You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.
DADA Art Bar, created by Iain Chisholm, chef/owner of the nearby Amerigo Delicatus,is an artistic social hub for the Ballpark/RiNo neighborhood. DADA gives emerging artists a chance to hang work in a public setting -- and also gives patrons a chance to buy affordable, local art. The hangout is part-bar and part-gallery, a union that was important because Iain's Brooklyn-based sister, Coco Chisholm, is DADA's art curator. She's an art teacher and muralist who has "done the starving artist thing," explains Iain. So when the two decided to join forces, they knew they wanted to reserve the gallery space primarily for local artists who may not already be displaying professionally in the Denver scene.
The DADA story begins with the two-year-old Amerigo, Iain's handmade Italian eatery across the alley. The place boasts small-batch scratch pastas, sauces and cheeses, all offered affordable prices. "My most expensive entrée is $19," Iain says, adding that he aims to keep price-points low "so it doesn't have to be a special occasion to dine out."
And diners appreciated that, but Amerigo's popularity created a problem. "Amerigo is a very small restaurant, and we were losing people because we didn't have a bar for them to wait at," the restaurateur explains. When the space next door became available (it once held Monkey Bean), Iain jumped at the opportunity to add a bar to his portfolio.
"The bar was the brainchild between me and my sister," Iain says. The two grew up in Denver and, from time to time they'd kicked around the idea of opening a bar together. Now Iain handles DADA's operations while his sister contributes an important viewpoint -- that of the "underexposed artist," Iain says. "She has a day job and is still active in the arts, and we wanted to make a place to cater to that demographic.
"There are lots of local people who aren't doing art day-in and day-out, but they are very talented," Iain continues, noting that it is often hard for would-be professional artists to find gallery representation. DADA is a democratic gallery, though, and art sales aren't necessary for the bar's livelihood. "We make our money on the bar," Iain explains.
A new show opens on the first Friday of each month, and every final Friday DADA holds a party before rotating out the pieces. DADA's premiere show, High Fructose Porn Syrup, showcased three local artists whowere able to sell much of their work, Iain reports. "Next we had a guy named Sunny Valdez; he was a retired auto-body guy, does large geometric steel fabrications that he paints low-rider style." Keep reading for more on DADA's current show. This month's show, Shadows in the Dark, features local talent Rob Bell, who offers several distinct oil- and acrylic-on-canvas collections. "The front room is more abstract, using mixed media," Iain says. "In the back, he has a collection of very large pieces of primarily the female form." Bell also has some pop-art stuff in the hallways.
Artists of all mediums and backgrounds are encouraged to submit entries to DADA. Coco currently has the space booked through November, and is happily reviewing new submissions. "It's awesome," says Iain. "We are having a lot of great artists come out of the woodwork."
So far, the Chisholms have focused on solo shows. "But as we have gotten more and more submissions, Coco is starting to compile collaborative shows," Iain says -- and DADA has plenty of space for such collaborations. Many folks, especially photographers who find printing and framing expensive, have smaller collections, the duo has noticed. "To address that, we are also trying to put together shows where you can hang just one wall," he adds.
With collaborative shows, artists stand to get even more exposure "because then everybody helps to promote the month's show," says Iain.
Nearly all pieces shown at DADA have a $1,500 price cap, though many artists sell for far less -- which means visitors have an opportunity to add unique art to their collection without breaking the bank. "This is done in an effort to expand the community of patrons to purchase the art," Iain says.
DADA hosts other events, too: open mic nights, stand-up comedy shows. "We have a cabaret license, so we are able to have DJs and live music," adds Iain. For more information, visit DADA Art Bar's website.
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