As homebound Denverites scramble for activities to fill their waking hours, cultural institutions and businesses are looking for ways to keep eyes and wallets pointed their way.
Leave it to Denver’s creative sector to come up with quick, cheap solutions to unexpected problems.
“We have now found ourselves trying to survive in a business that requires customers’ participation,” wrote Stephanie Magennis, co-owner of Ceramics in the City, which is offering $20-$25 to-go kits in the age of coronavirus. “We are trying to keep our staff employed and pay rent and feel like this is our best way to do so.”
“We’re also trying to limit the number of people coming into the studio, but we wanted to provide a fun, at-home activity for families,” added Myla Neil, studio manager for the 17-year-old East Colfax Avenue business, via phone.
But what about arts purveyors without a physical product? Museums, galleries and studios — which typically rely on in-person visits to function — can’t exactly do the same. As a result, they’re increasingly preparing virtual tours and videos, such as Capitol Hill’s Molly Brown House Museum, or the Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities (both of which will launch new digital products next week), that offer not just distraction but participation and learning.
“We see the museum as a living, breathing thing that allows you to express your curiosity and sense of adventure,” said Nora Burnett Abrams, the Mark G. Falcone director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. “We try to hit those notes with both the experience of coming to the building but also digitally. In both cases, we want people to be exposed to something new.”
MCA Denver’s staff has been meeting every day for the last two weeks to come up with ideas that reinforce the institution as more than just its building, which was scheduled to be shuttered anyway in the coming month as it readied new exhibitions.
While MCA Denver’s $6 million endowment will allow its home at 1485 Delgany St. — and the employees who run it — to idle safely for awhile, the loss of even a portion of its 118,000 annual visitors will still hit it hard. Admission receipts make up 25 to 30 percent of MCA Denver’s annual budget, Abrams said.
Virtual hangouts, Instagram photo-sharing contests, self-care seminars and other themed activities can keep MCA Denver’s audience creatively busy while feeling connected to something larger. All are being developed for the coming weeks, as well as a possible digital artist-in-residency program.
“We were in close contact with the Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum last week when we were weighing the decision to close,” Abrams said, noting that she believes collaboration will become increasingly common as institutions wait out the closures. “There have been a large number of additional communications about us all coming together for a project, though it’s too early to say what.”
Suffice it to say, Denverites will be paying attention. For now, here are a few at-a-distance offerings from area art purveyors.
Denver Art Museum
In the midst of completing a $150 million construction project, Denver Art Museum plans to stay mostly quiet through at least March 31, when it will reevaluate its programming and plans. In the meantime, it’s promoting a Creativity Resources page normally aimed at teachers and home-schoolers that contains dozens of free videos and artist talks, as well as lesson plans for creative writing and social studies. Users can search by age group, type of lesson and other criteria at denverartmuseum.org/creativity-resource.
From the people who brought you the Mixed Taste lecture-and-cocktails series and the Octopus Initiative art-borrowing program comes the weekly #LetsMCA challenge. On Tuesday, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver used social media to encourage people to set a timer for 30 minutes and draw, collage, photograph, paint or animate a project. Once completed, they could post a picture or video on Instagram with the #LetsMCA hashtag, which would then be shared by MCA to its 50,000-plus followers. Watch for more weekly challenges and ideas at facebook.com/museumofcontemporaryartdenver.
It’s a shame that this museum, dedicated to artist Vance Kirkland and other fine and decorative artists, is shuttered, since its new building (as of 2018) at 1201 Bannock St. is a large part of its charm. Still, you can get a taste of it from your laptop, tablet or smartphone by visiting the website for a 360-degree virtual tour that includes examples of its unique, salon-style displays and vignettes highlighting a mix of the aesthetically beautiful and stylishly practical. kirklandmuseum.org
Clyfford Still Museum
The nation’s only museum dedicated to abstract expressionist legend Clyfford Still has made 2,533 works available digitally on its website, searchable by color, type, date, creation place, material and whether or not it was on view at the Golden Triangle-area institution. collection.clyffordstillmuseum.org
Consider this the promise of more content, with an immediate benefit for artists: The “nomadic” and forward-thinking Black Cube museum this week called for artists to submit videos in an effort to funnel a bit of cash toward working creatives. Ten artists will be selected from among the submissions to receive $200 each, while the videos will be featured on the Black Cube Vimeo channel. The money comes from an emergency grant from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and a matching donation from Leslie and J Kent Miller, Black Cube said in a press statement. The deadline is April 10 at 11:59 p.m., and winners will be announced on April 14 via a newsletter and social media blast. Submission guidelines and an online submission form are at blackcube.art.
Future Arts Foundation
Along with Boulder’s Tinker Studios, Future Arts Foundation is promoting free, online arts classes for all ages to keep little hands busy — and to route donations to Tinker and FAF, which like so many others has been forced to close and cancel all of its art classes, festivals and other programming. Visit fafcolorado.org to donate or Tinker’s YouTube page (bit.ly/3d8QsNW) to follow along with the daily videos.
Denver Arts & Venues
Since city-owned venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the Colorado Convention Center have stopped hosting events, Denver Arts & Venues has turned its attention to helping out-of-work artists and keeping families occupied. The 2019 Youth One Book, One Denver selection “Cardboard Kingdom” and its kid-friendly activity kit now seem especially relevant, with creative crafts, dozens of printable cut-outs and at-home ideas designed to spark imagination with household materials. It’s available for free under Events & Programs at artsandvenuesdenver.com.
Are you an arts nonprofit or business with a creative offering? Email [email protected] to be considered for an upcoming story.
Updated March 19 at 2:50 p.m.The following corrected information has been added to this article: Because of a reporter’s error, the name of a Ceramics in the City co-owner was misspelled. The correct spelling is Stephanie Magennis.
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