Best Nonprofit Gallery 2023 | RedLine Contemporary Art Center | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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After fifteen years, RedLine is still going strong in its mission of fostering the next generation of Denver artists. Each year, its resident artists not only create magnificent works, but they engage with the surrounding community through RedLine's array of programs, including Youth Art Mentoring, which pairs students with professional artists who work with them on a year-long project centered on social justice issues. And the artists often tend to continue giving back after their residencies; alumni include Denver art community leaders like muralist Thomas "Detour" Evans, collage artist Mario Zoots, and Anthony Garcia, who created Birdseed Collective, a nonprofit that implements arts-based community outreach programs.

While Threyda is normally accessed only by appointment, it opens its doors to the public on First Fridays and during exhibition openings. And when those dates come, be sure to go, because a night at this gallery is one to remember. Threyda curates only the most mind-melting artworks by visionary artists, including Android Jones, Morgan Mandala, Stephen Kruse, Seth McMahon and more. Whether you're gazing at a perfectly symmetrical pattern meticulously rendered in oil paints or a digital work dripping with fractals, each piece found in Threyda's rotating gallery is meant to be a catalyst for the type of transcendental experience you normally reach through psychedelics. Bonus: Opening nights and First Fridays often include live music, live painting and plenty of beverages.

878 Santa Fe Drive

A leader in the psychedelic visionary arts movement, Android Jones creates work that illustrates the heights of a DMT trip, which has made him a trailblazer in digital art, virtual reality and NFTs. His internationally recognized work has been projected on the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the Ghats in Varanasi, India, and he was a visual artist for the 2015 Fare Thee Well Tour with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. But he's also active in his home state, exhibiting a solo show at Threyda gallery last year. In January, Jones's Lyons studio was destroyed in a fire, but he raised more than his asking price of $250,000 in a GoFundMe to replace the expensive tools used to create his art, as well as countless art books and priceless sketches. Starting fresh is difficult, but we have no doubt this seasoned artist will stay on top.

The concept of the divine feminine is seen throughout the paintings of Emily Kell, a Boulder-based artist who has made a name for herself worldwide with her visionary works. Inspired by her tarot practice, mythology and archetypal figures from mysticism, Kell creates portraits of feminine figures, often with a background of swirling stars. She's also a poet, and created an alphabet she calls "moon scratch," which is instantly recognizable in her oeuvre. While most visionary art is centered on ecstatic psychedelic states, Kell's work is more about introspection and transitive moments. Her art was published in the 2018 book Women of Visionary Art, though her greatest accomplishment is likely the meaningful inspiration she passes on through her paintings.

Scott Hildebrandt didn't know that when he made a miniature village as a Christmas gift back in 2008, it was the beginning of a flourishing artistic career. With a background in electrical engineering, Hildebrandt makes miniature displays that can light up and sometimes move. His diorama worlds are usually set in vintage vessels such as boomboxes or Game Boys, evoking nostalgia and eliciting smiles — so it's no wonder that when Meow Wolf began enlisting Denver artists before it opened in 2021, Hildebrandt was asked to create an installation. After filling a hallway there with 200 dioramas, Hildebrandt now focuses on filling commissions, which have shot up — because unlike his art, Mister Christmas's reputation is far from small-scale.

Denver sculptor Ira Sherman has had a long, lucrative career with his iconic kinetic, wearable sculptures, which have been collected by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and the National Ornamental Museum in Memphis, among others. In 2022, he produced his first exhibition in three years at Bitfactory Gallery with Ira Sherman: Revenge, Protection, Redemption, in which he displayed new, mind-blowing creations that each took six months to complete. These wearable prostheses respond mechanically to the wearer and provide commentary on humans' relationships with intimacy and emotions. From sci-fi chastity belts to a contraption that can lift couples in the air, Sherman's work is as fascinating as it's ever been.

Anyone who's been paying attention knows that Cal Duran, an Indigenous, queer, Two Spirit artist inspired by the lore and spirituality of many cultures, has seemingly possessed the superpower to do everything, everywhere, all at once over the past year or two. Wherever big displays were needed for Día de los Muertos celebrations, Duran was there, providing monumental altars, ojos de Dios, calaveras and calacas built from clay, tissue paper and found materials, sometimes at more than one venue in a single day, like a shiva with multiple arms.

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

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