Art abounds in and around Denver, on the street, in galleries, hung on the walls of restaurants and inside the museums. With so many forms, it’s easy for those with an eye for visual creativity to find something new, thought provoking, or just plain cool to see.
Juxtapose a romp around the local visual art scene with Laughs In Spanish, the newest play to hit the Singleton Theatre on January 27 through March 12. In this play, the main character runs a gallery in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, and Florida’s most prestigious festival Art Basel is about to start. While Denver doesn’t host an art fete as big as Art Basel, there are certainly enough artists and creative types in the Mile High City worth checking out before or after the play.
With a handful of cultural districts in Denver — including Tennyson Street Arts District, 40 West Arts in Lakewood, RiNo Arts District, Golden Triangle Arts District, and The Art District on Santa Fe, which was the first and founded in 2003 — the city has a lot of places to go to see a bunch of visual art.
Here you’ll find plenty of galleries, street art, museums and other art-driven things to see. One of the best times to visit these areas is on the first Friday of the month when many of the galleries and artist studios open the doors to visitors. Often you’ll see food trucks, live music and other perks during the monthly fete.
Many of the galleries in and near Denver are located in clusters in the aforementioned arts districts, but there are many more scattered about. There are way too many to mention all, or even most, but here is a handful of highlights.
Access Gallery should be on every list, not just because it’s free and open to the public, but the mission to make art open to creative people with disabilities means your support goes far. Access Gallery was established in 1978, and each year around 2,000 people are served by the non-profit.
For modern art that pushes a lot of boundaries, Spectra Art Space is the place to go. Each show proves thoughtful, and often the gallery has open submissions to big projects. It’s a great spot when looking to discover new and emerging artists. The gallery also hosts art classes for those looking for hands-on creativity.
A visit to The Emmanuel Art Gallery on the Auraria Campus offers not just painting and sculpture to take in, but a side of history too. Visitors can see that aspect right from the outside of the building since it’s located in Denver’s oldest, standing religious edifice. It’s been an art gallery since 1973, dedicated to showcasing artists from around the world. The style of works ranges from abstract to collage to photography to even video game art; it changes quarterly and the gallery is always free to visit.
See works by local artist Kristina Davies in her studio and gallery. Davies’ art centers around community-based ideas and inclusivity, all done in the abstract expressionist style.
Wander among dozens of works made by the artists represented by Walker Fine Arts Gallery, as well as guest creatives. The 3800-square-foot space hosts national and regional artists in thematic shows that change every few months.
Though unassuming from the front, artistic treasures await in the David B. Smith Gallery. Each show remains somewhat intimate, but it’s a great place to meet the artist and see some of the best pieces of art coming out right now.
For years street art has been a big part of the Denver creative scene, especially in the River North, or RiNo district near downtown. You can’t enter the neighborhood without seeing something, but for a better look at what’s all around, book a local graffiti tour. Since 2018 Erin Spradlin and James Carlson have been hosting Denver Graffiti Tour, the most thorough two-hour walk through the area.
Another great spot for street art is 40 West Arts District’s Art Line. It’s all outdoors, providing a mix of interactive art and visual pieces. Online, visitors can download a map of the area so they can really understand what they are seeing and learn about who is making it.
Make a plan to visit Denver’s top institutions the next time you need an inside art fix, the largest being the Denver Art Museum. Recently the museum expanded, connecting the newer building with the renovated Martin Building, which originally opened in 1971 and housed the city’s first art museum. It’s easy to spend a full day here among the pieces, be that in the Native American collection, photography exhibit or the 5,000-piece textile art and fashion display.
Right next door, modern art lovers can also take in the Clyfford Still Museum, which is dedicated to the Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still. It’s the largest collection of his work in the world, and even though just one artist is showcased, the programming changes throughout the year to give viewers a fresh take on his body of work.
Another modern art spot is the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, or MCA, which offers revolving shows inside a 27,000-square foot, environmentally sustainable facility right in the heart of downtown. The venue came to its current spot in 2007, and since then has hosted local artists, displayed art retrospectives, and showcased works by famous modern artists such as Keith Haring and Basquiat.
Museo de las Americas offers a glimpse into the rich Latino culture in Denver and art in Latin America as a whole. Since 1991, the non-profit has hosted a range of works, from ancient to folk art to contemporary pieces, and the permanent collection contains approximately 4,800 items as well.
It’s hard to say whether Convergence Station by Meow Wolf is more of an interactive art romp or a full blown modern art museum. But, given the whole thing is full of stunning works by 300 artists, with over 100 hailing from Colorado, it’s definitely a place to soak in creativity. Plan to spend the whole day here exploring, and bonus, residents save money on tickets.