On the first Friday of every month, hundreds of creatives, cultural adventurers, the curious and lovers of beautiful things flock to RiNo, the Golden Triangle and the Art District on Santa Fe for a night filled with visual, cultural and intellectual stimulation. Denver’s First Friday’s, as depicted by its name, transpires on the first Friday of each month, in each of the city’s main art districts. It’s a magical occasion when you get to peek behind the curtains of Denver’s artists to see their studios and workspaces; all while feasting your eyes on a plethora of photography, sculptures, paintings and interactive pieces. It’s a great opportunity to adorn your best hipster or posh outfits and ask yourself questions like, “What is art?,” “What is life?” and “Is it just me, or does that abstract paint splatter look more like a puppy?” — all while enjoying a glass of free boxed wine and, perhaps, even a humble cheese platter. What could be better?

If you’ve ever wondered how these artistic wonders got into the field — or perhaps, what the story or motivation is behind their work — we are here to provide you with some answers and insight into the minds and backgrounds of some of the artists. 

This month, we sat down, pulled aside and put on the spot three artists from the Santa Fe Art District. The Santa Fe Art District is a well-known art hub for Denver, and with the highest assemblage of art galleries in the state, it comes as no surprise that this district is the default epicenter for First Fridays — home to more than 60 participating studios, galleries and restaurants. Here are the stories of three of this district’s featured artists for the month of May.

Sharon Healy

Photo by Nisa Sedaghat

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303 Magazine: What medium(s) do you use?

Sharon Healy: I’m a large-scale oil painter, I work acrylic and oil on wood.

303: How long have you been an artist and how did you get into the creative field?

SH: Over 13 years I’ve been painting, but I mean, I went to art school and I was drawing way before that. I went to the Rocky Mountain School of Art and Design. I think it’s just always been a calling since I was a kid.

303: At what point did you consider yourself an artist?

SH: It’s really hard to ever fully consider yourself an artist — even when you’re showing — half of you is always like, ‘Totally, I’m an artist,’ and the other half of you is like, ‘Am I?’.

303: What do you think makes great art?

SH: I think if it’s thought-provoking, emotive and beautiful — it’s got to be beautiful. I like things that are even like, so ugly they’re beautiful, but it’s got to be beautiful in some regard.

303: Why Denver/Colorado as your home? What inspiration can or have you drawn from the city and area that you cannot from others?

SH: I grew up here, I’m a native — so from Denver. I love Denver. It’s gorgeous. I travel — I travel a lot — and I’ve tried to move away a few times, but I love Colorado. I love the people, I love the place, it’s just, it’s just my home — you know?

See more from Healy on her website and Instagram.

Anna Marie Mead

Photo courtesy of Nisa Sedaghat

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303: What medium(s) do you use?

Anna Marie Mead: Acrylic, oil, oil pastel and encaustic — and gouache.

303: How long have you been an artist and how did you get into the creative field?

AMM: Oh gosh, I always say since I’ve been two years old because I snuck out of the house and my dad was painting the outside of the house a lighter color and I must have grabbed the trim paint and I was just paintin’ away behind him in a darker color.

303: At what point did you consider yourself an artist?

AMM: I think it was something that has always been inside me, just always.

303: What do you think makes great art?

AMM: Ooo, that’s a good question. Hmm. I think what makes great art is the way that it makes people feel when they view it.

303: Why Denver/Colorado as your home? What inspiration can or have you drawn from the city and the area that you cannot from others?

AMM: Well, originally, I’m from West Virgina, […] I came out here in 1978, so I have been here a really long time. What do I draw? Oh my gosh, just the beauty of everywhere. I feel like there are just so many colors out here, and in the world, and just the skies and the mountains and the flowers — I mean everything! It’s just in my soul.

See more from Mead on her website.

Kat Payge

Photo courtesy of Nisa Sedaghat

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303: What medium(s) do you use?

Kat Payge: I use acrylic paints and water-soluble crayons, on board, so I can press on the board while I draw. And inks on occasion too, and pencil — just basically whatever I can transfer on the board.

303: How long have you been an artist and how did you get into the creative field?

KP: ‘Bout 15 years now — I started late. I was raising my son and he was just becoming independent, and so I wanted something to do [and] saw a class at the Foothills Art Center with Tony Ortega. So that was my first art class.

303: At what point did you consider yourself an artist?

KP: Pretty much immediately, because even if things weren’t going well, in art, I still was having a good time. I was in my late 30s and had tried other things and so I pretty much knew art was where I should be.

303: What do you think makes great art?

KP: Personally, what makes great art, is effort — just working at it. Learning your trade and working at it and just trying to become better. [… Being able to] paint yourself into a corner, make mistakes and have to paint [yourself] out of it — that makes a great artist.

303: Why Denver/Colorado as your home? What inspiration can or have you drawn from the city and the area that you cannot from others?

KP: I grew up here, [in Boulder…] it’s not like I go around and think, ‘Ah the mountains,’ while I’m painting a painting, but of course it informs everything I do — kind of the light and the color. Blue and yellow are the easiest colors for me to compose in — probably partly just because that’s the landscape. And just sort of that hippy free spirit-ness of Boulder — informs my art. I didn’t become an artist for a long time because so many artists were like, ‘You have to have [things] — just so and your materials have to be, just so —’ and it wasn’t until I realized that I could just smear stuff around if I felt like it and still be an artist.

See more from Payge on her website.

Whether you attend for the free food and booze, to fulfill your insatiable curiosity for those — literally — making the world a more beautiful place or just feel like swapping the bars for a cultured, (possibly) sober, Friday night activity, First Friday’s is the place to be. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the next one, Friday, June 2You can find more information on the other participating artists and future First Friday Art Walks, here.

Portraits by Nisa Sedaghat. 

About The Author

Nisa is a writer and photographer who has lived the last 7 years between Italy, California and Colorado. She's typically dancing or laughing at inappropriate times, taking obnoxious amounts of food photos and bumping into desk corners. A Boulder native, Nisa grew up with a mixed background of Persian and European heritage, giving way to her nomadic nature and affinity towards exploring other cultures, languages, ways of life and food. She completed her Master's in Milan, Italy and spends a significant amount of time traveling the world, with South East Asia currently topping her favorites list. She launched "The Art of Lost" in the fall of 2015, an online travel and food publication that covers her global, culinary adventures and photography. Follow her adventures on Instagram and The Art of Lost .

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