Artist co-ops came into existence for so many reasons, beginning with the sense of community they provide. An offshoot of trade and artisan cooperatives that date back centuries, they also offer shared resources, a place to launch new ideas, an automatic sounding board, and a way to get around the middlemen of commercial galleries while building a practice. A co-op artist is a whole artist, free to make the art that he or she wants to make.
Like most co-ops in Denver, Next Gallery came to be for just these reasons, with an emphasis on helping emerging artists climb up in the art scene. But as current Next Gallery director Josh Davy notes, over the years the co-op gained an unwanted reputation for a lack of polish, compounded by its newbie-friendly policies.
Just as Next was hitting bottom and considering disbanding, though, things began to look up.
When Next led the three-gallery exodus from Navajo Street to the 40 West Creative Arts District in Lakewood in 2017, members saw it as an opportunity to up their game with a stronger membership. They began by filing for nonprofit status and creating a board. They also renewed their commitment to their early mission. “At Next, we want to help emerging artists and teach them how to put on shows,” Davy says.
Those shows have benefited from better foot traffic in Lakewood, especially on First Fridays. "Since moving to Lakewood, we have a waiting list to get in the gallery,” Davy adds. “We want to be selective about who we choose; we don't want to lose our identity with the new artists. In the past, we’ve paired them with established artists, and then move them into full membership, but we’d like to take that further: We wanted to figure out how we could give a chance to someone who wouldn't get into art otherwise.”
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In the current atmosphere of uncertainty for Denver artists, who feel disenfranchised by a rapidly gentrifying city, Next, now 28 members strong, envisions itself as a kind of safehouse for artists.
To that end, the gallery is now taking submissions for what the co-op is calling a Next Gallery Scholarship, working in collaboration with 40 West. There are no age or experience requirements; any unknown is invited to apply by submitting five to ten examples of their work and a written statement about why and how they would benefit from the opportunity.
Along with a one-year free membership at Next, which includes involvement in the gallery’s group shows and mentorship toward mounting a solo exhibition, the winning recipient will also gain 40 West membership for the year, with added perks.
To apply, e-mail materials to firstname.lastname@example.org using the word “Scholarship” in the subject line. Physical copies of images and info can also be left at NEXT Gallery, 6851 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays or Sundays. Entries will be accepted through September, when selected applicants will be interviewed. In addition to the winner, two runners-up will be selected to receive one year of mentored membership at Next for a $40 monthly fee. Learn more about the gallery and scholarship program on the Next Gallery Facebook page.