Art & the Artist Destination Guides

3 Ways to Uncover the Art Scene in Denver, Colorado

This year, art, culture, and creativity are set to reach new heights in the Mile High City—art-scene insiders share which spots to visit and what you need to know

There’s a lot to like about Denver: far-reaching views of the Rocky Mountains, fantastic gourmet food offerings, and 245 days of sunshine a year (40 more than the national average). So, it’s not surprising that in 2019 the Colorado capital was named one of the fastest growing cities in America.

Downtown Denver with views of the Rocky Mountains behind
With year-round sunshine, Denver sits between the front range of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the tree-lined neighborhoods and parks of the city to the east. Image: Getty Images

As the state’s creative hub, Denver is also recognized for its emphasis on the arts. “More people attend arts events in metro Denver than in any other region,” says Kristy Bassuener, referencing a recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts.

As both the director of communications for the Denver Art Museum and board co-chair of the city’s Golden Triangle Creative District, Bassuener has seen the city-wide cultural changes first hand. “Denver’s art scene has definitely expanded in recent years, and Colorado residents’ interest in the arts is strong,” she confirms.

Denver Art Museum's architectural Hamilton Building
The Daniel Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum has a 125-year history and is credited as a "catalyst for the arts" in the city. Image: Denver Art Museum

This is thanks in part to Imagine 2020—a plan the city created in 2014, which set out a strategic vision for arts in the region. “Culture and creativity help define our city,” Denver’s mayor, Michael Hancock, said at the time. “Imagine 2020 is brimming with positive ideas that will elevate Denver’s standing as an international cultural destination.”

Denver’s art scene has definitely expanded in recent years, and Colorado residents’ interest in the arts is strong—Kristy Bassuener

While it might be hard to imagine the Mile High City elevated any further, two events this year are set to ensure it does just that: the first Denver Fine Art Fair, and the upcoming completion of The Denver Art Museum’s $150-million renovation. Here’s what to know, and how to put your finger firmly on the city’s creative pulse.

Head to the Denver Fine Art Fair

The city’s first gallery-driven international art fair will see more than 500 artists show works that have an altogether worth of more than $100 million. Curated pieces will range from Colorado modernism to European impressionism, and all artworks will be housed within a museum-like space, punctuated by installations, sculptures and video art.

Denver Fine Art Fair
While the Denver Fine Art Fair is the first of its kind in the city, many other luxury regional art fairs of this sort have been hosted throughout the U.S.A. with great success.

“This is the city’s ‘coming of age’ celebration as a recognized mecca for the creation and patronage of fine art,” says Rick Friedman, executive director of events organization ShowHamptons. As an avid art collector, Friedman has established luxury regional art fairs in markets such as The Hamptons, Aspen, Palm Springs and Silicon Valley.

The great thing about the city’s cultural scene is that every art district has its own distinct personality—Kristy Bassuener

In addition to the exhibition, the fair will also host CuratorCon, artist and panel discussions, and interactive installations. With a limited run from May 28–31, tickets are set to be in high demand. “We’ll be attracting fair attendees from within the state and across the nation—an estimated 6,000 art enthusiasts over the four-day event,” Friedman says.

Visit the Denver Art Museum

“As a 125-year-old institution, the Denver Art Museum serves as a catalyst for arts in the city,” explains Bassuener. “It draws visitors to sample our thriving arts scene.”

Denver Art Museum's newly renovated Martin building
The Denver Art Museum's Martin Building has undergone extensive renovations. With its phased reopening in June 2020, visitors can enjoy the new glass-fronted building that's designed to reflect its city surroundings. Image: Alamy

While the completion of the $150-million renovation to the museum’s Martin Building is planned for 2021, a phased reopening will begin in June. Three floors will be open to the public, including renovated and reinstalled galleries that feature pieces regarding architecture and design, as well as Northwest Coast and Alaska Native artworks.

This is the city’s ‘coming of age’ celebration as a recognized mecca for the creation and patronage of fine art—Rick Friedman

“The reopening’s first phase will provide a welcoming entry point for visitors, and give them greater access to our collections and programs,” Bassuener says. “Visitors will also find new opportunities for hands-on creativity, as our teams collaborate with local artists.”

Explore the Art Districts

Denver has seven art districts spread across its different neighborhoods. Each offers a unique opportunity to experience culture through visual art, performances, music, and more. “One of the great things about the city’s cultural scene is that every art district has its own distinct personality and vibe,” Bassuener says.

Street Art in the RiNo art district
Street murals are common in the city's art districts—such as this one of five-year-old Britton Grae-Chapman painted by a local artist known as Detour. Image: Alamy

These distinctly creative areas have thrived thanks to the Denver Public Art program and privately hosted gallery walks. It’s worth exploring each district but, if you’re pressed for time, head to The Golden Triangle District in summer for its live-painting Colorcon event. Or, for unrivaled street art, visit the River North Arts District (RiNo), which hosts the Crush Walls art festival each September.

“Denver has an incredible community of creatives,” Bassuener continues. “I see its long-term investments in arts and culture as seeds that will continue to grow in the Mile High City.”

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Banner image: Alamy