Art Students League of Denver

The Art Students League of Denver is an art school for people who don't have the time, or the need, to go to art school. Instead, ASLD caters to anyone with an art jones, from hobbyists and talented youngsters to fine artists looking to brush up on or learn new techniques. The league employs up to 100 local artists as instructors in the beautiful, nineteenth-century brick-and-sandstone Sherman School building, using its spacious classrooms as studios equipped with specialized tools of the trade. ASLD also houses a gallery, throws a legendary Summer Art Market and supports a community filled by artists and the public alike.

Entrepreneur Skye Barker Maa has been activating culture-expanding spaces in Stanley Marketplace since 2018, including Neighborhood Music, a kids' music school that's grown to serve a huge student body, and the newly opened Sky Bar. But it's Factory Five Five, an intergenerational school teaching theater, film and photography at a nearby converted warehouse, and Factory Fashion, which teaches sewing, fashion and design at the Stanley, that have become impressive creative incubators that not only teach those who want to learn, but shares the students' efforts through plays, fashion shows and other realizations.

Michael Rieger takes multi-tasking to a whole new level as an artist, photographer, teacher, community arts activist and art director of the Denver Chalk Art Festival. Lapis Gallery, a staple in the Tennyson Street First Friday Art Walks, is home to Rieger's many artistic mediums, including fine-art photography, etchings, drawings, pastels, prints, sculpture and beautifully handmade ceramic dishes and mugs. In addition to the gallery space, Lapis offers full interior design-and-build services, custom furniture and event photography services.

Art historian Lauren Hartog and artist Derrick Velasquez (who's done this sort of thing before in his own basement) teamed up a year ago to start and curate their well-named Friend of a Friend Gallery, an art space hiding away in a room at the impressive 1904 Evans School building. Exhibitions can be hard to find and are only open by appointment following their receptions, but it's well worth the effort to find work by these artists, who fly both under the radar and through the clouds above it.

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Best New Gallery
Evan Semón

Bell Projects has actually been around for a while, languishing inside Walnut Workshop, an artist studio community in RiNo. But in January, gallery founder and curator Lindsey Bell relocated to the former home of ARTAOS Gallery on East 17th Avenue, across from City Park, and it's a whole new ball game. As at Walnut Workshop, the building is shared by artist studios and other businesses, but the address also comes with street appeal, thanks to the 1907 red-brick building's big picture windows and arched roofline. Bell Projects has come out into the light, bringing along challenging shows by young artists. See it shine.

bell-projects.com
Best New Art Space
RiNo Art District

Denver boasts plenty of public parks to be proud of, some with recreation centers, pools and pickleball courts, a few even with sculptures. But while its river access provides recreational assets, the new RiNo ArtPark stands alone in its emphasis on arts and culture. It truly took a village to turn the ArtPark into a public haven and creative hotbed with artist studios, a gallery, a food incubator for immigrant women and a public library unique to Denver, with flexible maker space for DIY productions. Explore them all — or just sit by the river and watch the water flow by.

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Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum gift shop carries an array of unique knickknacks that you didn't know you needed until you step inside — and realize you want to buy everything. There are books, puzzles, stationary, jewelry, handbags and shirts, art supplies and more. The finds include miniature sculptures of some of Denver's famous public artworks, such as "Dancers"; ceramic mugs, vases and lanterns embellished with famous paintings; and beautiful sand hourglasses. There are plenty of options for all ages, and it's as easy to get lost in the bounty of the museum's store as it is in its array of excellent exhibitions.

MCA Denver
MCA Denver

Denver is a street-art city, but the Museum of Contemporary Art shows that this city also has a strong grip on the fine arts. With a passionate curatorial team who have an eye for compelling works that make a statement, the MCA had blockbuster exhibits last year focusing on Deborah Roberts and Jason Moran, and has kicked off 2022 with exhibits that question the roots of abstraction with stunners showcasing Eamon Ore-Giron and Dyani White Hawk. Watch for more creative programming at the Holiday Theatre annex.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Aaron Thackeray

If you grew up in Denver, it's likely you spent some time at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (fka the Denver Museum of Natural History). A favorite destination for school field trips and family outings, it's one museum that kids don't forget: an immersive experience long before there was a name for that. Imaginative youngsters in awe of decades-old museum highlights — such as the dramatic polar bear diorama, monumental dinosaur bones and the constellations displayed on the planetarium ceiling — want to see their favorite displays here again and again, as do certain adults who grew up here.

In a small town like Walsenburg, if you come across a museum on the main drag, you expect it to display mining implements or painful reminders of Colorado labor history. Instead, the Museum of Friends is a nonprofit contemporary art space opened in 2006 by townies Brendt Berger and Maria Cocchiarelli, who envisioned an institution with a collection supplied by artist friends, with an egalitarian and inclusive policy. Does this mean Walsenburg could become the next Trinidad? With the town part of the newly designated La Veta Creative District, it’s a possibility.

museumoffriends.org

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