The Wild West Art Scene of Denver: RiNo and 40 West Arts
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
This page is an artist resource page for the city of Denver, in the state of Colorado. Specifically we deal with The River North Art District (RiNo) and the 40 West Arts district off Colfax Ave. Below you will find the following resources.
An Interactive Artists Resource Map of Denver.
Video interviews with Denver based artists and gallery owner/operators, including:
Jeromie Dorrance of dateline gallery
Liz Black of 40 West Arts
Carrie MaKenna of 40 West Arts
Nathan Larramendy of Visions West Contemporary
Introduction to Denver, Colorado
Denver is huge! It is home to multiple official art scenes, and I do not mean figuratively. The regions size encompasses over Seven individual arts corridors or zones. The population density has 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.
View the documentary in its entirety:
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The Contemporary Art Scene in Denver, CO
Our explorations were fun and exciting, and provided great insights 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 to the area called 5-Points, while 40 West Arts is a solid six miles from city center off Colfax Ave. They are both colorful, 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 to such a degree that it has almost made itself unavailable to arts groups and artists.
A Super Brief History of Denver
Denver started as a destination for Gold rush seekers, and yet soon became a heavily traversed weigh station for purchasing supplies for successful further expansion. The evolution of the town commenced, and Colfax became the further gateway to the west. The two locations could not be more different. The RiNo district, with over 15 years designated as an art district,
River North Arts District (RiNo)
RiNo has blossomed into a rich, mostly-residential neighborhood with little room left for small to medium 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.
Visions West Contemporary
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.
RiNo, with its craft beer, cider and restaurants, makes for a great destination. Gentrification is in full effect in RiNo, which makes hold out galleries like Visions West Contemporary at 2605 Walnut Street, a welcome addition to the local scene. The exhibitions shift monthly, and share works with its parent gallery based out of Billings, Montana.
For those with a more DIY take on the arts, I encourage you to visit dateline gallery at 3004 Larimer St. The gallery is housed in a private flat, with huge walls erected to house sizable pieces of art. The aesthetic is highly curated, and the artists range from street to fine. Curator and gallery manager, Jeromie Dorrance provides some insight into the changing landscape of Larimer St. and RiNo when it comes to galleries closing down and not com ing back to town.
40 West Arts
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?
Carrie Makenna Interview
It all comes down to the artists and what motivates their move from one studio into another. 40 West Arts provided the accommodations necessary to set up both a studio and gallery space for artist Carrie MaKenna. This Denver native moved from her home studio into 40 West with, and it has not disappointed.
Final Thoughts on RiNo & 40 West Arts
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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