses itself, we will create an experience to celebrate graffiti art, fine art, fashion, music, dance and history all at once...with real hip-hop remaining the catalyst.

Artopia 2019 is set for Friday, March 1, at The Church, 1160 Lincoln Street. Tickets are now on sale: $35 for general admission (doors open at 7:30 p.m.), $20 for late-night (admission after 10 p.m.) and $65 for VIP (early admission at 5:30 p.m., with access to a VIP Lounge all night). Get yours at
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