A charming balance of urban culture and outdoor adventure, Denver is a metropolis brimming with creativity. In my time there, the locals I’ve met have some of the most unique entrepreneurial dreams that I’ve come across. Passionate about pursuing a career that seems so niche that only they could dream it up, Denverites are creative in the most charming way. I’ve met someone who’s nuts about making the best peanut butter (it really is), and have heard the most beautiful story about the transformation of a train station — and when you combine the imagination and authenticity of the people you’ll meet in Denver with the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, it’s pretty impossible not to fall head over heels.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that Denver is home to a fantastically eclectic and diverse collection of art museums and destinations. So — what are the must-see’s?
A nonprofit and contemporary art center, RedLine is both a museum and also a residency program for artists. This combination offers visitors one of the most unique experiences in a museum: the open-space set-up allows visitors the opportunity to to view thought-provoking art that is based on global social issues, and then peek into the artists’ studios. Visitors have an uncommon opportunity to see works in progress, offering an inside look at the way the artist works.
RedLine is focused on education and engagement between artists and communities in an effort to create positive social change. RedLine offers the community (both local visitors and out-of-towners) a much-needed platform to impact the world around us in a creative and collaborative format. Learn more on their website.
Street Art in RiNo
What initially feels like the “Williamsburg of Denver,” RiNo (a neighborhood nicknamed from the abbreviation of River North Arts District) is much more than just another millennial hipster neighborhood. The neighborhood was formed by a community and nonprofit, the RiNo Art District, which aims to build a stronger creative community, as well as increase accessibility for art in the community.
Home to a remarkable concentration of innovative minds, RiNo is a wonderful embodiment of creative collaboration. It’s common for street artists to collaborate with local businesses to bring building facades to life with art that showcases what’s inside, an act that makes exploring the neighborhood all that more compelling. Take, for example, Green Spaces, a coworking space for for green and socially conscious entrepreneurs, which has painted leaves wrapping around the outside of the building, decorations that offer outsiders a clue to what’s inside.
A walking tour around RiNo is an ideal way to see some of the best local art. Of course, RiNo is also home to a concentrated collection of breweries, so be sure to allocate some time to stop in for a drink. My personal favorite local brewery is Crooked Stave, which you can find at The Source. You can find more of my recommendations in my #EatPlayStay guide for Denver.
The ART Hotel
Part museum, part hotel, The ART Hotel is the perfect hybrid of travel, art and culture. The hotel offers an ideal home base for the art lover who’s traveling to Denver. From the stunning architecture of the building to the art collection showcased throughout the lobby and rooms, down to the details in the menu (they have a Jackson Pollock inspired drink made with splashes of syrup), The ART Hotel pulls out all the stops.
For the fitness-oriented visitors, I highly recommend their Art Run, a guided 5k run (or walk) led by an ART Hotel staff member. You’ll start your day off right with a run around the Golden Triangle, an area rich with cultural institutions, like some of the most well-known museums in Denver, as well as an expansive and impressive collection of outdoor installations. Waking up early to explore the city before the crowds roll in is really one of the best ways to appreciate the impressive collection of art that is housed outdoors.
For more information on the hotel, check out their feature on AllTheRooms.
Denver Art Museum (DAM)
Of course, any guide to art in Denver would be incomplete without a mention of DAM, one of the largest museums between the West coast and Chicago. Home to more than 70,000 works of art from across the world, DAM is easy to get swept away in. The museum has a comprehensive collection of everything from historical artifacts to live dance performances, so there is something for everyone. Museum-goers should plan to stay several hours and understand that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit, which means you’ll just have to accept the fact that you’ll have to plan a return trip 🙂 For more information, visit their website.
Just around the corner from DAM is the Clyfford Still museum, a single-artist museum dedicated to the work of the abstract expressionist. Considered one of the most important painters of the 20th century, Clyfford Still was a pioneer in the movement to “break free” from traditional painting methods (like keeping the canvas on an easel, or painting with traditional tools like brushes). After his death in 1980, the Clyfford Still Estate was sealed off from public view, as stipulated by his will that his estate be given in entirety to an American city willing to create a museum dedicated solely to his work. It wasn’t until 2011 that the Clyfford Still museum opened in Denver, and as a result, the museum offers visitors a look at work that was inaccessible for 30 years, as well as a rare chance to glimpse into an artist’s collection in its entirety.
Whether or not you’re a fan of his work, the museum, which seems to live and breathe immortality into the artists’ work, is a truly quintessential example of how every artist dreams their legacy can exist. You can find more information on the museum’s website.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
An art guide focused only on visual art is incomplete, and so with that in mind, visitors should consider visiting the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, an outdoor venue and open-air amphitheater that offers some of the city’s best live performances. About 10 miles west of Denver, the space is home to a stage and seating for nearly ten thousand people, both of which are perfectly nestled into a gorgeous rock formation. A wonderful example of Denver’s ability to combine art and the great outdoors, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the perfect location for a summer concert, movie or performance. For more information on upcoming shows, you can check out their website.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver was founded in 1996, and at that point, became the first dedicated home for contemporary art in the city of Denver. Originally housed in a renovated fish market, the MCA Denver now holds a space in downtown Denver in a 27,000-square foot environmentally sustainable facility.
Visitors can walk through the space in an hour or two, and because MCA focuses on curating one artist’s work at a time, the rotating list of exhibitions offers a unique experience each time you visit the space. Find more information on their current exhibition on their website.
And in case you’re looking for more inspiration on your next trip to Denver, be sure to check out my #EatPlayStay guide for the city.
I attended a press trip to Denver for portions of the research of this post,
as sponsored by the tourism board.
All opinions are my own.