Musicians Throw Benefit for Hinterland, a Gallery Gentrified Out of RiNo

Hinterland, a gallery space, was part of the RiNo neighborhood from 2008 to 2017.EXPAND
Hinterland, a gallery space, was part of the RiNo neighborhood from 2008 to 2017.
Sabin Aell
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Denver indie-electronic band Pan Astral played many shows at Hinterland, a non-commercial artist-run gallery pushed out of RiNo in 2017 so that condos could be built where the arts space once stood.

Now members of Pan Astral are putting on a show at Globe Hall to raise money for the space's next iteration, in an abandoned barn in Morrison, as New Hinterland. The concert will include performances by Pan Astral, Luke Miller from Lotus and Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 of the Flobots.

Westword spoke with Pan Astral's Gabriel Otto over the phone about his band's tie to the gallery space and why having artist-run galleries matters.

Westword: Obviously, a benefit show’s goal is to raise money, but is there a deeper intention for the show?

Gabriel Otto: I think it’s also to show solidarity in Denver for the art community that is being gentrified out of the city. That’s my own personal goal.

Does the collaborative element of the show [performing with members of Flobots and Lotus] reflect that solidarity? Why did you decide to involve them? Did you want to bring more local artists?

It’s a similar thing to the [nature] of Hinterland. They’re collaborative, and it just continues that spirit. I think it’s a good opportunity, if you can, to collaborate with other people from other disciplines, like hip-hop and electro-jam, like Lotus, and bring them into what we’re doing with indie rock.

I think Hinterland and Pan Astral both share a similar vision with our art and our expression, in that we’re both sort of genre-less. It’s not something we try to be; we don’t really attempt to be in a genre. It’s really important to continue fostering musical relationships for us in a scenario like that, where it’s so focused on the creative side of Denver. I’ve just felt like other artists that I know and respect as great musical artists would be able to come in and contribute their expression. It’s really special to watch these folks perform, the ones we’re collaborating with, in our own bands and our own respective musical projects. For me, it was like, “Hey, we would love to get some of your art out here.” It’s kind of like an art show.

You mentioned the avant-garde, genre-less aspect, but what else do you find to be unique about New Hinterland and what they’re trying to do?

Oh my God, a lot of things. ... Hinterland originated in 2008. Sabin [Aell] and Randy [Rushton] created it with repurposed material, from scrap yards or houses which had been torn down. They built this beautiful gallery with a gorgeous setting for artists to show their work.

Many of the artists who have shown there did not get paid. They were avant-garde artists, a lot of times [creating] just really giant installation pieces. I remember these really giant wax-ball sculptures in the middle of the floor and just looking around and saying to myself, “These guys really don’t sell any art.” [laughs]

[Sabin and Randy] put all their time into this gallery, and they really make nothing. They just do it because they love it. I remember thinking that. The first time I realized that, I just gained so much respect for them as a gallery.

I got to know Sabin and Randy for the last ten years since it opened and watched them sort of beak their way through the Denver economy with projects. They did the City, O’ City bar and lights and everything; they do stuff like that.

Randy uses repurposed materials to make a lot of really cool elements for design, interior and exterior, and has them shipped all around the country. Sabin — she’s a famous, really well-known Denver artist. She shows at giant shows and sells her pieces for large amounts of money. They have really cool streams outside of the gallery. They continue to do their own art and develop their own creative persona.

Now they’ve been pushed out of the place where they live because the block [was torn] down to make room for condos. In Morrison, where they now live, [and] which they co-purchased with friends, they had one purpose in mind: to make New Hinterland.

[It’s] going to have a program for artists and residents, which is awesome to me. There will also be a permaculture garden, and all of the electricity in their new gallery, which will be a refurbished barn, will be passive solar electricity. Their new gallery will be quite a bit larger and multi-faceted. There will be a small music room as well. Randy and Sabin will continue to do their other, respective projects, but I’m assuming that once this project really gets off the ground, they are going to find their hands pretty full.

The benefit show for New Hinterland will include raffles and live projections in addition to musical performances by Pan Astral and members of Lotus and the Flobots.EXPAND
The benefit show for New Hinterland will include raffles and live projections in addition to musical performances by Pan Astral and members of Lotus and the Flobots.
Joshua Chase

With these neighborhoods changing rapidly, why do you think preserving a space like Hinterland is important – even if it has to move to a new area?

In our culture, it’s easy to lose touch with art for art’s sake. We are hyper-economically oriented. We even put things on ourselves and call it selling yourself. We’re so hyper-economically oriented that it’s really difficult, I think sometimes, to find anything that has meaning for its own sake. Something that has essence without trying to be commodified. I think what Hinterland was doing is just that.

In my own particular opinion, what is important about Hinterland moving and staying alive is that it’s a respite for artists. You can show your work without feeling nervous about selling something and not being able to show at this gallery again because they blacklist you.

I’ve shown art before — I’m a visual artist, and I know the pressure of wanting to sell work. If you don’t sell work, you don’t get galleries interested. If you don’t get galleries interested, etcetera, etcetera. Some people just want to show their work. Maybe they don’t really care if they sell it, but they have really beautiful work. ... Hinterland creates a safe space for those types of artists. That’s really important for any art community in any city — to know that there are people that have your back, even if you’re not monetizing everything, even if you’re not jumping into the whole art game.

Of course, there are people that show at Hinterland who do have chops in the industry. ... If there’s one common thread beyond being so focused on the commodity of art they have, Sabin is really particular about quality. She has a certain curatorial eye toward the art. Sometimes she’ll put things up that I never would have thought of. She will put things together, two different artists, and have a group show that will work so well together. It’s really good, quality curating. That’s something else that Denver would lose if Hinterland was gone. When artists are running art galleries, that’s a really good thing.

Absolutely. They have that context that would otherwise be missing.

Yeah, and they’re supportive of artists. Sabin and Randy have hearts of gold. They’re going to support art no matter what. That’s what they’ll do until they die. That’s their job, and they don’t really think about anything else. I mean, jeez, man, please stay in Denver.

New Hinterland Benefit Concert
8 p.m. Friday, June 1, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street,
$8-$10, 303-296-1003.

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