Best Wheat-Paste Artist With a Humanitarian Message

Frank Kwiatkowski

Frank Kwiatkowski's wheat-pastes are unmistakable: linocut-printed swirls of wobbly lines cross-cut with multiple colored stripes, which are then affixed to vacant surfaces with a water, sugar and flour concoction. But it's the content of his work that's so distinct: The artist creates vignettes of human interaction on the street, with commentary on environmentalism, class warfare, sobriety, homelessness, health care and gentrification. The world Kwiatkowski captures under a thin layer of wheat paste is undoubtedly inspired by his view of the city from the pedicab he drives — an occupation that makes the artist, like his art, a downtown fixture.

thekwiatkowskipress.com

Creative powerhouse Deanne Gertner wanted to find a way to direct-market work by Denver's artist community while bypassing the middleman. The result was Hey Hue, which made its debut last summer in a truck parked on the fringe of the Underground Music Showcase in the Baker neighborhood. Since then, Gertner's continued to market pieces both in and out of the truck, always displaying a palette of work that represents a wide cross-section of emerging artists. The kicker? Each piece in Hey Hue's truck shows and pop-ups is priced at $200 or less, helping would-be collectors get in gear.

heyhueart.com

"Albert Canstein," made by inmates at the Trinidad Correctional Facility.
Courtesy Rodney Wood
"Albert Canstein," made by inmates at the Trinidad Correctional Facility.

Talk about vroom service! Trinidad is now an officially designated Colorado Creative District, and art cars have helped put the town back on the map. It started when Trinidad denizen Rodney Wood and his friends began throwing the annual ArtoCade art-car parade on the main drag, then realized that for the event to really rev up, they needed to solve two problems: where to store the art-car collection and how to bring curious folks to Trinidad year-round. Their solution? The Art Cartopia Museum, a true roadside attraction right off I-25, which invites curious travelers to ogle the rolling art pieces and listen to a few wacky stories from the volunteer crew that runs the currently free attraction. Once you spot Joerilla, the gargantuan gorilla blow-up, you'll know where to go.

After meeting at the New York Academy of Art, students Aaron Mulligan and Lucía Rodríguez fell in love and eventually settled in Mulligan's home town of Denver, working toward their dream of creating a different kind of art gallery that would encourage working outside the box while also serving as a classroom and community center for fellow artists. The result was JuiceBox, where the couple is creating a scene by hosting movie nights, color-theory classes, hands-on Family Fun Center evenings and art openings. A gentle mashup of DIY and solid gallery shows (it's strategically located next door to the similarly minded Dateline), JuiceBox is an under-the-radar next best thing.

Dateline
Courtesy Dateline Facebook page

Since 2014, Dateline has existed at the intersection of the underground art world and the formal gallery setting. Dateline co-founder Jeromie Dorrance is the conduit for DIY makers and experimenters who come through the space, and artist-curated shows have put works by the likes of Molly Bounds, Phil Bender, Julio Alejandro, Mark Fitzsimmons and more on the walls. That underground connection also allows Dateline to create context for Denver's larger art world, as when 2018's This Is It, a group show curated by Lorenzo Talcott, brought some of Denver's biggest graffiti players into the gallery while the Crush Walls street-art exhibition was taking place right outside. In clearly valuing homegrown art and artists, Dateline gives prominence to the non-critical space to which "local" art was once relegated.

The People's Building
Aaron Vega

The City of Aurora conceived of the People's Building as an essential component to the development of the Aurora Cultural Arts District, which is bringing shiny new life to Aurora's fading downtown along the East Colfax corridor. Under the curatorial direction of all-around creative and New York transplant Aaron Vega, the venue is connecting with people looking for fun, cheap, offbeat and unsnooty entertainment. The People's Building offers performance opportunities to all kinds of people: individual artists and musicians as well as independent dance, theater, comedy and music entities and organizations, making for a kaleidoscopic range of events for everyone, from Song Slams to yoga classes.

Best Revamp of a Rec Center Into a Community Arts Space

Globeville Rec Center

When the nonprofit Birdseed Collective took over operations at the Globeville Recreation Center last summer, the group's artists got down to business, covering every inch of the space with color and shape. Surrounded by the visual work of such artists as Elisa Gomez, Moe Gram and Thomas Scharfenberg, as well as the unmistakable serape patterns of Birdseed leader Anthony Garcia, neighbors can now come here to learn, be fed or simply hang out. Though the collective had already been doing programming for the center for a while, taking over operations meant that Birdseed now had a permanent home for its weekly food bank, a place to teach all-ages breakdancing lessons and space for local Grupo Tlaloc to share the tradition of Aztec dance. And the collective keeps dreaming new community-centered ideas into reality: This spring, it will launch its first youth football team, the Denver Dragons.

birdseedcollective.org

The Secret Love Collective is responsible for many inviting and thoughtful art installations popping up across Colorado, including costumed parades, vibrant photo booths and sequined twists on traditional family portrait settings at the Denver Art Museum's Untitled series, and a Spooky Valentine's party at Understudy. Comprising a queer-identified assembly of artists, Secret Love Collective is inherently political; members Katy Batsel, Lares Feliciano, Piper Rose, Frankie Toan, Genevieve Waller, Katy Zimmerman and Lauren Zwicky come together to create spaces that invite exploration of the concepts of love, vulnerability and human connection in temporary worlds of felt, fabric and fringe.

secretlovecollective.com

Organizing events around photography is nothing new, but there's something refreshing about TheyShootn's approach. This loose collective of photographers has put together Día de los Muertos gatherings, Lotería-inspired art shows, lowrider car events and panel discussions about the gentrification of Denver's east side. By bringing the community together with art, TheyShootn co-creators Armando Geneyro and Blake Jackson and their crew of shooters have created context and given weight to important and often overlooked elements of the city's culture and people.

@TheyShootn

If you haven't seen the light art of Lumonics, a working studio and homage to the colorful illuminated works of nonagenarian Dorothy Tanner and her late husband, Mel, Google it now. Though best seen in person in a dark room, you'll get an idea of the magic being made there. Inspired? Now you can make your own light sculpture from Plexiglas and LED lights, with expert instruction at the Lumonics studio. Taught by Tanner associate Marc Billard, the four-session classes are an opportunity to bring the wonder of light to your own living room; no experience or artistic talent required. Let there be light!

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