Denver had to raise a lot of cash to put on the Democratic National Convention — close to $50 million, from donors big and small, gracious and petty — but no contribution was as artful as the one that Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee president Elbra Wedgeworth collected on Monday.
Wedgeworth, who had the original vision of wooing the DNC to Denver, then backed it up with a fifteen-pound proposal, stopped by Ironton Studios to pick up a check from Dems Do Denver, a consortium of ten local artists who created tiny works of art celebrating the donkeys coming to town.
Julie Byerlein came up with the idea of creating convention mementos that weren't the standard "snoozeorama" just a few months ago, then reached out to artists she knew in the RiNo community. "They all gave me names," she remembers. "The timing limited how many people I could reach out to. It was June, and they had to do it in three weeks." But even with that tight turnaround, she managed to enlist Tracy Weil, Bill Amundson, Eric Zimmer, Sharon Brown, Jill Hadley Hooper, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, Sharon Feder, Matt Holman and Katie Taft for the project, then sent their art off to be turned into buttons, with packaging that promised a 10 percent donation to the host committee. "We executed it well with a nice little story on the back, so that you're buying into the whole city," Byerlein says. Even so, it was hard to predict how well the buttons would sell. "It was a rollercoaster," she admits.
But sales came in on the high part of that ride, with both the Denver Art Museum and the Tattered Cover bookstores each selling more than a thousand pins and the total retail take at close to $20,000. (They're still available at Tattered or www.demsdodenver.com.) Which meant that Dems Do Denver was able to hand Wedgeworth a check for $2,000. "They put their heart and their souls into it," she says. "I was very honored to meet them."
For artists who so often operate on a shoestring in this town, $2,000 is an impressive donation. But there's no group that does more good for Denver — or does so much to make Denver look good.