#40: Cayce Goldberg
A digital painter and Rocky Mountain School of Art + Design graduate, Cayce Goldberg switched gears to transform an old building owned by his family into Helikon, a RiNo district gallery/artist community. Now a gallerist and the heart and soul of Helikon (its name was inspired by the sacred mountain of Greek mythology), Goldberg advocates for the illustrative arts while overseeing its gallery spaces, studios, coffee bar and retail shop. How does life look from those Olympian heights? Pretty good, according to his answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Cayce Goldberg: I daydream about history way too much, so I'd use this as an opportunity to perform a kind of experiment. The limitations of technology impact the way cultures and artists develop. Everything from style, taste and subject matter can develop out of your tools. Taking modern digital technologies back to the past would be a fascinating way to test this: How might master painters like Leonardo, Rembrandt and Van Gogh react to digital painting? What could the ancient Egyptians or Mayans achieve with 3-D modeling and 3-D printing? How would our understanding of history change if Herodotus had had a camera? What would a Neanderthal's website look like? These are the real questions, man!
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Americans as a whole. Our collective identity has become so much harder to define for ourselves and for the rest of the world. We've become simultaneously apathetic and extreme, interested and distracted. In my eyes, the Internet has transformed us in profound ways. Unlike any time before, we are under a constant barrage of information. We're totally saturated in imagery, in news, in entertainment, in fear, in ideology, in opinion.
We have troves of knowledge freely available, but we're awash in fake news and conspiracy theories. We're more connected than ever and more fearful and mistrusting of others. We've got thousands of photos of the surface of Mars — and people who think the Earth is flat. This is an era of contradiction, uncertainty, misinformation and absurdity. I think every generation has the mistaken perspective that things are worse than ever. It's "kids these days" and "the country going straight to hell." Well, I don't think things are the worst they've ever been, but they're definitely weird. And at least that's interesting.
I want to see an end to the century-long trend of the art world building walls between genres. There's too much negativity among different circles of artists, art venues and audiences. The result is a background feeling of dismissive contempt across the arts. It contributes to the alienation of the average person, convincing them that art is an insular charade they need a degree to enjoy. It ultimately keeps them away from the arts and inadvertently contributes to the difficulty of art as a sustainable career. Art is the heritage of humanity; it’s crucially important that we give it back to the people through openness, affordability and an encouragement to enjoy art on an individual level instead of worrying about what they “ought” to like.
What's your day job?
I'm the curator at Helikon Gallery & Studios. Being a gallerist is interesting because it looks simple if you're doing your job right. You hang pictures and people come look at them, big deal. Underneath the veneer, it's a complicated machine. Not only are you arranging and hanging exhibits every month — taking one down, hanging one up and facilitating the next shows — but you're also dealing with the logistics of coordinating artists in current and upcoming shows, conceptualizing and planning exhibits twelve, eighteen months out, running advertising and marketing campaigns, hosting events, maintaining your space, shipping and receiving art, reviewing portfolios, answering e-mails, developing new programs, building relationships with artists and collectors, pushing paperwork, trying to stay up on local shows and new talent, playing the social-media game…and reminding yourself to breathe, enjoy it and go one day at a time.
It's rewarding to contribute to your city's cultural landscape. Galleries are a public service in many ways, giving artists' work some well-deserved dignity while providing a free outlet for culture to the public. I think that's an admirable quality about the arts that makes them worth supporting.
I'd love to go around the world designing and building live-work art spaces that meet the dreams of artists and art lovers free of charge, where artists could pursue art as a profession to the extent that they can afford to keep doing what they love. If you remove that constant pressure to make sales and pay rent, artists and galleries could be more ambitious in their work and more daring in their visions. It might even solve some of the issues of gentrification, where artists and venues would no longer be at risk of losing their spaces and their communities.
Truthfully, I don't believe money can solve all the world's problems, so after investing it in other valuable things like housing for the homeless, investing in future science tech and feeding the world, I'd probably fund some bullshit like a medieval robot fight club or a miniature city for cats where they're all dressed up like they have jobs. It was unlimited, right?
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver. It has its flaws, but there's a lot to appreciate. Yes, rent is too high, development is crazy and traffic is getting worse, but as someone who was born and lived here my entire life, I am thankful that Denver's on the map. It's great sharing our culture and city with people from all over the world. I’ve always thought we have something special out here, so it's nice to see visitors agree.
Just buy art. I know my bias is obvious, but it's the most important form of support for artists in an industry where sales are unreliable. Art is a luxury item no matter its price. It's not food or shelter, but its purchase can bring food and shelter to artists who matter to you — it keeps them creating. Finding the words to describe your first art purchase is difficult, so my advice is to invest in a small, affordable piece that you truly connect with on a personal level, and see if you don't “get it.”
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Jon Schindehette is a legend among illustrators, but he's largely unknown outside that circle. Jon's accomplishments cannot be overstated: He’s a top-shelf art director known especially for his work with Dungeons and Dragons. He helped create the Denver Illustration Salon, which has blossomed into an amazing community. He's a mentor and an inspiration to many, and one of the hardest-working creatives I've ever met in my life. He shares his knowledge through his ever-evolving project called ArtOrder, and he has a flowing mane of hair so beautiful it would make a lion cry.
Ryan Morse is a fellow RMCAD alum who's put in a ton of sweat and hours to become a truly fantastic painter deserving of recognition. Kaitlin Ziesmer is another RMCAD grad who's already established herself as a treasure of the Denver art community, but she continually pushes and innovates in a way that's distinctly her own style. Sierra Barela, a Helikon studio artist, will definitely continue to make waves locally and abroad in the contemporary art scene. The entire Alto Gallery crew will continue to build a sterling reputation for their innovative curation. Corianne Wells and Kristopher Michael Wright of Odessa are doing phenomenal things to promote the arts in a way that's classy and accessible. There's too many names I could be dropping! I honestly believe the Denver art community as a whole will gain loads of notoriety and will come to make Denver be seen as a true art destination.
The Lonely Crowd, a themed group exhibition guest-curated by Abend Gallery, opens with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, February 1, and runs through March 11 at Helikon Gallery. Learn more about Cayce Goldberg and Helikon online at the website and Facebook page. Or visit Goldberg's website and Instagram page.