If you want to fill this upcoming year with art and culture activities, look no further than these 13 events, exhibitions, installations and shows. Strategically chosen to represent each month of the year (with an extra for good measure), these artsy happenings will keep you intrigued, educated, aware, entertained and more. From an art exhibition that coincides with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage to a haunted house made by local artists, these prove that Denver’s art scene is burgeoning with talent and valuable experiences, as well as varied enough to satisfy everyone’s tastes.
When: January 18 – April 5, 2020
Where: McNichols Building
The Lowdown: To kick off art events in 2020, visit the McNichols Building starting January 18 for a boundary-pushing exhibit that coincides with the centennial of women’s suffrage as well as the fourth annual Womxn’s March. Put together by four art collectives in Denver — Birdseed Collective, Hardly Soft, Odessa and Pink Progression — Dearly Disillusioned will explore gender identity, protest and equality through four separate but related installations. Pink Progression has over 15 participating artists working on their collaborative piece, Coalesce, which will “emphasize collective issues that confront us and the transformational ways of finding common ground.” Birdseed Collective, made up of collaborating artist Meredith Feniak, Karma Leigh and Kaitlyn Tucek and curated by Moe Gram, will illuminate suffragette stories and highlight marginalized voices in history. Hardly Soft takes collaboration in a different direction, with two artists work “in conversation” with each other — Masha Sha and Tomas Díaz Cedeño. Finally, Odessa presents In the Making, an installation that focuses on two questions — why and how do women make things? — with work from Sierra Montoya Barela, Laura Dreyer, Talya Feldman, Shavana Smiley, Lindsay Smith Gustave and Hanna Waters.
Rauschenberg: Reflections and Ruminations
When: February 24 – June 13, 2020
Where: Museum of Outdoor Arts, 1000 Englewood Pkwy, Englewood
Cost: $10, available in advance here
The Lowdown: Beginning in February, the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Englewood will showcase more than 50 original artworks by Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) as part of the largest exhibition of the artist’s work that has ever come to Colorado. Rauschenberg is widely known for his influence on American Pop Art through his screenprinting tactics and use of objects from media and consumer culture. He believed in closing the gap between art and life and often spoke about everyday objects as pieces of art, especially when recycled in different contexts. This exhibition will focus on some of the works he created between the years of 1962 and 2008 and is made up of major loans from private and institutional collections.
When: February 28 – March 6, 2020
Where: RiNo, various locations
The Lowdown: For the third year in a row some of the buildings in RiNo will turn into temporary canvases for projected digital films during the annual festival Side Stories. For a week at the end of February and beginning of March, the large-format films will start looping after dark at various locations around the neighborhood. The films are created by local artists, some of whom have digital or animation experience and others who are trying it for the first time. This year’s artists haven’t been decided yet, but based on the success of previous years, it will be another wonderful showcase of digital art. Check out our reviews of the first and second festivals for a taste of what to expect.
Nari Ward: We the People
When: April 24 – August 30, 2020
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver, 1485 Delgany St., Denver
Cost: $10, general admission tickets
The Lowdown: A list of Denver art events wouldn’t be complete without an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), where boundary-pushing shows often take center stage. Opening in April and running through the summer, We the People is a solo showcase of contemporary sculptor and artist Nari Ward. Ward was born in Jamaica but spent much of his formative years in Harlem. His work activates found objects and charges them with new life and possibility, in the vein of Marchel Duchamp. The exhibition at the MCA will feature some landmark works of Ward’s like Amazing Grace (1993), an expansive installation that was originally designed for an abandoned firehouse, as well as others that have rarely been seen since their original creation. Ward’s exhibition will take over the entire museum, with 17 sculptures, paintings, videos and large-scale installations. Check it out for only the cost of a penny (for Colorado residents) on Saturdays.
Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling
When: May 1 – September 20, 2020
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York St., Denver
Cost: $9 – 13 for general admission
The Lowdown: This year the York Street location of the Denver Botanic Gardens will open The Freyer-Newman Center — a new venue that completed the final phase of the Gardens’ Master Development Plan — with a solo exhibition of German-born artist Ursula von Rydingsvard. Ryndingsvard is a renowned sculptor and mixed media artist who works with sometimes surprising materials like knotted silk, tangles of thread, hair, lace, graphite, pigment, cedar and bronze. The Contour of Feeling will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in Denver and will mostly feature large cedar sculptures and works on paper made after the year 2000. The guest curator, Mark Rosenthal, is the former curator at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and is excited about the potential of this exhibit. “This exhibition has proven to be a revelation for both those unfamiliar and well-versed with von Rydingsvard’s work.”
When: May 28 – 31, 2020
Where: Various locations, Westminster
The Lowdown: Much like other creative mediums that have been criticized recently, the street art world has traditionally been dominated by men. But this year, one festival is going to start changing that with a festival dedicated to women and non-binary muralists called Babe Walls. Founded by Alexandrea Pangburn, the festival has a core group of five other women — Kaitlin Ziesmer, R0melle, Grow Love, Gina Ilczyszyn and Ashley Joon — all of who have made waves in the Denver art scene these past few years. Aside from highlighting women and non-binary artists (although they made it clear that gender will not be discriminated against with other participating artists) the festival also strives to enhance collaboration in the community by having artists work together on walls. More details are soon to come, as the festival was only just announced at the end of 2019.
Denver Art Museum Opens New Building
When: June 6, 2020
Where: Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy, Denver
Cost: $10 – 13, general admission tickets
The Lowdown: After two years of intense construction and strain on the Denver Art Museum, the first phase of the $150 million renovation project will open on June 6 to the public. When that happens, visitors will be able to see three floors of art galleries, learning and gathering spaces and a restaurant and cafe — spread between the renovated Martin Building and the brand-spanking-new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center. New points of interest in the renovated Martin Building will include a refurbished Bonfils-Stanton Gallery, new Amanda J. Precourt Design Galleries and interactive space, a renewed Northwest Coast and Alaska Native gallery, a space for student and community art exhibitions and a purpose-built conservation laboratory with north-facing windows. Attending the opening might be worth it just to see inside the enormous curved glass panels that have attracted curious onlookers for months and took a great deal to install and engineer.
Everland Eco Retreat and Playground
When: Summer 2020
Where: Sedalia (50-minute drive southwest from Denver)
The Lowdown: Much like the Denver Art Museum’s new building, when Everland opens this summer it will only represent a small portion of the complete “opening” of the new eco-retreat and playground about an hour drive from Denver. The 145-acre property was purchased in 2019 and the co-founders Jonny Jenkins, Sophie Howell and Laney Odom have been living and working on it ever since. Their goal is to sustainably develop the site to accommodate eco-friendly housing options, art installations and educational opportunities. Inspired largely by the ethos and vibe of Burning Man, Everland will be a playground for the body and mind.
Theater of the Mind
When: August 2020
Where: Denver Center for Performing Arts, 1101 13th St., Denver
Cost: Not yet announced, stay up to date here.
The Lowdown: After the exciting announcement in 2019, audiences in Denver and beyond are getting pumped up for an immersive theater production coming in August brought by the Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and his constant collaborator Mala Gaonkar. Theater of the Mind will “reveal the inner mysteries of the brain” through a 15,000 square-foot sensory journey that only allows 16 participants at a time. It’s being billed as a neuroscience-inspired art experience that is part narrative, part science experiment. It’ll be organized through Off-Center, an immersive branch of the Denver Center for Performing Arts. “For a few years, David and I partnered with several cognitive neuroscience labs to see how some of the most basic human intuitions determine how humans react,” Gaonkar said. Although not much else is known about what Theater of the Mind will be in practice, it has the assurance of other Off-Center productions, which have historically been groundbreaking.
When: September 7 – 14
Where: Various locations, RiNo, Denver
The Lowdown: This will be the 11th year for the annual street art festival in RiNo, CRUSH WALLS and if you live in Denver and haven’t visited, it’s time to go. For the last few years, CRUSH has been responsible for transforming hundreds of walls throughout the neighborhood, mostly by local artists. Last year the festival was focused on collaboration between artists, leading to murals with hybridized styles and unusual pairings. For the entire week, artists paint walls in the open, allowing visitors to watch techniques and occasionally ask questions. As the festival grows, events have also been added on to supplement the daytime painting, like block parties, concerts, secret painting battles and more.
No Place to Go
When: October 2020
Where: Not yet announced
Cost: Not yet announced
The Lowdown: Once summer winds down and Halloween (and the Presidential election) is just around the corner, No Place to Go will be exactly the place to go in Denver. An “artist-made haunted house” co-directed by Serena Chopra, Kate Speer and Frankie Toan, No Place to Go will be an immersive, interactive and tactile art experience fabricated by local artists that explores the world of choices and the “horror of the binary.” With a special focus on “queering the haunted house experience,” No Place to Go will unravel preconceived ideas of what is truly scary and why our fears might be what limits us the most.
Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism
When: October 25, 2020 – January 17, 2021
Where: Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy, Denver
Cost: General admission + special exhibit price (to be announced at a later date)
The Lowdown: For a long time now, Denver’s Latinx community has been underrepresented at major cultural institutions like the Denver Art Museum. But that will change this year when a major exhibition opens featuring more than 150 artworks from Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and their contemporaries who were working in 1920s post-revolution Mexico. There will be more than 20 works by Kahlo alone with others by Lola Alvarez Bravo, Gunther Gerzso, María Izquierdo, Carlos Mérida to name a few. The Mexican Modernism movement will be explored through all of these works, with Kahlo and Rivera as central figures.
The Art of the Brick
When: June 19, 2020 – January 24, 2021
Where: Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Cost: $9+ (early bird pricing until January 31)
The Lowdown: Nathan Sawaya, after starting a career as an attorney in Hollywood, left his professional life to pursue being a full-time LEGO artist. Yes, the little plastic bricks that were once an integral part of our childhood. Now, Sawaya has a long list of artistic LEGO accomplishments, like a sculpture featured in a Lady Gaga music video, the iconic torso with bricks falling out of its stomach and a life-sized version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. After installing six of his LEGO sculptures in Denver this past summer, Sawaya is coming back to Denver in 2020 for an exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The Art of the Brick will feature some of Sawaya’s original sculptures, like Yellow and a T.rex skeleton made out of 80,000 LEGO bricks. Since it’ll be at the Nature and Science museum, there will also be elements to the exhibit that are interactive and inviting to visitors, like a work area filled with LEGO bricks and building challenges.
Looking for more events to do in 2020? Check out our Colorado bucket list of 102 things to do in the state this year.