Denver has a lot to learn when it comes to sustaining artists and their careers. There are a few artist-run spaces operating and the news of Meow Wolf’s arrival brings much needed financial backing to the growing art community, but there are concerns that Denver’s development will push out local artists and galleries who cannot afford the cost of living and working here. The closing of pivotal places like Rhinoceropolis and the need for anchored galleries like Pirate and Next to relocate is marring the landscape of Denver’s artistic scene. In order to keep creative people in Denver— and not fleeing for bigger cities with better infrastructure to support them— there needs to be a community for them to form decisions and to participate in. The executive director of Black Cube (a nomadic contemporary museum)  Cortney Stell explained, “artist-run spaces are important to the cultural ecosystem, but they are also often the most fragile–with little funding and support.”

For the next three days, this will be the topic du jour at a free symposium organized by Black Cube. As a “nomadic” museum without a permanent location, Black Cube focuses on partnerships with other artistic entities rather than maintaining a brick-and-mortar establishment. This allows them a certain level of flexibility traditional museums or galleries lack and pushes their installations into a realm more closely related to performance art. However, this freedom comes with certain costs— like when Black Cube partners with venues who shut down unexpectedly, such as Leisure Gallery, and they must find a new space for an art exhibition last minute.

The interior of a Black Cube Museum pod. Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Black Cube is familiar with the struggles of creatively working in Denver and that’s why they are bringing three artists who represent different artist-run spaces from across the country to speak during the panel discussion on January 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at BCHQ (2925 South Umatilla Street, Englewood.)  According to Black Cube’s website, the symposium will address the challenges, opportunities and motivations for running a DIY space, but it was also considered “contemporary artistic practices, sociopolitical contexts, and theoretical legacies that shape and animate how these spaces function within the wider contemporary art scene.” Katherine Aungier will be representing Regina Rex from New York, founded in 2010 and focused on driven engagement and dialogue among artists. Haynes Riley, the founder, director and curator of Good Weather from Little Rock Arkansas will discuss how to lead a solo career on top of collaborating with other artists. And last but not least, Alex Paik will speak on behalf of the artist-run network Tiger Strikes Asteroid (with locations in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.)

For the two days following that panel, there will be “office hours” held at Sputnik on South Broadway from 4 to 6 p.m., where everyone is invited to attend. The office hours give the opportunity for people to ask questions about how to start or work in an artist-run space from people who are well-versed in the topic. Everything will conclude with a round-table discussion on January 20 at Collective SML k at 430 Santa Fe Drive from 7 to 10 p.m., where a participatory conversation will hopefully occur about artist-run spaces in Denver.

In order for Denver’s cultural ecosystem to find a healthy balance for artists from all mediums, the subject of keeping them in the city while they are creating is not only essential, it is timely. To hold a candle to the national support of artists in larger (mostly coastal) cities, Denver will benefit from listening to the advice from artists who have found success in running their own spaces and making their own creative lifestyles sustainable.

All of these events are free and open to the public.For more information about these events, visit Black Cube’s website.

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