Over the summer, local placemaking wunderkind Brian Corrigan teamed up with Somebody People and a not-so-sleight crew of medium-spanning creatives to introduce the first Farm to Spaceship. The project, though nominally fresh, was a continuation of Corrigan’s long career in interdisciplinary event planning. Prior to becoming an integral part of Denver’s interactive art community, Corrigan taught design at Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C.
Since moving out west roughly a decade ago, Corrigan has acted as the binding force in a range of large and small-scale transformative endeavors — founding OhHeckYeah, coproducing the Create Denver Week with Ginger White-Brunetti and beginning with the dawn of quarantine, spearheading projects that slyly inject what could safely be described as magic into an increasingly mundane world. The first Farm to Spaceship combined a multi-course at-home vegan dinner and cooking class, a digital exploration of the cosmos and a nearly two-hour dance party fashionably curated by famed British Club Kid Prince JayJay.
Since then, Farm to Spaceship has transitioned into being the overarching brand from which Corrigan assembles new rosters and fresh ventures, the latest being With My Gnomies and its culinary counterpart Baking With My Gnomies. While everything Corrigan concocts relies on a bit of mystery and generally shies away from the boundaries of strict definition, Gnomies has been best described by the creator himself “as experiential retail that’s also theatre and a business accelerator.” In early December, a crack team — including sculptor and designer Scottie Burgess, comedy and theatre writer Linda Klein, creative tech and lighting designer Hepp Maccoy and musician CRL CRRLL — refurbished some unused retail windows in Denver, Centennial and Colorado Springs into interactive displays complete with smart-phone based scavenger hunts, QR-purchasable items and experiences and unlockable activations. While each “diorama” will only continue to be operational until January 7, Baking With My Gnomies — the second collaboration with Somebody People — will be available for pickup through February. Even though there may only be a week left to peep the windows, the scavenger hunts themselves are free of charge.
It’s hard to discuss Corrigan’s projects without bringing up Meow Wolf. Even as immersive experiences have continued to take off under pandemic conditions, it’s been nearly impossible for any to achieve the same level of depth and whimsy continually expressed by Santa Fe’s landmark of uninhibited imagination. With the release of Gnomies, Farm to Spaceship has twice proven profound, with a generative vision being communicated largely through play. The activities feel edifying by way of spontaneous transmission, big ideas always finding a way to sneak in amongst the amusement. “At its core, creativity is just seeing things in a different way,” grinned Corrigan. “Complexity doesn’t have to be work.”
The underlying mythology behind the Gnomies posits they are high-country critters that feed on conceptual energy, descending from the Colorado mountaintops to collect creative sparks. “The Gnomies are not gnomes — lemurs to monkeys,” laughed Corrigan. The invisible munchkins are also incorrigible sock fiends and can be rightly blamed for many an uneven pair. “How do you embed narrative and story into an existing infrastructure?” inquired Corrigan. This bit may be the crown jewel of Farm to Spaceship’s charm — the consistency with which the daily humdrum is accounted for by way of an endearing alibi. With a cunning and deliberate reshaping of the smaller details of daily life, Corrigan and company keep on inviting the audience to look at all things with a fresh set of eyes. And while the projects certainly favor the cute, they gracefully steer the course — proudly navigating away from all risks of impending corniness.
Integrating art and business, each window incorporates a range of local creators. Wares are available by way of QR purchase, with vendors including Rainbow Dome, FAM Botanicals, LVTD Designs, Ladyfingers Letterpress, Culturs Magazine and Colorado Detours being but a sample of an entirely refined cross-city roster. An impressive breadth of contributors has been establishing itself as Farm to Spaceship’s norm — both projects dramatically upstage the sum of their intentionally striking and myriad parts.
Baking With my Gnomies exists within the same universe, though can be enjoyed independently of its more public sibling. An at-home baking kit comes with several activity packets and a set of cheeky online instructions presented by comedian and Klein collaborator Matthew Taylor. The cookies — curated by Somebody People — unsurprisingly favor the healthy, with co-owner Samuel Maher leading a cooking demo involving organic flour, sugar blend and freeze-dried fruit. While plenty of at-home kits fall flat — especially with an unceasing absence of tangible alternatives — the Gnomies carry enough substance to be fairly considered art. For anyone who finds Meow Wolf’s magnificent rendering of immersion as high art attractive, the baking kit introduces a similarly pleasant sense of aesthetic disorientation.
As the Gnomies continue through February, Farm to Spaceship is set to unveil another offering in Summer 2021. Corrigan intends for the project to spread statewide, with his eyes set squarely on Paonia and Trinidad. “We’re trying to tell the story of Colorado. Colorado really is farm to spaceship,” beamed Corrigan.
626 16th St., Denver.
7560 South Univerity Blvd., Centennial.
127 East Bijou St., Colorado Springs.
Somebody People is located at 1165 South Broadway #104, Denver. It is open for take-out Tuesday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., then again from 4 – 8 p.m., it is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., then again from 4 – 8 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.