Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer Program Explores Art & Inquiry

The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD) has a long-standing history of artistic inquiry and expression through its multiple academic programs, partnerships with artists and creative businesses, and commitment to expanding creativity in the community and beyond. In that vein, RMCAD’s Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer Program (VASD) works to bring interesting and dynamic creators to the historic Mary Harris Auditorium (located on RMCAD campus) under the blanket of one theme per academic year. These individuals speak, dialogue, and converse about topics that they are both experts in, and passionate about. I asked VASD Program Director Gretchen Schaefer to tell us more about the program.

1. Why do you think this program is important to RMCAD, to the community?

The VASD Program fosters and celebrates passionate curiosity by bringing leading national and international artists, scholars, and designers. The Program enriches the RMCAD experience through integration into academics and by offering special, exclusive access to guests to our students. RMACD is pleased to open its doors and offer opportunities for critical dialogue and continued education to the greater community.

2. How do you think this program differs from other “talks” in the Denver-metro area?

Our space, the historic Mary Harris Auditorium on our beautiful, historic camps creates a feeling that is inmate and communal. Also, we are interested in inviting thinkers that have a diverse, critical perspective on contemporary creative life in many different forms. This broad perspective enables us to host everyone from philosophers, critics, and rappers, to cartoonists, performance artists, and graphic designers. We are always focused on art and design, but those are rich fields, and our Program reflects that depth.

3. Why a humor series? How does that tie into art and creativity?

This particular series has focused on the application of comedy, parody, irony, play, and wit as instruments of communication and experimentation in art, design, and culture. As a fundamental element of the human experience, humor crosses nations and histories. Humor exists in a boundary-blurring space where joy and anguish meet allowing creators to reveal the severity and ridiculousness of contemporary life.

4. What’s next for VASD? When can we expect to see your upcoming program and what will the topic(s) be?

More exciting programming with national and international artist, scholars, and designers that challenge and excite our students and community. We will continue to explore how thinkers and makers are developing creative solutions to today’s problems. The fall 2016/spring 2017 theme will be announced in late summer.

VASD closes out its Humor Series with internationally acclaimed artist, writer, and filmmaker Miranda July. This event occurs on Thursday, April 14. Doors open at 6:00pm, event starts at 7:00pm. Click here for more details.


The Art and Architecture of Bamboo Bikes


Container Collective Owners Brittany & Russ Hopkins

Container Collective Owners Brittany & Russ Hopkins

Container Collective is in the business of bikes, yoga, and community. Owners Brittany and Russ Hopkins each bring their personal talent to a specific corner of the business, Brittany to the yoga side and Russ to the art and architecture of bikes – bamboos bikes specifically and even more specifically, building them from scratch in his 2-day workshops.

The bamboo bikes definitely qualify as functional art. They are sleek and minimalist, but also have an industrial raw look to them, the combination of bamboo, metal gears, and the black carbon fiber thread that wraps the joints.

Bamboo Bike

Bamboo Bike

In speaking with Russ I can see his passion, not just for bikes, but even more for the process of teaching someone to build something from scratch. He tells me that he’s really in the business of helping people to realize that they have the skills, the talent, the tenacity to construct something from the ground up.

Russ learned the process while living and teaching in Beijing, but when he and Brittany realized that their hearts still lay in Colorado, he brought the concept here.

The workshops are designed with beginners in mind and Russ stresses that building a bamboo bike is simple, and requires no previous knowledge about materials or tools.

Bike Building in process.

Bike Building in process.

One of my biggest concerns about bamboo bikes is their ability to stand up to the Colorado elements. Russ assures me that with the same level of care and love that you’d commit to any bike in Colorado (bamboo or otherwise), the bikes should last for a very long time. He tells me that the workshop utilizes several different applications, including coating the bike in epoxy, to make the frame durable. Additionally Container Collective has a lifetime warranty on each bike. If something breaks they’ll fix it for free, or allow you to build a new frame at cost.

I’m all in for anything that lets you get your hands dirty and walk away with something that will make heads stop and turn, even in a city like Lakewood/Denver.

Check out for more details. Workshops generally run every other weekend and pricing depends on the type of bike.

Website: | Twitter: @cc360denver | Instagram: cc360denver | Facebook: cc360denveryoga and cc360denverbikes | Pinterest: Container Collective YOGA | YouTube: Container Collective Yoga

Interview with an Artist

Artist and graphic designer Justin Deister tells us more about his piece Mr Caribou, which is featured in our upcoming exhibit Black, White, and Metal. Learn more about his work below and head to the bottom of this post for detailed information about our upcoming show.

Our 40 West Arts tiny interview with Justin …

1. Why the name, Mr Caribou?

The name refers to the Caribou Ranch near Nederland, the barn was converted to a recording studio in the early 70’s. Many musicians made great music there including Joe Walsh, Elton John and Chicago. It lies in an absolutely peaceful valley. Not realizing what it was, my wife and I recently discovered it for ourselves when we were out hiking and took refuge there from a sudden rainstorm. I named the piece Mr Caribou in its honor.

Mr Caribou, Justin Deister


2. What was your inspiration for the piece?

My inspiration and process are intertwined so closely that there is no discernible difference. I am a graphic designer and I love the design of all things so I collect the stuff of our culture – water faucets to watches, cameras, gears and bank vault doors, springs and burned out toasters.
I have a vague inventory in my head of a lot of junk I collect and pull out hundreds of items for each piece and kind of stir them around until they arrive. Mr Caribou is a collection of music related items, all of which suggests musical arts and vaguely creates something that is more than the sum of its parts. Nothing is laid out in my head. It all takes place as I see it and a story begins to present itself. I allow myself to be open minded and go with the flow.

3. This piece has a lot of (arguably) outdated technology in it – record, old fraying AV cords – is there anything behind this or is it more about finding materials that have the look and feel that you are going for?

Sometimes materials are closely related while other pieces stretch thematic relationships. I have no problem using an exhaust fan, water sprinkler, fuel gauge and swimming goggles together. It’s more about an overall impression. A story that I present might intentionally include pieces that don’t suit the content but provide the desired form, or the reverse. Mystery is more fun, and in the ambiguous and subjective there is meaningful self-discovery – that’s what I want.

4. Finally, it seems like the glasses add a bit of humor to this piece? Is that something you try to do in your work?

A lot of my work has a humorous element, or is at least generally uplifting. However, I retain the purposefully subjective because I like to allow the viewer to decide how to interpret and create their own story. In this case, the glasses reinforce the human aspect, help describe the era and hint at the character of a musician that the viewer has a memory of, and will make it their own.

See more of Justin’s work here.

Join us December 1-31, 2015 for our Black, White & Metal exhibition, celebrating the black and white, the primal, the monochromatic palette.

OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, December 4th, 5-7PM

Paint Hay While The Sun Shines!

Sky Awe, Nan Lund

Sky Awe, Nan Lund

Spring and sunshine have been the artist’s muse for as long as art has existed. From Monet’s water lilies to Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the outdoors enlivens and inspires. At 40 West Arts District we’re making the most of this beautiful change in weather with lots to do, both artistically and otherwise. Join us for one or (fingers-crossed) all of the events below. Take advantage of spring and paint hay while the sun shines!

Saturday May 30th from 1-4PM
Mountair Park Community Farm, 13th and Depew

Bring the whole family for an afternoon of free fun at your community farm! Help paint the new mural, sample fresh foods, enjoy live music, tour the farm and more. Free kids’ activities include craft projects, seed planting, English and Spanish storytime, and face painting. The Solar Roast Coffee Truck will offer refreshments for purchase.

Wednesdays All Summer from 4-7PM
Lamar Station Plaza, West Colfax Avenue between Lamar and Pierce

Check out local vendors like Everitt Farms, Miller Farms, and Colorado Fresh at this emerging farmer’s market. Broad Street Realty LLC, the development group that owns Lamar Station Plaza (where Casa Bonita makes it’s home), will start small but has a vision that includes live music and other entertainment, and local produce, jams, baked foods, and goods that stretch throughout the complex, both indoors and out. Come support the revitalization of the West Colfax corridor by attending all summer long.

Friday June 5th from 5-7PM
Exhibition through July 11
40 West Gallery, 1560 Teller Street

Join 40 West Arts for our latest exhibit Wonders of Nature, an arts exhibition celebrating the colors and textures of the natural world – from landscapes and wildlife to galactic grandeur and microscopic mysteries.

This show is part of Lakewood’s annual INSPIRE! Arts Week, a weeklong celebration of the arts in all categories, with a number of venues around town featuring discounted and free events.

Why Placemaking?

There are a lot of definitions of placemaking floating the Internet right now, but I think this one is my favorite.

From The Art of Placemaking, “You know that line from The Field of Dreams that says, “If you build it, they will come?” It’s the same with public spaces. If you make a space for people to stop their busy life and just spend time enjoying each other and the space, they will take advantage of it.”

Placemaking is a big thing these days in design and city planning but why? Why does it matter and why spend time and money on it? Kristin Cypher from C+B Design spoke to a public crowd on March 25th about just that.

40 West Arts shines at night.

40 West Arts shines at night.

Kristin, who is working with 40 West Arts District on placemaking components, highlighted the importance of creating a place that feels tangible, that is “obvious to people coming into 40 West so they can understand that it’s a place to stop, not just a place to pass through. Currently, it’s not always apparent that the creative district is here.”

The idea of placemaking does just that, creating signs, markers, and way-finding components that promote the idea of place, and show people both where they are right now, and other physical spaces nearby that they might walk, bike, or drive to. Kristin commented that placemaking “does the important thing of actually revealing destinations and assets and allowing people to know that you’ve got them. It also encourages exploration, so that people feel reassured that they can take this path, that they will come to something that feels important to them, a park, a restroom. We want to make that exploration part of the experience of 40 West.”

“This is especially important in places like Lamar Station,” Kristin articulated. “You have a light rail stop, you have a lot of people coming off of that stop, that are maybe going directly to their home or directly to a place that they know. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they understood at that point that they were entering into an arts district, here’s a map that shows you where to go, the routes, the destinations, and it evokes a sense of place that the district has.”

Kristin spoke about signage design specifically (see attached PDF presentation for visuals), telling the crowd that the use of circles was intentional, because circles “imply movement, creativity, wholeness.” She also touched on some of the signage details including written times for both walking and biking, map kiosks where viewers will see a large version of the district map and also an area for announcements, and finally gateways, which are signs stationed over major roadways like Colfax Avenue and serve to showcase that you’re in the district, and also represent the character and style of the district itself.

Kristin summed placemaking up in just a few words. “We’re building on character and identity, finding and revealing. A lot of what we’re doing is actually just unveiling. Unveiling for people who come into the district, where it is, and how to get there.”

For more information on 40 West Arts District placemaking initiatives, the full presentation including graphics is attached here – 40W Placemaking Presentation.

Also please join us for a 40 West Placemaking Tactical Urbanism workshop, to be held on Tuesday April 14th from 3-5pm at Lamar Station Crossing, 6150 W. 13th Avenue. We’ll be brainstorming about quick-win, low-cost projects to implement in 40 West.

Sculpture Artist Highlights Health and Wellness

Installation and sculpture artist Laura Phelps Rogers recently completed a piece titled Walk to Improve Your Outlook on the stairwell at Lamar Station Crossing apartments. The interactive piece contains a motion censor component so large neon words light up as the viewer (or stairwell walker) gets close to the installation itself. We speak to Laura about this piece and her work in general.

Tell us the premise behind the piece.

I was really interested in creating an environment. I went over to the space and spent some time contemplating how I could create a dynamic backdrop for residents. A good portion of my work is installation work, small and large scale, and I always try to run from a site-specific perspective.

What does site-specific mean to you?

It means that you go to a space and consider it as a whole, how are people using it, the location of it, the background of it, the history of it. When you think about the history of the space, what was the dominant industry? How did people fashion themselves here?

Even the color scheme for the piece was site-specific. The housing department already had a color scheme and they’d put a lot of work into developing the palette. When I interviewed them, it seemed to me that it was important to them. I enjoy doing primary colors anyway but I wanted to develop a piece that coordinated with the organization itself.

The words Walk to Improve Your Outlook work together but also have a bold meaning when they stand alone. How did the specific word choice come together?

The phrase ‘walk to improve your health’ was already there, and pretty common but it felt to me like it had been drilled into people already. The word outlook is similar but also embraces the journey toward upward mobility that Lamar Station Crossing provides. This is an apartment complex that allows people to lead a life that feels free.

What other themes encapsulate this work for you? 

A Model Showing the Installation and Stairwell.

Artist Model Showing the Installation and Stairwell.

I think it’s about changing people’s lives through art. Art has the power to do that. That someone would want to hang out in a stairwell, that’s a pretty big accomplishment for me.

You can see Laura’s work Walk to Improve Your Outlook at Lamar Station Crossing apartments, located at 6150 W 13th Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80214.

See Laura’s full biography, artist statement, and work at,, or connect with her via Facebook using her full name, Laura Phelps Rogers.

40 West Artist Spotlight: Caley Bovee

Caley Bovee is a photographer in Lakewood, CO and a member of 40 West Arts District. I had an opportunity to chat with her recently about her craft.

How did you become interested in photography?

It really started in about 2001. I’d always been artistically inclined, doing different things most of my life – embroidery, just stuff like that, basket weaving, I just couldn’t help it. I was looking at the computer a lot then because it was sort of a new medium. Looking at the computer you could see all these pictures. I was always interested in photography. So for Christmas my husband cleverly got me a Kodak camera, a digital camera. And it was one of the first ones they made. And I just became completely obsessed with photography. Because you know, you could do it on the computer and you didn’t have to pay for the prints or anything like that. It was technology that helped bring me into photography, because it was free.

When did you really begin to see yourself as a ‘photographer’?

Digital Photography, Caley Bovee

Digital Photography, Caley Bovee

I had my camera with me all the time. It was obnoxious. I thank my family for their patience with me, because I was always taking pictures. Then I thought to myself, I wonder if I can enter a contest. I struggled and struggled and struggled and struggled and struggled. I entered photo contests for 7 to 9 months. I finally won a photo of the week contest. It was one of my favorite photos that I’d ever taken. It’s a picture of my friend, who was a very close friend. I worked with him in a restaurant. He was black, and he was huge, and he was the sweetest sweetest person. He lost his dog and he got a new one. It was a tiny little fuzzy white puppy. I asked him to take his shirt off and he did, he actually did. So it was this little teeny tiny dog with this big man, big hands.

What inspires you as a photographer?

I like to take pictures of flowers. I like organic life, earthy things. I like old things that are in a state of decay. My philosophy is that, no matter where you go, if you have your camera with you, you can find something to take a picture of. One of the most interesting things you can take pictures of are people. They are fascinating, different. Pictures are a form of communication.

Digital Photography, Caley Bovee

Digital Photography, Caley Bovee

How did you become involved with 40 West Arts District?

I was there for the first show, the grand opening. I was very excited; I invited my whole family to the opening of 40 West. I had pieces at the opening, and they put a red dot on pieces when they sell. One of the most exciting things for me ever, my family saw me as they put a dot next to my photo, my piece was the first piece to sell. It was the first work to sell when 40 West Arts District opened. It was just so exciting. I was so flattered.

What would you tell artists entering this field?

In many ways art is so subjective. If somebody doesn’t like your work, or your picture, then it’s okay. You don’t need to be offended or have your feelings hurt. The main thing is that you like it. Right. You need to like what you do and think that it’s good.


See more of Caley’s work at:

Save The Signs

Big Bunny Motel, Barbara Gal

Big Bunny Motel, Barbara Gal

Save the Signs is a movement founded by Corky Scholl to preserve and maintain the once-prominent neon signs that were, and still are a trademark of Colfax Avenue. In his own words, Corky beautifully describes the past, present, and future of these historic and unique works of art.

Neon lighting was invented in France in the early 1900s and the first neon sign in America appeared in California in 1923. After that, neon became a popular choice for commercial signs on well-traveled streets such as Denver’s Colfax Avenue.

Many of the neon signs that still exist on Colfax are remnants from the 1950s and 60s. They represent a time when Colfax was part of Route 40, the main route for cross-country travelers between New Jersey and San Francisco. This was a route familiar to Jack Kerouac and one he wrote about in his book On The Road. He would have seen hundreds of neon signs as he cruised through Aurora, Denver, and Lakewood on Colfax Avenue.

The large number of motels that still exist on Colfax is evidence of a time when travelers preferred this type of lodging and the amenities they offered, such as color TVs and telephones, amenities still advertised on the vintage motel signs that have survived along Colfax.

The construction of Interstate 70 rerouted traffic away from Colfax and many of the businesses along the old route suffered. The following decades saw a lack of investment along the corridor. This lead to what some refer to as “preservation by neglect.” Because development bypassed Colfax in the 70s, 80s and 90s, many examples of midcentury signage have survived to this day.

However, this trend is coming to an end. People are moving back into the urban core at a rapid rate. This surge of new residents is bringing a surge of redevelopment. This redevelopment is one of the factors threatening the neon signs along Colfax.

I started Save the Signs to build an appreciation for these signs and to create awareness that they’re valued in the community. If enough people support their preservation, the signs are more likely to survive into the future. Unlike modern signage, each of these neon signs is a one-of-a-kind work of art crafted from quality materials.

White Swan Motel, Barbara Gal

White Swan Motel, Barbara Gal

Ultimately, the fate of these signs rests with each individual property owner. They own the signs and can do with them as they please. Fortunately, signs are easier to preserve than historic buildings. Unlike buildings, signs can be purchased and moved if the need arises. Still, the preservation and restoration of these signs is not cheap. There are fewer neon craftsmen now than there were even a decade ago. Although neon isn’t currently in danger of dying out completely, it has definitely become more of a niche business.

There are many great signs on West Colfax. In Lakewood, Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner is a classic that’s known throughout the country. The Big Bunny Motel has a great story and the crazed bunny holding a can of beer has captured the imaginations of countless passersby. The Trails End Motel and the Lakewood Lodge are also classic examples of midcentury motel signage. In Denver, the Aristocrat Motel and the Eddie Bohn’s Pig’n Whistle Motel signs stand side by side on West Colfax as reminders of a prosperous past.

It’s my hope that all of these signs will survive into the future. I feel this is a realistic goal and the ever-growing support from the community is testament to that.

For more information or to join the movement, head here:

Photography: Barbara Gal
Check out Barbara’s latest exhibit at Denver International Airport, 45 Years in Colorado.

Throw Paint on Walls, Repeat.

Wandering the streets of West Colfax is hardly a colorless experience, what with all those neon signs, cruising automobiles, and oddball but interesting characters (and trust me, I’m one of them). If you’ve wandered recently though, you’ve noticed new creative endeavors on the sides of buildings, beautifying both your physical and your creative path, and setting your wandering mind to well, wandering.

We speak to Business Improvement District Executive Director Bill Marino about the medium of art titled – The Mural.

Why murals?

COLorFAX Debut Mural, Johanna Parker

COLorFAX Debut Mural, Johanna Parker

The first thing anyone needs to know when we start talking about murals is the COLorFAX program. That was a joint conversation between WCCA (West Colfax Community Association) and 40W Arts. It’s all about [bringing] color and noticeable difference to the corridor, and we can do that through art, large-scale art. The big strategy is, if we create enough murals, that it becomes an outdoor art gallery; it pulls people here to see them, just because they’re here. In a few years, we could have 15-20, even 30, 40 murals. How cool is that? You can ride your bike, take a walk, drive, and come enjoy an outdoor art gallery.

Murals are seen and shared by an entire community. How do you pick a successful design?

We wanted to speak to the community in some way, and connect with the community in some way. Our creative briefs say that, but allow for the [artist] interpretation of being bold or subtle. We are looking to inspire, uplift, and entertain. We’re not looking yet, to push up against the limits or challenge.

Tell me about the first COLorFAX project.

Hear the Train A Humming, Bobby MaGee Lopez

Hear the Train A Humming, Bobby MaGee Lopez

The first design on King’s Rest Motel was volunteer-driven, modest money. Artist Johanna Parker penciled in the design the day before, and 18 or 19 people showed up, followed her sketch, and then she and [artist] Lonnie Hanzon did the detail work. The cost was modest because it was all volunteer, we had paint donated by Kwal Paints, and some of the other cost was donated by the BID (Business Improvement District) as an investment in improving the corridor.

What about the mural ‘Hear the Train A Humming’ by Bobby MaGee Lopez?

Astro Supply Building [where the mural is located] was executed with CGBD funds; those are federal funds that are allocated to cities to accomplish certain things, grants in place for community development. This was specifically a graffiti-mitigation strategy. That wall gets tagged all the time, and we’ve had great success where we’ve put up murals, they’ve never been touched. So we got a certain allocation from the city and there was a Call for Artists. And when we do a call, [artists] come in with their concepts, they present their concepts, and the committee makes a decision.

What additional projects are currently in progress?

Action Center Mural (in progress), Martha Pinkard-Williams

We also have a mural project underway at The Action Center [a non-profit human services agency]. The Call for Artists reads ‘The Action Center is expanding its headquarters, and this mural project is designed to create an iconic ‘landmark’ mural for the community, while embodying [our] mission of providing an immediate response to human needs and promoting pathways to self-sufficiency.”





Check out additional pictures and relevant links below!


Artist Johanna Parker:

Artist Bobby MaGee Lopez:

Artist Martha Pinkard-Williams:

Photography Richard Eversley (Action Center Mural), 40W Arts District (King’s Rest and Astro Supply Building)

Food As Art

“Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.”
– Louise Fresco

My husband and I, like any healthy American couple, love to eat out together. It’s our time together (notwithstanding my occasional reminder for him to put away Clash of Clans and look up from his iPhone) and it has produced some of the loudest laughter, most dynamic storytelling, and keenest insights about our relationship and our future together.

Tonight (October 22) 40W Arts District hosts the opening reception for its current exhibition, Farm to Table. The party takes place from 5:30-7:30pm and I’m certain that great art, great conversation, and great libations will all abound.

And in that vein, of celebrating food as love, art, and communal stomping ground, my husband and I decided to hit the streets of West Colfax for one full day of eating out. I ordered the food, he took the pictures, and we both chowed down.


Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters
1619 Reed Street, Lakewood, CO



Five Star Bakery
8440 W Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, CO



Kazoku Sushi
10665 W Colfax Avenue, Lakewood, CO

Don’t forget to head to 40W Arts District from October 20 – November 22 for the Farm to Table art exhibition. Take a friend, and share a meal afterwards.

“I like to use ‘I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter’ on my toast in the morning, because sometimes when I eat breakfast, I like to be incredulous. How was breakfast? Unbelievable.
– Demetri Martin

For additional awesome food quotes, click here .

Photography: Steven Haire