Art News

Q&A: Denver Art Museum's Christoph Heinrich on the State of the Arts

Denver has a winning reputation — and not just because of the Denver Broncos. This city's arts scene is renowned across the country, and for our annual Winter Arts Guide, inserted in this week's edition of Westword, we asked a dozen people intrinsic to that scene a few questions about the state of the arts in Denver.

First up: Christoph Heinrich, who became the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum on January 1, 2010, after serving as deputy director of the DAM for a year. After a nationwide search, Heinrich had come to Denver as the DAM's Polly and Mark Addison Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in October 2007.

Westword: What are three things any newcomer to Denver should know about the arts scene?

Christoph Heinrich: It’s fun, it’s collaborative – and it’s pretty much everywhere! Much of this can be attributed to the region’s investment in access to arts and culture through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Many might be surprised to know more than 300 arts, science and cultural organizations benefit from this special tax in the seven-county Denver metro area. Interestingly enough, more than half of Colorado’s citizens attended an arts and culture events according to the National Endowment for the Arts (national average is just over 37 percent), which makes our state the most culturally engaged in the nation! There you have it, newcomer!

What developments on the arts scene are you excited about this year?

We are watching the new Kirkland Museum growing and taking shape from our office windows. And it’s growing fast! It will be another great addition to the Cultural Complex south of Civic Center Park – and another one-of-a-kind-place you can only find in Denver!

What are the artist/arts organizations to watch this year?

An institution to watch is Museo de las Americas, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an ambitious program: Detention Nation, a bold statement about immigration policies. And an artist to watch is certainly Jaime Carrejo, who lives here and teaches at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. His work has been featured worldwide, in places such as Colombia, Palestine, France, Australia and Germany, and will soon be featured in Denver — more to come soon.

What's exciting at your own organization/institution?

We just started a year with a very strong program – truly, there is something for everyone, including Japanese samurai next to the rhythm and roots of American dance, and in the fall some of the finest works of Venetian Renaissance coinciding with the creative process behind Star Wars costumes. All throughout the year we’ll also be featuring several fun collaborations with talent from the metro area, such as Wonderbound and RiNo co-founder Jill Hadley Hooper.

How are you working to grow your audience?

We are always looking for better ways to expand access to the museum. Part of that is our Free First Saturdays, where general admission is free for all. Last year we announced Free for Kids. This special program, underwritten by local partners, has allowed us to provide free general admission for everyone 18 and under, which also includes school and youth group admission, funding for school-bus transportation to the museum and low-cost $5 tickets to special exhibitions such as the upcoming Samurai and Star Wars shows.

Find out more about the Denver Art Museum at

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun