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The Wild West Art Scene of Denver: RiNo and 40 West Arts

Denver is huge! It is home to multiple official art scenes. The regions size plus the population density have created an environment of opportunity for artists. There are many stories of those who packed their paintbrushes and headed west, arrived at the "Mile High City" and decided to stay. Denver has become a favored destination for many an uprooted coastal dweller, bringing their culture and liberalism in tow. A tremendous respect for life pervades Denvers' communities; something akin to "Let Life Live". This ideology is reflected in the hundreds of art galleries that line Denvers Streets.




Trailing our exploration of the "Art District on Santa Fe" last month, we will be doing a deeper dive into two distinct art district: The "River North Arts District", AKA RiNo, and the 40 West Arts district. RiNo is a quick bus ride north in the area called 5-Points, while 40 West Arts is a solid six miles from city center. They are both colorful, and expansive, creative and active. They both exist on two different parts of the art-scene life-cycle; 40 West is scrappy, organized, well financed, and cohesive while RiNo has watched itself become gentrified.


The personalities of the two locations could not be more different. The RiNo district, with over 15 years designated as an art district, has blossomed into a rich, mostly-residential neighborhood with little room left for neighborhood art galleries. In the three years since the first Artifications Podcast was published, the number of art galleries in the district had greatly decreased. This documentary interviews a subsection of gallery owners, and puts the viewer "on notice" that RiNo needs to keep its historical significance squarely on target during all future municipal planning meetings. RiNo without artists will undoubtably diminish the vitality that made it a destination to begin with. In order to stay accessible, artists need to a seat at the planning table and carve out areas that will stay affordable for artists.


The route one takes to 40 West Arts district follows Colfax Ave 6 miles out of town. The Winchell's Donuts sign welcomes you to turn off the highway and enter the area. You will recognize it by the solid green line running through the streets. This path was recently created by the 40 West Arts group. It ushers pedestrians and bikers alike past an array of sculptures, galleries and art installations. A daytime trip revealed no open galleries or offices, but open access to campus of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. It was difficult to find any daytime life in the 40 West Arts district, but that has not stopped artists from descending on 40 West in search of studio space. Three local organizations have come together to actively work on bettering the area; they are 40 West Arts, the City of Lakewood, and the Lakewood-West Colfax Business Improvement District. Together, they demonstrate an innovative approach to community-building through the arts. Direct communication and sharing of resources allows for a place like this to flourish. What can be done to steer the course for places like RiNo and other Art Districts that may slowly be losing sight of the long game? How do these communities regain their footing on a path towards keeping space for the artist? Please learn more by watching the video.


This interactive map provides a helpful list of resources for artists and travelers alike. Museums, art schools, chamber of commerce info, as well as a listing of the galleries and spaces we visited during the filming of this documentary.

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