Colorado Creatives

Colorado Creatives: Adam Brock

Marielle Grenade-Willis
Adam Brock communes with the natural world.
Adam Brock’s social activism took root at the GrowHaus, an urban greenhouse and center for food justice that he co-founded and co-directed from 2009 to 2015 in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of Denver. The GrowHaus blossomed into a sustainable food market, CSA distributor and educational center for everything from beekeeping to permaculture, and even now, as the greenhouse — currently closed over unsafe structural issues — fights adversity, the tough infrastructure Brock helped lay down there will have a hand in keeping it going.

Since leaving the GrowHaus, Brock has used his skills in hands-on activism and service to underserved communities as a permaculture instructor and as a consultant with Regenerate Change. On the side, he also recently helped launch the Beyond Denver podcast with fellow activist Ryan Foo. In whatever he does, Brock puts people first, as he demonstrates in his answers to the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.

 What (or who) is your creative muse?

Adam Brock: My fiancée, Marielle, inspires me on the daily. Also, I’ve always drawn insight from ecosystems. No matter what I’m stuck on, natural systems have the answers if I’m willing to slow down enough to seek them out. And as part of my decolonization journey, I’ve also been reconnecting with my Jewish heritage — layers upon layers of wisdom from my ancestors that are deeply relevant to the times we’re living in.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?

Okay, let’s go with James Baldwin, John Cage and my great-grandmother Jenny. Baldwin had such a piercing insight into race in our country, and I’d love to hear his take on today’s struggle for liberation. John Cage was most famous for being an avant-garde composer, but he was also a queer mycologist who was an avid student of the I-Ching. Enough said, right? Finally, my great-grandmother Jenny was the fulcrum of my recent family history: She was born in a tiny, poor town in Ukraine and died the matriarch of a prospering Midwestern Jewish family. I have so many questions for her about the joys and traumas she experienced along the way.

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

I feel lucky these days to be woven into the dense fabric of a real-deal community: a group of several dozen artists and healers and activists and entrepreneurs who are laughing and crying and working and playing our way toward something much bigger than ourselves. That group happens to be mostly white, and I think we could be doing a better job of supporting the artivist efforts of our black and brown brothers and sisters. It’s something I’ve been working to address.

click to enlarge Adam Brock spreads the word about permaculture techniques. - COURTESY OF THE DENVER PERMACULTURE GUILD
Adam Brock spreads the word about permaculture techniques.
Courtesy of the Denver Permaculture Guild
What’s your dream project?

I’ve been waiting for years for the opportunity to create a community food forest on public land. Cities like Seattle and Atlanta have shown how successful they can be, but Denver’s Parks and Rec Department hasn’t been willing to consider it.

Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

Denver is the only place I’ve ever called home. I know its streets the way you know the curves and wrinkles of your lover’s body. Practically every block within a couple miles of downtown carries some memory for me. Some of the ways Denver has changed in the last ten years breaks my heart — the homelessness, the displacement, the whitewashing — but fleeing ain’t on the menu. We need to remember how to grow roots in a place, how to let the land shape our destinies through thick and thin. We need to support each other however we can right now so that we can outlast this wave of gentrification and build something truly radical once the tide of capital recedes.

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to support local creatives?

The same thing it needs to do to support everyone else: find innovative and bold solutions to bring down the cost of housing. When rents are cheap and we don’t have to hustle so hard to make ends meet, we’re liberated to pursue the critical stuff that doesn’t necessarily make money — like art or activism or just spending time with our families. As it stands, most of Denver’s creatives have been priced out to the edges of town or other places entirely, while the center of our city is losing its beating heart.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

I seriously can’t name just one. Fatuma Emmad, Kris Drickey, Asia Dorsey, Evan Weissman, Jonathon Stalls, DJ Cavem, Kritee, Dana Miller and Stephen Brackett are some of my biggest creative crushes. I think what they all have in common is an ability to interweave spirituality and art and activism in a way that feels powerful and authentic rather than hokey or forced.

click to enlarge Adam Brock at the GrowHaus, an urban greenhouse he helped found. - COURTESY OF THE GROWHAUS
Adam Brock at the GrowHaus, an urban greenhouse he helped found.
Courtesy of the GrowHaus
What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I just launched a new podcast/event series with my buddy Ryan Foo called Beyond Denver. Each session is an interview with a different local visionary who is helping us stretch our imagination about what’s possible. I’m also helping design a series of retreats for millennials of Jewish heritage to envision a Jewish response to the climate crisis. And starting in October, I’ll be co-facilitating the fourth cohort of our Social Permaculture Design Course to help folks remember how to co-create thriving community.

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Tomas Lopez Jr. is doing visionary work through the International Indigenous Youth Council. More folks need to be paying attention to his voice.

See past episodes and keep up with the Beyond Denver podcast online.