Facing an uncertain future, Lower Downtown’s K Contemporary has gotten creative in its drive to keep visual art at the front of metro-area residents’ minds.
Starting April 27 and continuing through Friday, May 1, the gallery’s #ArtFindsUs project has been touring a rented billboard truck along predetermined routes with reproduction works by artists Shawn Huckins and Daisy Patton on each side.
The eye-popping murals, measuring 9 feet by 18 feet, will allow for full visibility “from the comfort of one’s home or apartment,” said owner and project curator Doug Kacena, who considers this project the drive-by art equivalent of a Thunderbirds flyover or nightly howl.
“Honestly, the main reason we’re doing it is to help inspire our artists, and to give them some hope that we can move forward in this,” he said. “Everybody’s losing shows, and we’ve had to cancel our own, so how do we address this really large obstacle in front of us and move forward?”
By driving around it, obviously.
K Contemporary’s new, mobile gallery space — typically reserved for larger-than-life advertisements for sports bars and apartment complexes — will visit Montbello, LoDo, RiN
While inspiring artists, another goal of #ArtFindsUs is to bring art to places where it’s absent and allow for unusual and memorable encounters with mobile, temporary murals.
“#ArtFindsUs provides an interesting opportunity to see where we want our culture to go and to spark the kind of conversations about how we want to show up as a society,” Kacena said. “We find ourselves at a unique crossroad where the way we experience, resonate and engage with art has changed. I think we are on the precipice of a new cultural Renaissance globally.”
The #ArtFindsUs project is only the beginning in a series of pop-up, offsite and public installations Kacena has planned as part of K’s upcoming exhibition schedule.
The truck will visit various locations in Denver and Boulder from 5-9 p.m. every night. Specific routes can be viewed at K Contemporary’s website. On Thursday, April 30, the truck will circle Auraria before making a loop around Boulder.
“Even when the stay-at-home orders eventually lift, galleries and museums will have to adapt to a new normal,” Kacena said. “Although many of these cultural institutions are offering virtual or digital content for their fans and followers, the constant online stream of white cube-style gallery shows lacks the authenticity of experiencing art in person.”
To abide by the stay-at-home orders for Colorado, viewers are asked to watch the truck while adhering to social distancing guidelines and not congregate around it when it stops for photographs, Kacena said.
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K is not facing immediate closure, having seen a strong first quarter. But the act of working on new projects keeps Kacena and the artists, dealers and collectors he works with in good spirits, he said.
“We got the PPP loan,” Kacena said. “And (patrons with) commissions have decided to pay some artists in full at the start of the commissions. Some major collections that were making payments on (loaned) pieces even went ahead and made all of those at once. So people are still supporting the arts.”
But imagining a world without public, indoor galleries for the foreseeable future is daunting, even for art nonprofits that are used to doing pop-ups, street-art and guerrilla projects.
“Plus, the pieces are just beautiful,” Kacena said. “The Siri messaging in Shawn Huckins’ piece looks pretty haunting going down abandoned streets. And Daisy Patton’s has this radiating floral image coming from the figure’s heart area that engulfs the surrounding imagery. One is a little edgy and conversation-starting, and one is a little embracing of putting love and beauty out there.”
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