Editor’s note: This article was written before the Coronavirus, however, all organizations listed are still active. Read below to learn more about them and then check their sites to see what virtual opportunities they have.
Looking for a place to hang your splattered smock? Been pressing too hard on the delete key and hard-pressed for a breakthrough? Releasing some tracks but have no experience in promoting music? Denver has resources.
It also has rising costs of living and renting creative space, but Denver artists are addressing that concern together. Denver artists form collectives to help at-home creatives invest in full artistic careers. They are groups of people equally confused about the process of professionalization, and people further down the road with helpful tips. They, too, juggle day or night jobs, social lives and attempts at promoting their artistic personas. They’re also community-minded, with goals to learn and teach and give back to their neighborhoods.
Painters, writers, musicians, dancers and designers – artists: find your people, connect and be inspired.
Denver Art Society
Where: 734 N Santa Fe Dr., Denver
Membership: $65 per month or volunteer hours
What they offer: Denver Art Society (DAS) is a volunteer-based community. You can get a free basic exhibiting membership in exchange for six-months of volunteering, or pay the $65 per month for a year-round space to show your work. There are also artist studio spaces and opportunities to become an artist in residence.
Exhibitions at The Denver Art Society Cooperative reach the ceilings and sometimes into the walkways of both the building’s cavernous upper room and its bunker-like basement. Art is in control, here. That’s not to say the place is disorganized. Curated meetings with all members, including new and potential, are held on the first and third Wednesday evenings of each month. Volunteer artists keep house and offer assistance to people looking for a creative home or just looking around.
Artist Ethan Hoekstra set up his eight-by-ten-foot space at DAS six months ago.
“Most of my life I haven’t been surrounding myself with any other artists, so it’s a nice change,” Hoekstra said. He’s a self-taught acrylic painter with a lifelong dream of living off his talent. As a kid, he did some cartoon sketching and then got into digital art. The acrylic paintings now hanging in his corner are somewhat improvised and from his subconscious. The goal was to transport viewers to an ideal resting place – a place to relax and daydream.
“Basically, it’s a God-given gift and I’m very blessed with this, I believe, to paint what I imagine,” Hoekstra said. “He’s the one to thank for most of it and the inspiration.”
Hoekstra said, he’ll do whatever it takes to achieve his goal of self-sustaining creativity, and DAS is a good establishment that will help him get his stuff out there and reach out to help other artists. “Basically it all comes back and it’s a nice little loop of encouragement and notoriety,” he says.
Every First Friday of the month, thousands of patrons walk the Santa Fe Arts District at once. DAS hosts live local music and sometimes theatrical exhibitions as part of the open gallery event. Hoekstra hangs around on those nights to do a live painting demonstration and chat with anyone who’d like to interrupt.
Deano Castellano curates the space. He’s lived in the Sante Fe Arts neighborhood all his life and was delighted to join DAS five years ago. After some time there, he’s now able to recognize the people in their works.
“They’re all good friends,” Castellano said when trying to describe the assemblage of artists.
The cooperative currently has its highest membership, around 60 to 70 artists. Spaces open up often, though, and those interested in joining are encouraged to visit the studio for the Wednesday meetings.
Also, check out…
Where: 2350 Arapahoe St., Denver
Membership: $15 to $40 per year depending on level of participation with a la carte benefits such as juried shows, lectures and more
What they offer: For the contemporary artist committed to art education and neighborhood transformation, RedLine offers a traditional artist collective and programs to connect with the greater Five Points area. For example collaborations with Denver K-12 schools and public socially engaged conversations about the arts. Artist members can benefit from lectures, workshops, networking events and access to Redline’s nonpublic artist calls. Artist residencies are the core of RedLine’s operation. The studio offers fully subsidized studio spaces to 15 to 18 emerging artists for two-year periods.
Art Students League of Denver
Where: 200 Grant St, Denver
Membership: $55 annual, tax-deductible adult membership, $34.00 for students and educators
What they offer: Artists must be lifelong learners. At ASLD, members receive discounts on classes and workshops, free use of open studio space and borrowing privileges from a 3,000+ volume library. They’re invited to all exhibitions, lectures and special events at the historic Grant Street location. ASLD partners with various creative spaces throughout the community and offers community programs such as The Gathering Place, which gives women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness opportunities to work on art fundamentals.
Where: 2400 Curtis St., Denver
Membership: Studio spaces for rent on availability, no fee for pop-up shows and other visiting artist projects
What they offer: The tagline promotes The Temple as a “contemporary artist haven,” a preserved historical landmark where one can find affordable art studios and workshop facilities, community non-profit space and creative business suites. Owner Adam Gordon says he hasn’t raised rent in two years, and the individuals and organizations in the building work creatively to keep it that way, using pop-up shows and joint grant writing. Nonprofits PlatteForum and the Denver Zine library, a bakery co-op and another artist collective, Processus, share the space and collaborate.
Where: 955 24th St., Denver
Membership: $175 – $125 per month depending on length of commitment, day and weekly passes available
What they offer: Where else could you find a wood shop, darkroom and printmaking area in the same space? Processus is all about teaching processes like photography, printmaking, sculpture, woodworking and more. Members get access to equipment for 40 hours each month. If that’s not enough, artist residencies, for a higher fee, allow unlimited access. There are also options for personal instruction and, when the work is done, exhibiting during the Art Sale and Open Studio in conjunction with the RiNo First Friday and Denver Arts Week.
Where: 7130 W 16th Ave, Lakewood
Membership: $65 per month
What they offer: More than 35 years ago, Pirate opened its doors to a unique brand of contemporary art expression. A group of friends felt their place in the gallery world was not yet created, so they started their own. Artists with an inventive, original and imaginative style, fitting with Pirate’s vague definition of contemporary, are encouraged to apply for membership and gain opportunities for exhibition in gallery shows and collaboration with other Lakewood co-ops like 40 West Arts District. They have openings every three weeks.
Where: 766 Santa Fe Dr., Denver
Membership: $175 per month
What they offer: Another well-trafficked Art District on Santa Fe studio, Kanon Collective is an artist-owned and operated space complete with a front gallery, backroom and garden reception area. Members can sell any original work year-round, and host personal events in the garden. Each member gets to do one solo show each year, which lasts for a month. Kanon asks for at least a one-year commitment from artists and takes five percent commission on credit card sales only to cover costs.
Colorado Photographic Arts Center
Where: 1070 Bannock St., Denver
Membership: $45 for basic annual individual membership, extra benefits add up to $1,000 annual fee
What they offer: The CPAC is 50 years into supporting MFA graduates, established and aspiring artists. It’s the only nonprofit organization in Denver dedicated to the art of photography. All members get discounts on workshops, classes, lectures, rentals for the darkroom and digital lab and services at neighboring photo printing centers. In its white-walled, well-lit space, the center hosts up to 10 exhibitions each year, showcasing local and national artists. Connect with greater Denver through CPAC’s events such as Picture Me Here, which provides cameras to refugees and immigrants.
40 West Arts
Where: 1560 Teller St., Lakewood
Membership: $279+ per month rent for a creative suite depending on size
What they offer: Centered around the 40 West Gallery, this arts district and collective in one serves more than 140 artist members and is a gathering place for the West Colfax community at large. 40 West has 13 creative suites (individual and shared) and three workshops with garage door access. Units include utilities and WiFi, and artist members are invited to calls for entry to exhibitions multiple times a year and special member showcases.
Where: 999 Vallejo St., Denver
Membership, spaces: Call for availability and lease rates 303- 870-8569
What they offer: An affordable, unconventional work space for Denver’s creators and business builders of all types, PRISM offers a community-minded environment conducive to collaboration and exchanging resources. The 62 individual units range in size from 100 to over 3,000 square feet and the cost includes 24-hour access, Wifi, utilities, loading dock access and more. PRISM’s current community includes ceramicists; interior designers and people who work with glass, metal, light and technology.
Art Gym Denver
Where: 1460 Leyden St., Denver
Membership: $100 per month, discounts available for students and recent graduates
What they offer: Flexibility. Art Gym has space and equipment for all sorts of makers: printers, metalsmiths, dancers, digital artists, painters, drawers, sculptors, writers and other. It operates on a month-to-month membership basis with no long-term contracts, and offers member-to-member mentoring programs, occasional workshops and classes, access to a library and free coffee from the building’s cafe. There are no private studio spaces, but lockers and other options for storage. The gallery exhibits curated shows with public calls for entry and two juried members-only exhibits per year.
GRACe (Globeville Riverfront Art Center)
Where: 888 E. 50th Ave., Denver
Membership: 75 studio rentals starting at $175 per month, up to $1400 per month depending on size
What they offer: Need a studio space that welcomes your creative business and beloved pets? GRACe offers month-to-month leases on studios and creative offices with 24/7 access to the space, all utilities and WiFi — not to mention a few chickens, a community garden and an open door to friendly dogs. Located in the River North Art District, the gallery at GRACe gets plenty of foot traffic, especially on First Fridays and Open Studio tours. Resident creatives include painters, photographers, multimedia producers and even a rock climbing gear company.
Writing and Media
Lighthouse Writers Workshop
Where: 1515 Race St., Denver
Membership: A standard $60 membership for the year includes discounts on literary magazines and books, classes and workshops.
What they offer: Inside this lighthouse, actually a Victorian home, writers might fill every nook, but only clacking keyboards and scribbling pens make a sound. There’s a crackling energy above everyone’s heads. Pen and paper are all that’s needed to write, but there’s momentum in a place where others are focused and creating, Lighthouse Community Programmer Dan Manzanares says.
Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop is home for anyone who connects with books and writing. It’s hard to put a face to the place, but the space itself certainly has a distinct character. The home, built in 1893, maintains a dignified mood with a few curious quirks. Workspace options include standard desks, dining tables, seats near windows, a fainting couch and a claw foot bathtub – whatever gets the words flowing. Wood floors, harp-like banisters and emerald green accents set an academic tone for six large classrooms on the main floors. The basement downstairs, which hosts workshops and author events for up to 115 people. It feels like a 1970s church youth group space, according to Communications Coordinator Corey Dahl. She loves taking a drink out on the spacious porch to commiserate or celebrate with other writers.
Lighthouse is not a collective confined to its 7,000 square-foot residence set on a five-plot piece of land. From the house’s wrought-iron fence hang poems, products of the community outreach program, Write Denver. It hosts events throughout the city accessible to children, veterans and people experiencing homelessness. Every fourth Tuesday of the month, patrons of the Denver Art Museum can meet up for drop-in writing sessions inspired by exhibits.
“Wherever the beacon shines, writers grow,” Manzanares said.
LitFest is the best gateway for people to “catch the lighthouse vibe,” he said. It’s an annual circus for literature freaks. A striped tent is involved. About 3,000 people attended the two-weeks of seminars, parties, workshops, salons and agent consultations last June. Simply attending the free events and readings is a valuable networking opportunity and a chance to see how deep and vibrant the literary community is here in Denver.
There are only a handful of literary centers across the nation with classes, workshops, outreach and massive events like Lighthouse, said Dahl, naming The Loft in Minneapolis, Grub Street in Boston and Hugo House in Seattle.
Big-time authors know this. Lighthouse is somewhat of a household name in achieving writers’ circles. Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the Nobel for Literature in 2017 and came here in 2015, encouraged Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, to speak for Lighthouse the following year, in 2016.
Posters of honored guests, like Colson Whitehead and Junot Diaz, hang in Lighthouse’s basement, talismans for the writers working through drafts, critiques and edits. In addition to all this, there are members-only writing hours at the house throughout the week. Financial assistance, student and senior memberships are an option for tight budgets. In addition to eight-week workshop courses and community events, Lighthouse has a two-year Book Project program, akin to an MFA, for polishing big projects and guidance through the publishing process.
The Denver Press Club
Where: 1330 Glenarm Pl., Denver
Membership: $260 for a regular one-year membership
What they offer: The Denver Press Club, founded in 1867, claims to be the oldest press club in the nation. With more than 400 members, you can use their space to connect with active and retired media as well as public relation experts, advertisers, lawyers and more. The club offers events including a “book beat” and “lunch on deadline” events. You also have access to press clubs across the nation. The press club is also known for their great bar. So belly up and rub elbows with some of Denver’s best minds.
Denver Open Media
Where: 700 Kalamath St., Denver
Membership: Basic memberships cost $100 per year with a $50 renewal and Equipment Access memberships are $500 for the year with a $250 renewal
What they offer: Tech intimidation no more. Denver Open Media supports digital storytelling artists by providing high-quality media tools (cameras, voice recorders, accessories, studios, computer programs) to individuals and organizations with a range of previous experience and financial resources. With a basic membership, one can take tech-skill classes at a discounted rate, rent equipment and studios to create audio or video projects and submit them to DOM’s radio station (KOMF 104.7) and/or TV channels. Equipment Access members get free access to DOM Studios, Editing, & Field Production equipment (with certification).
Souls In Action Entertainment
Where: 190 E 9th Ave., Denver
Membership: Contact SIA
What they offer: Friends who make art converge with a desire to create social change. Souls In Action seeks a diverse group of young creative individuals to create a better community. Members get involved in city improvement projects and events such as resource fairs, fundraiser dinners and benefit concerts. Artists get to know one another, promote each others’ gigs and music releases and participate in shows together.
Seventh Circle Music Collective
Where: 2935 W 7th Ave., Denver
Membership: No membership, anyone is welcome to play shows
What they offer: All genres of music are welcome at this art gallery/record store/live show venue. It’s a training ground for newer bands to learn live show operations and etiquette, so they can be ready to play bigger, more professional venues. At this collective-run, community-oriented DIY space, artists have connected with one another and collaborated on projects and performances. Seventh Circle typically has three or four local artists and bands playing each show, about five nights a week.
Moon Magnet Collective
Where: North Park Hill area (contact for more information)
Membership: Free for all services
What they offer: It’s not the studio or the gear that makes a great artist – although Moon Magnet Studio has a unique and adequate setup for full recording and video capabilities. Founder Reed Fuchs believes in the power of practice, complete free expression and a good producer. Moon Magnet promotes a “spirit of endless possibility” as a Denver music label, recording studio, publishing company and artist collective. They do recordings for film scores, voice reels and bands in their studio. They stream music on their label and operate as a licensing platform and provide business, law and marketing consultations as well as host a monthly music industry meetup in 27 cities. The collective also hosts art installations and general creative projects around town and have had music residencies at The Meadowlark and Syntax Physic Opera. Moon Magnet is always looking to help artists record, promote, learn and professionalize their music.
Roux Black Consulting
Membership: Fees according to services provided
What they offer: Roux Black’s Denver operation is a consulting business that specializes in content creation, event production and campaign development. Music is the mainstay of the company, especially hip-hop, but all creatives are welcome. Ru Johnson, the founder of the firm, pushes artists’ missions forward by managing the platforms they need, like creating openings at venues and networking with talent buyers or advocating for city recognition of roots-level arts.
Where: 2199 California St., Denver
Membership: $10 drop-in classes, $50 per month for swing teams
What they offer: Find a dance home at The Mercury Cafe in Five Points, where Swing Nights have held most of its classes and social dances for the past 20 years. Drop into weekly lessons and open dances – Sunday night Jitterbug, Thursday Lindy Hop – for $10. Taking technique and friendship to the next level, The Mercury Retros (beginner) and QuickSilvers (intermediate-advanced) swing teams meet for weekly practices and other special events.
The principles of jazz apply to the principles of life and community — swing dancers know this. Rhythm, connection, improvisation and self-expression are key to relational work on and off the floor.
Swing Nights is a product of another performance team, 23 Skidoo, and just a part of the larger swing scene in the Denver area, says instructor and leader Ceth Stifel. Two decades ago, he was going to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for painting and came home to Denver on winter break. A visiting friend heard about The Mercury as a “must do” in Denver and it was there Stifel took his first swing lesson. He loved it. He later joined 23 Skidoo and then formed Swing Nights.
Stifel is a self-described introvert and soft-spoken man, though he stands over six feet tall and is a strong and stylish dance lead. He and Dani Botello, his teaching and dancing partner, are passionate about dance and people learning and growing on and off the dance floor. He’s also passionate about capturing the magic on the floor through photography. “It’s a joyful place to be and it’s a joyful thing to experience, this partner dancing with someone else,” he said. “You see, when you take these pictures of people, it is about some sort of friendship that’s happening between two people in these short increments of time.”
Stifel says the dance style particularly attracts young people. Some regular dancers at The Mercury have been coming since high school, and new groups of teens continue to gather under the twinkly lights. Swing Nights makes it a mission to pass the swing lifestyle on for generations to come.
Alejandro Ramirez, a recent addition to The Mercury Retros, took the bait. “I totally bit the bug, hard,” he said. “Swing fever, you know.”
Ramirez, originally from El Paso, Texas, graduated from Regis University in May. A school friend dragged him to The Mercury and he’s danced there intermittently for the past two years. “When it’s packed it feels like you’ve got the ‘in’ on something,” he said about the cafe’s positive vibe and popularity. He’s loved having a place to go for stress relief and now to invest in a community.
The Mercury Retros welcomed him in December. Ramirez marvels at the level of commitment these people have to each other. He signed a document that ensures members maintain a positive environment and encourages them to be friends. He went to a teammate’s home with more than 20 others for a game night and has seen them reach out to give rides and other acts of kindness.
A couple months into practices, Ramirez says he is still “pretty good.” He’ll be “good” when he’s mastered his first team routine. Lindy is a little different, even for someone who grew up with parents who are known by friends as “Dancing with the Stars.” Cumbia music blasted in Ramirez’s home where his mom gave him lessons. Sometimes a little Latin flavor comes out on the swing floor. “These hips have been trained by my mama,” Ramirez said. Instructor Dani Botello not only accepted the experimentation, she encourages it — something Ramirez appreciates.
There’s a place to start and room grow to with Swing Nights. Once dancers make it to the top team, QuickSilvers, they don’t stop. They talk about adding tricks, perfecting mechanics and even travel, Stifel says; they continue a journey together.
Esme Dance Company
Where: 157 Kalamath St., Denver
Membership: No fees to be a volunteer dancer for the small company
What they offer: The Esmé model is to train hard, perform with emotion and bring outside experiences to the floor as inspiration. The contemporary dance company, founded in 2014, uses its name, which means to be loved and esteemed, as a vision for their artists’ growth in skill and community.
Turnverein Dance and Cultural Center
Where: 1570 Clarkson St., Denver
Membership: $50 annual fee
What they offer: Tango, salsa, swing or waltz into this historic center. The Turnverein Dance and Cultural Center houses several ballroom style clubs. With one membership fee, dancers get discounts to classes, workshops and events put on by the Colorado Swing Dance Club, Salsa Central Denver, Rocky Mountain Swing Dance Club and Tango Colorado. See club websites for details on class schedules, volunteer opportunities and extra member perks like drink discounts and educational resources.
Boulder Swing Dance
Where: 2115 Pearl St., Boulder(Mondays), 414 East Simpson St., Lafayette (Tuesdays), 900 S Hover St. Unit D, Longmont, (Wednesdays)
Membership: $15 drop-in classes, multiple-class punch cards available
What they offer: High in energy and joyful in nature, the dances Boulder Swing Dance focuses on are the Lindy Hop, Balboa and Charleston. Beginners and people sans-partner are welcome to get started with a month-long intro series. Take the class and get into the social dance for free. Events are spread along the front range in Boulder, Lafayette and Longmont. Dance Ambassadors — positions open for application — serve as hosts, points of contact and role models in class.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company
Where: 119 Park Ave W., Denver
Membership: $150 for unlimited monthly options for 45 – 90-minute classes, drop-ins and other class pass bundles available
What they offer: The four pillars of the CPRD institution include the ensemble, academy, theatre and education programs. Cross-cultural education is the foundation. Dancers at any level are encouraged to drop into a variety of classic dance instruction (modern, ballet, tap, jazz) and other fitness classes like Zumba and “No Pressure Hip Hop.” Advanced dancers, including professionals and pre-professionals, find comprehensive training with the internationally esteemed Ensemble or through a Dance Major with the Independent Degree Programs in partnership with Metro State University. Areas of study include Social Transformation/World Dance and Culture, Dance Pedagogy or Administration and Performance or Choreography.
Denver Film Society
Where: 910 Santa Fe Dr., Denver
Membership: Contact for leasing openings and rates
What they offer: Designed with community in mind, the 910 Arts building is a multi-use redevelopment project that incorporated urban renewal and green building practices. The studios and live/work lofts have natural light and easy access to coffee and goodies at mmm…Coffee in the 910 courtyard. Supported arts in the community include ceramics, theater, eco-architecture, floral design, mixed media, music, pastel and photography.
Membership: none, fees for sessions vary
What they offer: It’s a virtually-based networking platform run in four major creative cities. Denver is cool enough to make the list. The Collab promotes less competition and more collaboration through monthly and bi-monthly workshops. Sign up for an appointment to learn from a skilled Denverite and/or post your own educational opportunities. Collab’s broad goal is to build strong local, regional and national presence while promoting diversity.
Like Minded Productions
Where: 2700 Walnut St., Denver
Membership: Open to consultation
What they offer: Bringing art to the streets, Like Minded is a print shop and art collective that’s led mural projects all over the city. Its studio at the heart of the RiNo Art District has an open door policy — they’ll support any creative person who comes through seeking guidance or solidarity in growing an artistic practice.
Fashion Group International – Denver
Membership: $70 annual dues for Associate Memberships, $145 for Executive Membership (requires being in a professional position in a fashion-related industry for three or more years)
What they offer: The FGI community is online and is therefore there wherever and whenever needed. Services for members include trend reports, bulletins with business insights, membership directories to connect to peers and mentors and an archive with 75 years of fashion inspiration. Denver’s chapter hosts showcases and business programs, and recently celebrated its 60th anniversary of serving the fashion and lifestyle industries.
Denver Design Incubator
Where: 2040 Clay St., Denver
Membership: $75 per month, other levels of involvement and rates available
What they offer: Time to spend time with someone other than your mannequin? Denver Design incubator provides resources, education and development to support a thriving apparel and sewn products industry in the city. Members have full access to the studio and its equipment as well as storage cubbies and access to the Sourcing Library, which includes books of swatches and trims from vendors domestic and abroad. Extra workshops teach practical elements of pattern making or sewing and things on the business side like Social Media 101 and Fashion Law.