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Westword’s 23rd Artopia dazzles

Celebration of Colorado culture

Photo courtesy of Bobby Jones

Artopia isn’t just an art show: it’s an art immersion experience. The event was appropriately held on Feb. 23, as it was the event’s  23rd anniversary. It’s Westword’s biggest event of the year and took place at the Church Nightclub on Lincoln street.

The Church Nightclub is an  1865 gothic church, that was renovated into a nightclub in 1996, and is now used for a variety of events.

Artopia was sponsored by  Good Chemistry and Modelo Beer to help make the celebration of Colorado’s artists and its unique culture possible. Staff in bright red Westword T-shirts were available to answer any questions.

“I just moved here two months ago and started working for Westword’s festival team,” Julia Risher, who was working the event for the first time said. “Artopia is my first big event. I’ve seen what it takes to work behind the scenes to get this event together. I’m blown away with how it’s all come together and how many artists are participating in this event. I’ve never been a part of something like this before, and it’s pretty cool.”

DJs bumped techno music with posh blue lights bouncing off a giant disco ball that hung above the heads of artists, musicians, and attendees  alike. Booths and easels were sprawled in every nook and cranny of the nightclub for artists to share their process of creating their work right before attendees’ eyes.

Rashelle Stetman is an illustrative artist who grew up in Steamboat. “The curator told me all I would have to do to participate in [Artopia] is to act like I was working on a piece in my studio—only with hundreds of people watching,” Steman said. “It was pretty relaxed since it’s the same kind of thing I would be working on in my studio.”

Artists worked throughout the night on their pieces, with people more than welcome to watch the process and even put in bids if they so pleased. 

Attendees were welcomed with comfy sofas throughout the venue to watch  artists like Stetman make their work come to life. Artists were just as happy to be there as the spectators. Stetman expressed that excitement. “It’s pretty cool to be apart of something I’ve heard so much about,” he said.

Caterers lined the main floor opposite the bar top, serving dainty hors d’oeuvres for anyone who wanted a nibble. Aside from  painters and sculptors, there were vendors selling handmade jewelry and crafts in addition to printed art. 

A silent disco on the second floor invited attendees  to experience music in a way other than listening to the DJ on the first floor. The basement held more painters that used mediums from acrylic paint to spray paint or watercolor. The rooftop featured the glass blower Dale Karry, who has been a Coloradan since 1985 and has made everything from pendants to vortexes to ribbon twists. “For not having a kiln, I had to make smaller projects,” Karry said. “I also wanted people to be able to see a piece be made completely, so I made smaller things, so it would keep people’s attention. I had a lot of fun; it would be nice to do it again.”

Around 8 p.m., the main floor held a fashion show that was filled with a variety of outfits that celebrated beauty, art, and culture.

Guests were dressed to the nines, while an entire array of Coloradan musicians and artists came together in the ancient church club. It was like the chaos of the Mad Hatters tea party meets the Magical Mystery Tour entangling with what it might feel like to be in Andy Warhol’s mind.

Westword’s Artopia celebrates  creators from all over Colorado highlighting their  art, culture, and fashion in a way that is wonderfully and uniquely Denver.

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