MasterMinds: Calling all creative geniuses!

Nine years ago, Westword introduced the MasterMind awards. Recognizing that the local arts scene needed a little fertilizer to really get going, and growing, we created a program that every year honors five cultural visionaries -- artists and organizations alike, in the very broad areas of multimedia, performing arts, literary arts, visual arts and fashion/design -- working to change the cultural landscape of metro Denver. And we decided to not just honor them, but to give them each substantial cash awards to use as they see fit...with no strings attached.

Now we're getting ready to choose our ninth class of MasterMinds, which will be introduced at Artopia on Saturday, February 23. See also: - MasterMind Awards honor our eighth class of artistic entrepreneurs - Slide Show: Artopia 2012 - Meet the MasterMinds at Create Denver Week

The first eight classes of MasterMinds have done amazing things with their awards, frequently using them to help other struggling artists along and creating major multipliers for the more than $130,000 that Westword has given away so far. "Winning the MasterMind was everything to me," says Eric Matelski a 2010 MasterMind. "I was working my ass off to make every art idea I had stick. I had to work a full-time day job plus random second jobs to do the projects I believed in. I really enjoyed the artists I was working with and enjoyed the idea of promoting them in the most unique ways. When I won, I really did not expect it; it was such a shock. I needed the money, but the award at the time weighed heavier on my mind. This meant that people were paying attention to what I was doing in Denver and liked it."

Each year, the previous winners help choose our next class of MasterMinds at meetings as creative and freewheeling as many of the people and groups the awards honor. Our first brainstorming session will be today -- but we're also accepting nominations from across the scene. If you have an individual or organization you'd like to nominate, send an e-mail with a brief explanation of why they're deserving, as well as contact information (so that we can do our own research), to [email protected]

To help get your creative juices flowing, here are the previous winners:

2012 MasterMinds Hinterland Minor Disturbance Andrew Orvedahl Dianne Denholm Lance Stack 2011 MasterMinds Slam Nuba Sarah Slater Tricia Hoke Illiterate/Adam Gildar Tiffiny Wine 2010 MasterMinds Fallene Wells Jennie Dorris Jolt/Guerilla Garden Eric Matelski Laura Goldhamer

2009 MasterMinds Brian Freeland/LIDA Project Viviane LeCourtois Ravi Zupa The Denver Voice Vicky Nolan 2008 MasterMinds Creative Music Works RINO/Jill Hadley Hooper and Tracy Weil Jason Bosch/Argus Fest Art From Ashes Mona Lucero 2007 MasterMinds Jessica Robblee Jimmy Sellars Tony Shawcross/Deproduction/Denver Open Media Vox Feminista The Fabric Lab/Josh and Tran Wills 2006 MasterMinds Dragon Daud, aka Dave Denney Katie Taft Deb Henriksen Cafe Nuba/Ashara Ekundayo Johnny Morehouse 2005 MasterMinds Lauri Lynnxe Murphy Emerging Filmmakers Project @ Bug Theater Brandi Shigley Denver Zine Library Buntport Theater

Remember, these are not lifetime achievement awards. They're for working artists, entrepreneurs and organizations that are making an impact right now. Deadline for nominations: Friday, January 25.