Mai Wyn Schantz, “Foraging,” oil on stainless steel.
Mai Wyn Schantz, “Foraging,” oil on stainless steel.
Photo: Wes Magyar

100 Colorado Creatives 4.0: Mai Wyn Schantz

#13: Mai Wyn Schantz

As a painter, Wisconsin native and Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design graduate, Mai Wyn Schantz can boast placement of her artwork — woodland landscapes and creatures painted on stainless steel — in numerous collections both corporate and private. But in spite of her own successes, Schantz, who settled in Denver about ten years ago, gives back to the Denver art community by pairing her studio space with a gallery up front at Mai Wyn Fine Art in the Art District on Santa Fe, where she’s also a booster for a small but solid stable of local artists, most of them women. As Schantz gears up for a big solo exhibition opening this month at the Foothills Art Center in Golden (details below), we invited her to speak up, via the 100CC questionnaire.

Mai Wyn Schantz in the studio.
Mai Wyn Schantz in the studio.
Courtesy of Mai Wyn Schantz

Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Mai Wyn Schantz: The woods. Whether I am paddling an unnamed lake in the remote Northwoods or hiking a popular trail here on the Front Range, out in nature is where I feel the most inspired. It both exhilarates, awakening my sense of adventure and wonder, and settles, taking me to a place of pure harmony and balance — each step shedding bit by bit the din of traffic, technology and deadlines.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?

I guess I'm getting old and sentimental, but it would have to be my grandmother and my dad. Both have passed away, but it would mean everything to me for them to meet my daughter, Nova…of course, she’d be my third guest.

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider, never quite fitting into any genre or convention. But I do love my place in the Art District on Santa Fe; this is where my studio is. I love the eclectic nature of this art district. I love that we offer something for everyone. We’re all doing our own thing…highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in between.

Mai Wyn Fine Art
Mai Wyn Fine Art
Courtesy of Mai Wyn Schantz

As both an artist and a gallerist, what is your opinion of the current climate in the local art world?

It makes me nervous. In my neighborhood, a number of galleries have moved out, closed or changed format due to escalating rents. I’d love to see the city establish rent control in creative districts or implement some kind of artist-ownership program. That’s probably not going to happen, so I sleep at night knowing that artists are like cockroaches: Force us out and we’ll just turn up somewhere else.

What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?

Surviving this long. After twenty years I am still making art I care about and making my living from the sale of it. Not an easy task. It hasn’t been glamorous, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Mai Wyn Schantz, “Neither Here Nor There,” oil on stainless steel.
Mai Wyn Schantz, “Neither Here Nor There,” oil on stainless steel.
Photo: Wes Magyar

You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?

Artistically, a museum acquisition. As a painter of the most cliché imagery you can produce in Colorado (aspens + sunsets + elk), that would be a huge validation. Personally, I would like to hike the Appalachian Trail — the whole thing — in parts or all at once; either is fine with me.

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

I love my studio and gallery on Santa Fe Drive. The space, the light, the wonderful artists I work with: It all keeps me working hard. I also love being so close to so much great day-hiking. But I am not too excited by our population growth. The trails are almost as crowded as the highways. I don’t want to share.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

The Parson family. In particular, sculptor Charles Parson, my former teacher and now one of the artists I represent at the gallery. During my time at RMCAD, he was like the Pied Piper, drawing young artists into the fine-art program with his enthusiasm and wit. Still today, twenty years later, I cherish a moment of his wisdom, his gift for storytelling and continued passion for his work. Chuck is my definition of a working artist. He breathes the stuff.

Schantz's studio, where her landscapes unfurl.
Schantz's studio, where her landscapes unfurl.
Photo: Wes Magyar

What's on your agenda in the coming year?

After an aggressive start getting ready for this major exhibition at the Foothills Art Center, I need to focus on my nine-month old daughter, Nova. She’s the most important thing. But if doing it all is possible, I am anxious to continue growing my gallery, Mai Wyn Fine Art, and working on new Extraction pieces, the latest series of paintings, which I’ve only just begun.

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Rian Kerrane, Kim Harrell, Fawn Atencio, Sharon Strasburg, Amelia Caruso, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy — some of the hardest-working artists I know.

Mai Wyn Schantz’s solo exhibit Magnetic North opens with a reception on Thursday, July 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Foothills Art Center, 809 15th Street in Golden, and runs through October 29. FAC admission is $8.

Learn more about Mai Wyn Schantz and Mai Wyn Fine Art online.

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