Sabin Aell first came to Colorado in 2006, when the Austrian-born artist, who'd been living in Frankfurt for eight years, was chosen for a show in Fort Collins by photographer Mark Sink. "I was really blown away when I first came here," she remembers. "I was always thinking more about the East Coast, West Coast. I was very surprised. I came to the opening reception, made nice friends, and said, "Oh, I never thought Denver would be that interesting." It was so interesting, in fact, that she came back for a visit a few months later and met Randy Rushton, the man who would become her husband, on the last week of her trip."It was pretty clear that I was going to move to Denver," she says.
In Frankfurt, she'd been working as a creative director for a large New York-based advertising agency, doing art on the side. But when she first moved to Denver, she couldn't do design work because she didn't have a permit, "so I mainly did my art projects," Aell recalls.
Those art projects gave birth to her next career...and Hinterland. Four years ago, when a friend wanted to show some photography and couldn't find a spot, Aell recalls, "I thought we could open a gallery, have a month of photography." So she and Rushton created a gallery at 3254 Walnut Street, in the then-just-heating-up RiNo district, made with old, recycled materials but devoted to adventurous contemporary art. They chose Hinterland as the name because, in German, it means "beyond what is visible or known."
Over the past several years, though, Hinterland has become known as a place where anything can and does go.
Aell and Rushton have their own studios there and pay the bills out of the work that they do projects that include designing the interior of the expanded City, O'City, as well as the furniture and planters that Rushton makes from recycled fences. "Everything that he does is out of green materials," Aell points out.
In addition to doing her own art, Aell curates the Hinterland exhibits, which feature artists working in everything from painting and photography to sculpture, video, glass art, textiles, fashion and design. "We do the gallery mainly because we want to have fun and support other artists. We want to expose the artists," she says. "We have an advantage: We can show what we like."
And the Denver arts community definitely likes what Hinterland shows. But as much as the community appreciates Hinterland, Aell appreciates the local arts community more. "Denver, I think it's fantastic," she says, noting that she'd lived in Vienna for a while as well as Frankfurt, and compared to Denver, neither one of those cities had a particularly dynamic arts scene. "In Denver, it's really different, a really vibrant artist community where people help each other and are proud of what they all do." All that's missing, she says, is "more money for grants, so that people can do something they otherwise couldn't do."
We can't wait to see what Hinterland does with the MasterMind grant.