Best New Street Art 2021 | Project Spread Hope | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Kyle Harris

True, 2020 won't be remembered as a year with a lot of hope. But if you've been in Denver for over twelve months, you saw plenty of artist Koko Bayer's hope hearts wheat-pasted all around town. The paper hearts, printed in concentric lines with the word "hope" or "esperanza" in the center, started popping up on businesses, at street art festivals, and even on some apartment buildings in April 2020, and they haven't stopped going up since. The entire effort, dubbed Project Spread Hope, was funded through Bayer's generosity and occasional donations; it's been a constant source of positivity in a year that has been anything but. And even as some of the earlier hope hearts fade, new pieces are surfacing all the time.
Kyle Harris

For the past two years, ColorCon has brought some of Denver's finest street artists to paint in the alleys of the Golden Triangle neighborhood. The 2020 edition of the festival, which took place in August, included the work of Moe Gram, Olive Moya, A.L. Grime, We Were Wild, Anna Charney and others, who turned a once dull alley behind the 1100 block of Broadway into a spectacular temple of Denver street art. While the Golden Triangle isn't the first neighborhood that comes to mind when thinking about Denver muralism, this festival has spread the color beyond RiNo and created a must-see spot for new work.

Alley behind 1112 Broadway
Courtesy Understudy Facebook page

If you're yearning for a hit of experimental art, take a trip to the Colorado Convention Center, where Understudy, the Denver Theatre District's 700-square-foot arts incubator, has set up shop under a stairwell. There you'll find regularly rotating exhibitions showcasing collaborations between people working in various nooks and crannies of the city's cultural scene, from musicians and photographers to performance artists, collectives and educators. Because the work is not commercial, it's often more interesting than the typical offerings at galleries, and the space's exhibits are entirely free.

Aya Trevino Photography

Since August, a charming historic building across the street from City Park has been home to ARTAOS. Launched by street artist Jason Rodriguez, aka Forge, and New Mexico gallerist Gregory Farah, the space has exhibited an exhilarating mix of new street art from around town and beyond. Rodriguez brings his passion for social justice and a commitment to pop-art stylizations to the gallery, persuading collectors to embrace underground culture; he's even riding the NFT wave, joining creatives pushing the boundaries of what types of art can be commodified and how.

Courtesy of the Museum for Black Girls

Black girls become Black women, an idea not lost on Denverite Charlie Billingsley, who embraces the "Black Girl Magic" ideal and believes that the confidence and resilience it manifests has roots in girlhoods spent surrounded by a strong community. That's what convinced her to call upon other Black women artists and creatives to help build the Museum for Black Girls, a joyful reflection on supportive culture and role models, with lots of opportunity for positive reflection and proud selfies. The pop-up is still going strong after opening its second iteration in February.

Courtesy of the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys

After a two-year hibernation in storage, the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys debuted in its new Lakewood home last August, unveiling more spacious, up-to-date digs, with the promise of even more space opening to the public as funds allow. With a collection of over 20,000 objects, albeit tiny ones, the museum can use every inch of space — for bigger exhibits, workshops, meeting rooms and other DMMDT business. In the meantime, you can help keep the museum moving forward by visiting and viewing dollhouses, exquisite miniatures and trendy toys that have languished in storage for years, as well as some DMMDT favorites.

MCA Denver

In the post-Adam Lerner world of MCA Denver, recent hire Miranda Lash — the museum's Ellen Bruss Senior Curator — comes to the MCA from earlier roles at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and the New Orleans Museum of Art, bringing a fresh eye for diversity. Of Latinx heritage, Lash not only brings an understanding of Colorado's deeply rooted Chicano culture, but one that makes room for everyone, including LGBTIA artists and artists of color. What she does with those skills remains to be seen (new director Nora Burnett Abrams curated MCA's current shows), but we're expecting big things.

Artist Adrienne DeLoe was feeling deflated by inactivity a year ago and started the Pandemic Self-Portraits Project as a way to get busy. The concept quickly went global, and today it presents as a diverse visual diary of how artists everywhere were feeling in a single moment, and how they each dealt with the same familiar issues. Turns out everyone really is completely different from everyone else. The project will live on, archived by DeLoe in a book she's preparing for publication as soon as June; watch her Instagram for updates.
Aaron Thackeray

Tourists of all ages will find something to like at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Enjoy an out-of-this-world experience at the recently remodeled Space Odyssey, or take a trip into the past at shows about ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, dinosaurs and more. You can also explore blockbuster exhibitions, IMAX movies and a virtual-reality arcade — then grab a bite in the cafeteria and buy gifts for your friends in the well-stocked shop. After you're done at the museum, take a stroll around City Park — or make it a double-feature day with a trip to the neighboring Denver Zoo.

Upending the entire concept of an art museum from the moment it was founded, Black Cube Nomadic stays free from the confines of the white-cube gallery walls as it exhibits ambitious public-art projects, from sculptures to performances, in town and beyond. While the nonprofit has deep ties to Colorado artists and gives them an international platform, it also brings in lesser-known creatives to do site-specific installations in uncanny spaces. Executive director and curator Cortney Lane Stell ensures that the programming is challenging, sophisticated and smart, and encourages dialogue between artists and the community along the way, using her museum to forever change the sites that Black Cube activates, delivering a fresh and provocative experience every time.

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