Best New Art Collective 2023 | Below the Concrete | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

In response to the lack of opportunities for trans and queer artists, Below the Concrete formed last year to showcase work from that community through DIY house shows whose location is revealed only to those who email or message the collective on social media. The group has now grown so much that it offers satellite shows from its members, emphasizing the success of Below the Concrete's mission to connect like-minded artists. And the works shown in its exhibitions serve as evidence of how DIY still incentivizes fine art, with compelling creations in myriad mediums, including fashion, sculpture, poetry, dance, painting and more.

Another new art collective, Denver Digital Land Grab, formed this year and vowed to take over Denver with virtual- and augmented-reality art, doubling down with its slogan: "We are taking space. We are NOT asking permission." The group was founded by Denver artists Corrina Espinosa and David Hanan, who were frustrated by the economic potholes artists suffered in the wake of the pandemic. Leveraging their skills with augmented reality, Espinosa and Hanan filled the city with digital art accessible by QR codes for their first exhibition, Manifest Dystopia, with each work commenting on the location in which it's positioned.

The artists in this collective have always looked to the future, and IRL Art has been a trailblazer in the realm of NFTs, virtual art/reality and augmented reality. The underground gallery helps to facilitate sales of its artists' NFTs, which include a mural by Denver street artist A.L. Grime, and it was the official art gallery for the cryptocurrency convention ETHDenver. IRL Art founder Annie Phillips was also an art steward for that conference, and even curated an exhibition of NFTs at the State Capitol that is on view through May.

2601 Walnut Street
Meow Wolf

An absolute behemoth, Convergence Station comprises several different universes in which every nook and cranny bursts with art. Meow Wolf, which began as a renegade art collective in Santa Fe in 2008, landed its spaceship here in September 2021 to wild success, and showed how much it loves Denver in return by moving its Vortex music festival here last year. Now, subreddits have been dedicated to uncovering the myriad secrets of Convergence Station, though even the creative operators — the name for the character actors who roam the immersive playground — who have been there from the beginning tell us that they discover something new every day. And if you'd prefer the psychedelic experience without kids, Convergence Station hosts 21+ Adulti-Verse nights, as well as Danceportation concerts throughout the installation on select dates

Timothy Johnstone

Denver is becoming an immersive art destination, and that's all thanks to the work of local creatives seen in immersive experiences such as Spectra Art Space's Spookadelia. After opening each fall for the past five years, Spookadelia's run time has been extended almost every year as the result of its unflinching popularity. The fifth iteration, which opened in October 2022 and is still running through the end of April after multiple extensions, riffs on Carl Jung's philosophy of dreams, with playful art by local creatives, some of whose work can also be seen at Meow Wolf's Convergence Station. Follow a narrative plot with clues throughout the installation's dreamscape to uncover the name of the primary character, whose dream you're walking through — or just poke around for the fun of it!

Marc Billard

Artists Mel and Dorothy Tanner began experimenting with immersive experiences decades before it hit the mainstream, starting in Miami in the late '60s. Although the Tanners have both passed away, their legacy is kept alive at Lumonics Light & Sound Gallery, which opened in Denver in 2008, by Marc and Barbara Billard, along with archivist Barry Raphael, all of whom were part of the Tanners' collective. Lumonics Immersed is meant to be a healing experience, in which the Tanners' light sculptures pulsate to soothing music by Marc Billard. The $20 immersive happens every Saturday from 8 to 10:30 p.m., and provides a mind-expanding, unforgettable experience.

Control Group Productions performed its first experiential theater production ten years ago, and has consistently banged out two shows a year since then, even keeping the arts alive during the pandemic with live performances you could watch from your car. And last year, the troupe put audiences on wheels again for its production of The End, in which participants rode on a bus and visited post-apocalyptic sites. Control Group never fails to put the audience straight into the story, immersing everyone in its plotlines and guiding them through its always-entertaining narratives.

While most immersive experiences fail to engage all five senses, OddKnock Productions hit every mark over the summer with its sophomore immersive theater production, From On High. It took place in an abandoned warehouse in RiNo, where audiences were immediately immersed in the '80s office environment of a corporation called BANR, whose ultimate goal is world domination. A satire that produced as many laughs as it did deeply moving moments, From On High was a unique take on capitalism that beckoned audiences to return for repeat viewings. The group hasn't put on a production since then, but we're hoping to see more this year.

Whether partnering with Aurora's 5280 Artist Co-Op to tell a story about Black female homesteaders in Flyin' West or bringing Kate Hamill's edgy adaptation of Pride & Prejudice to the stage last year, Firehouse Theater Company regularly offers a mix of classic theater and newer productions, many of which center on the stories of marginalized communities. Operating out of the John Hand Theater (and former firehouse) on the Colorado Free University campus in Lowry, the space feels intimate and accessible for budding actors in a way few theaters do, while still offering a mesmerizing live experience. It all started with John Hand, but after his death in 2004, his sister, Helen, stepped in to lead this still-fledgling organization — and the rest, as they say, is history.

On the wings of a fifty-year anniversary, Tony Garcia and his intrepid crew at the Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center were able to accomplish a miracle: The company, which began by performing in the streets of Auraria and the Westside, was able to pay off the mortgage on the old Denver Civic Theatre, a venue it had been working out of since 2010. With Su Teatro's typically humorous touch, the theater invited the public to a toast and a mortgage-burning — or at least the acting out of one — in January.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of