Highbrow/Lowbrow: A weekly update on Denver culture from deliciously fancy to wonderfully mundane

STATUS: Highbrow and Lowbrow

WHAT: Denver Art Fairs

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Live Art at ArtStir

Memorial Day weekend gives us the launch of summer. Along with that come barbeques, pool parties, movie nights under the stars and for Denver, a plethora of outside art fairs. Two competing outdoor markets were both being held in Downtown. In the spirit of jumping into summer, I stopped by both to check out local artists and their wares.

The first was on the lawn outside of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Poor branding. This fair was far bigger than the second one I attended a few blocks down, but not in the artistic sense. There were over 200 hundred vendors, dominated by artists and food stalls. There was also a smattering of antique vendors, jewelers and toy stalls. More like a flea market with nicer scenery.

If the crowds were an indication, this street fair should have been amazing. It wasn’t. Disappointing conglomeration of the mundane miscellaneous and sometimes downright bizarre vendors, confusing art with bad ideas poorly executed. Much like an Ashlee Simpson concert. I mean, there were few pieces of art that were actually intriguing. Those made me wonder if the artist didn’t realize they had stopped to set up before reaching their actual real destination down the street. Not much better than suburban garage sales, with far more humanity and higher nosh pricing. 

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Art Vendors in front of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

The ArtStir event, located in the Pavillions, had a just right Denver summer vibe. This fair featured 30 local artists, as well as performance art. When I arrived, the stage was taken over by an artist sculpting an enormous dear head while engaging the audience in a witty banter. It was intriguing to watch his non-conventional approach to sculpting and stand-up. The genres of art being sold at this event were all encompassing from Native American to Modern Pop. The highlight of ArtStir, for me, was local artist Kevin Eslinger. His twisted take on childhood icons are truly fascinating and at times border on disturbing. The skeuomorphism of lingering youthful scary dreams for sale.

Good or bad, these street fairs provide an entertaining opportunity to support local artists and their endeavors, get a good dose of vitamin D from the beautiful Colorado sun, and work up an appetite for that upcoming barbecue at the folks house. Hope they aren’t putting on a garage sale beforehand to get rid of their Ashlee Simpson CD’s.