MCA Denver

Denver artists flipped for MCA's new I'm an Artist program, which offered free membership cards to the first 1,000 Colorado-based creatives to apply. Wisely recognizing that working artists comprise a symbiotic and core user group for any contemporary art museum, MCA's act of kindness represents a rare give-and-take with the community. It might have worked too well, though, as there's now a waiting list for future applications. But chin up: Current cardholders must visit the museum at least three times in a year to be renewed. It will be interesting to see how many new spots open up next fall.

The History Colorado Center went through a shakeup last year, and in the process, some of its programming — which had thus far been failing to capture the public's imagination — was re-evaluated. Signs of the museum's fresh start began to pop up, including inexpensive Tiny Library Concerts in the intimate confines of the center's Hart Library and the Who Knew!? Everything Old Is New Again exhibit series, which unearthed hidden treasures from little-seen museum collections, including Colorado cannibal Alfred Packer's gun and stadium seats from the old Mile High Stadium. After all, a museum should be a place that one goes back to again and again for new experiences, and these are healthy signs that the History Colorado Center is back in the business of being just such a destination.

Colorado State University's already fine Avenir Museum fashion and textile collection kicked off the year in style with the grand opening of a spacious renovation that more than doubled exhibit, classroom and storage space. Four new exhibits are currently on view in the campus's world-class fashion showplace, including Mr. Blackwell: Artist of Subtle Witchery, a display of items from the museum's extensive Mr. Blackwell collection — the largest on the planet. The show runs through mid-August, but it's only the tip of the Avenir textile iceberg. Consider this an open call for Colorado fashionistas looking to be wowed.

The member-driven Art Gym constitutes a whopping 17,000 square feet of creative workspaces, including shared studios and tools for printmaking, metalsmithing, dancing, sculpting, performing and more, as well as a fully equipped commissary kitchen, a gallery space and an in-house coffee cafe complete with pastries by Lucille's Artisan Confections and healthy snacks from Wong Way Veg. For $100 a month, it's an artist's home away from home. Stop in to check out the digs at monthly gallery-show openings.

RiNo, love it or leave it: As an arts district, it's ground zero for the best and worst aspects of Denver's notorious growing pains. The district is still trying to find the balance between remaining a haven for artists and cautiously welcoming the benefits of gentrification — from choice eateries to new adventures in space-sharing. But at the same time that many artists and galleries are being pushed out of their studios and venues by grow houses and breweries, others are holding on — or moving to nearby Globeville, which might just be the next frontier. And with last year's voter approval of the RiNo Business Improvement District, some thought and care is being put into preserving affordable artist spaces and adding infrastructure to make the warehouse district more people-friendly to residents and visitors alike. RiNo walks a crooked line as it looks for answers, but it's up to the people to make it work.

Readers' choice: Art District on Santa Fe

You'd think that Youth on Record chief Jami Duffy wouldn't have much free time away from her main focus of empowering youth through arts and education. But surprisingly, when she is able to carve out some time for herself, she's interested in doing something more productive than lying on a beach. Enter the Sculpture Brunch, a community-minded way to hang out with friends as a means to an end — in this case, a group-produced sculpture built from recycled junk and thrift-store finds, created in a spirit of cooperation and shared ideas over food and drinks. Visit the Sculpture Brunch Facebook page to keep up with coming events.

The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design's Visiting Artist, Scholar and Designer Program is an interdisciplinary lecture series exploring topics like the humor in art and the role of race, gender and identity in the art world. Open to students and non-students alike, the series is overseen by notable visual artist Gretchen Marie Schaefer, who brings a diverse array of established and up-and-coming creators to Denver. Under Schaefer's leadership, the program has heard feminist icon Judy Chicago discuss her decades-long career working in many artistic mediums, explored sexual politics within the music industry with Mykki Blanco, and stepped into illustrator Lynda Barry's magical world. The program continues to push the intellectual and inventive envelope by celebrating and exploring the work and words of artists from across the cultural spectrum.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum
The least-understood thing about artists just might be the how and why of their work, the part that happens alone in the studio long before the finished product is ever viewed in a gallery. But the glass-window artist residencies featured in the DAM's Artists at Work program give us all a chance to peek into the process of art-making through live weekend demonstrations, as well as extended interactive public projects. Art is alive and well at the DAM — and not just on the walls.

DIY isn't necessarily age-sensitive, nor is it solely a bohemian approach. The idea of making things happen with your own power crosses all boundaries, and Counterpath, a Westword MasterMind and past Best of Denver awardee, has weathered gentrification and the test of time to keep rolling, both as a literary small press and as an anything-goes event space hosting free community art exhibits, poetry readings, avant-garde performances and other events powered by an older, wiser, working academic faction. This year, Counterpath is finding new life at a new location, on the eastern edge of Denver; look online for information about upcoming readings and projects, including a community garden in collaboration with Feed Denver.

Art couple Scott and Myah Bailey think lowbrow art's got cred, and to prove it, they've covered the walls of Sally Centigrade, their underground Larimer Square palace of pop culture, with highly collectible pieces, including original work and prints, from big genre names both local and national. If your taste in art edges over to the weird side, check 'em out.

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