I first met Dianne Denholm in grade school, and it's been great reconnecting with her as an adult in the six years since she started the TACtile Textile Arts Center. During that time, I've learned a lot about Denholm and how her mind works, and it's been a trip: Not only does she have one of the most unique senses of style I've ever encountered, but she also has something else a collective mix of smarts and pragmatism that combine to make dreams come true.
Denholm's dream, the culmination of an ever-directed arc that began ascending in front of a sewing machine in high school, is to create a world-class textile museum and gallery, a temple to fashion and the fiber arts. It's no small task, but Denholm comes to it well-equipped, with a degree in textiles and fashion from Colorado State University. "It really is who I am," she explains. For years, she successfully ran D'Lea's, a Cherry Creek North fabric store known for the beautiful variety and texture of its textiles and notions. Then, when the installation of unwieldy parking kiosks disrupted D'Lea's and other nearby businesses, she saw the writing on the wall and closed the doors on that chapter. "It breaks my heart that generations won't know the assortment of worldwide textile mills to be found in local shops gone by," she says. "Denver is rich with fabric-store history. Now it's down to almost nothing for a city this size."
Inspired by the Textile Center in Minneapolis, Denholm next set her sights on creating a similar model in Denver, a place where fiber artists of all disciplines could meet, gather, work and show off the results. In the process, she also hoped to do something to preserve the oldest traditions of textile art, but with a modern face. "There is a broad percentage of our population who crave tactile expression," she notes. "Working with your hands to create form from beautiful yarns and cloth is a giant thrill to us types. The big plus in tough times is that it is also part of our basic budgets for clothing and home. Today there are few places to learn or satisfy this valid individual expression. It is not old-fashioned! It is a legitimate, human art form."
Since TACtile first opened its doors, it's persevered through all kinds of hardships, housing textile-arts guilds and offering classes on a shoestring, with a core crew of volunteers. When it became clear that the center would have to leave its first home in the now-demolished Tamarac Square, Denholm had to balance possible advantages and adversity: While the center's new location on the second floor of a sequestered southeast Denver button warehouse is big, well-lit, flexible and boasts a large parking lot, it's also not a walk-to site.
So her most pressing goal right now is to make the center a destination not just for the artists and crafters who already use it, but for the rest of the world. It's a huge task, given the fragile state of her resources; even so, as the practical seamstress she is, she's already managed to stitch TACtile into a wonderful showplace. "My passion for it is just so loud," she says. "I can't turn my back on it. I'd love to see it flourish, to see more and more talented people getting to express their gifts."
Today a niche, tomorrow the world. Knowing Denholm, I'd say she has a great chance of achieving it.