Best Artist Incubator 2018 | Understudy | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Courtesy Understudy Facebook page

Understudy, a project operated and funded by the Denver Theatre District, debuted last October as 700 square feet of unfettered creative experimentation, offering free, short, changing residencies in a dedicated nook of the Colorado Convention Center. Since then, we've seen musical collaborations, art installations, art discussions, new models in art marketing, hands-on activities and, ending March 30, "The Little Chapel of Our Holy Motherboard," an interactive device stoked with digital animations poking fun at the deification of 21st-century technologies. It's the kind of place where you can slip in and out during lunch hour — or spend hours chatting with Denver creatives.

Over the past few years, artist Jonathan Saiz has been experimenting with different and self-generated ways of approaching the business of art while bypassing gallery representation. The latest is 7000 Reasons, a collaboration with friend and fellow painter Wes Magyar that pitches colorful seven-by-seven-inch portraits with a happy theme over a period of seven months. Each painting goes for $143, a fair price for works by the two established artists, and they're taking orders through July. While their goal is to sell 7,000 artworks in that time and to collect them in a book, that's not really the point, they say. After all, here's 7000 Reasons' motto: "We know life isn't all rainbows and unicorns, but 7000 Reasons will be!" Catch a rainbow for yourself.

Steven Frost

Boulder artist and University of Colorado Boulder instructor Steven Frost is a disciple of Carol Frances Lung, aka Frau Fiber, whose Sewing Rebellion movement invites people to commemorate sweat-shop laborers and their essential work through sewing projects. Frost, an official "Faux Frau," carries on Lung's mission locally by mentoring free monthly DIY sewing workshops at the Boulder Public Library's BLDG 61 Makerspace, where he encourages participants to upcycle used materials in creating everything from bike caps to Halloween costumes. Visit the Facebook page for a schedule and register in advance, as classes fill up fast.

Clyfford Still Museum archivist Jessie de la Cruz and photographer Sigri Strand put their heads together to create Arthyve, a nonprofit with the goal of helping Colorado artists document their work for posterity in digital and/or physical memory banks. To accomplish this, they've hosted workshops and symposia to get artists started on their own boxes, with plans to expand in the future. It's their way of acknowledging how our state's arts community makes Colorado a better place to live, now and in the future.

Denver real estate is at a premium, and the squeeze is putting artists in an especially difficult position, as studio space is limited and affordability is even more rare. Welcome to Camp Kalamath. The warehouse — owned by visual artist Tom Bond — is tucked away in an industrial area of Englewood, and the low-slung mid-century modern building doesn't look like much from the outside. But inside Camp Kalamath, the possibilities are endless, with room after room and garage after garage packed with muralists, woodworkers, welders, sign fabricators, industrial designers and even a car-restoration expert. Some of Denver's most-seen public artists have found a home here, with the likes of Jaime Molina, Anthony Garcia Sr. and Victor Escobedo sharing studio walls as well as inspiration. Happy campers, indeed.

Denverite Sommer Browning is many things — a librarian, a poet, a comic artist and sometime standup — but last year, she added gallerist to her résumé by opening up her garage near the Art District on Santa Fe for exhibits and happenings on a small and intimate scale. Georgia Art Space, named after her inspiring daughter, is part of a think-small movement favoring artist-run spaces on the edge of a rapidly commercialized art world, and it's not over yet. After a break, Browning is now in the throes of planning for 2018 events.

Courtesy Colfax Museum Facebook page

Musician, archivist and Colfax enthusiast Jonny Barber (aka the Velvet Elvis) makes no bones about his love for Denver's longest main drag, but he turned it up a notch last year by opening Denver's first and only Colfax Museum, a loving repository of Colfax lore, trivia and historical collectibles. The museum recently relocated from West Colfax to East Colfax, where it now resides inside the Ed Moore Florist shop on the boundary of Denver's Montclair and Park Hill neighborhoods. Regular hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — and, yes, the museum has T-shirts.

Courtesy Clyfford Still Museum Facebook page

People from around the world come to Denver specifically to visit the Clyfford Still Museum, so if you've got friends and family coming to town, they should see it, too. Still, an acknowledged master of abstract expressionism, had only the slightest association with Colorado before his death. In his will, he dictated that any American city willing to build a museum to house his oeuvre would receive the collection, and Denver stepped up in 2004 when then-mayor John Hickenlooper committed to meeting the requirements of the will. Housed in an austerely elegant concrete pavilion, the Still is home to 95 percent of the artist's output, so if you want to see his classic, often massively sized compositions, this is where you have to do it. But the museum is a great place for in-towners, too, because director Dean Sobel keeps things lively by constantly changing out pieces.

Readers' Choice: Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Courtesy Zip 37 Gallery Facebook page

Works in this town's major galleries typically trade for healthy prices, but Zip 37 regularly shows pieces that sell for just a few hundred dollars — and even less if those pieces are in the gallery's Back Room. An artist cooperative founded more than twenty years ago, Zip 37 numbers such well-known local artists as Zoa Ace, Pat Cronin, Katie Hoffman, Jennifer Melton, Louis Recchia and Jean Smith among its members. Just a couple of years ago, Zip 37 was part of a thriving alternative scene along this block of Navajo Street, but Edge, Pirate and Next left in the face of rising rents. Today, Zip 37 and the Bug Theatre are the last survivors.

Readers' Choice: Affordable Arts Festival

Courtesy RiNo Made Facebook page

Last holiday season, Tracy Weil of the River North Arts District gave the idea of opening a shop selling artist-made merchandise a hard trial by filling a vacant spot at the Source on Brighton Boulevard. Chock-full of unusual art wares designed and created by RiNo artists and makers, the temporary store made a good impression with handmade holiday cards, artist prints, clothing, jewelry and a wealth of items produced by neighborhood residents. RiNo's had its share of struggles and growing pains, spawning arguments about whether the district still serves the artists who put it on the map as a destination, but RiNo Made attempts to prove those arguments wrong. And it's sticking: A permanent RiNo Made store is now open in the new multi-purpose Zeppelin Station development at 35th and Wazee streets, within walking distance of the Blake Street light-rail station.

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