Meet the people shaping Denver’s fine arts scene.
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
While Denver Art Museum director Christoph Heinrich’s elevation of Denver exhibitions is undeniable, Adam Lerner’s impact on public engagement with art is equally—some might argue, more—impressive. Since the 47-year-old took the helm of the MCA Denver in 2009, the museum has flourished. The success might seem natural for a guy with a doctorate from Johns Hopkins, a master’s from Cambridge, and a bachelor’s from Cornell, but Lerner’s pedigree belies a playfulness atypical of those hallowed halls (and galleries). The man who founded the Lab at Belmar, speaks at TEDx seminars, and has been profiled in the New York Times is the kind of guy who names his dog Kristofferson (after Fantastic Mr. Fox), prefers Mexican beers to super-serious craft ales, and initiates a lecture series pairing two unrelated topics—like Andy Warhol and gin martinis—then turns it into a weekly sellout event that’s been replicated in Boston, Minneapolis, and Mexico City. “Sometimes ‘Art’ with a capital A forgets that we need to provide new meaning,” Lerner says. “Imposing some arbitrary principle forces us to think in different ways.” Not that Lerner can’t do “Art” with a capital A. He’s exposed Denver audiences to emerging stars, such as Isaac Julien and Brazilian artist Tatiana Blass, and in the past year, he has seen donations to the MCA double. Lerner’s real talent, though, remains birthing innovative programming that makes art accessible to us all.
The idea for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver was born in Mark Sink’s backyard. The small committee that would eventually found (and later, with the help of Sue Cannon, fund) the MCA Denver held some of its first meetings at Sink’s Highland home in 1995, five years after he had returned to Colorado following a decade of hanging out with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York City. Since then, the photographer—whose works hang in Denver’s Rule Gallery, the Hyatt Regency hotel downtown, and in galleries in New York City, Philly, and California—has left his mark on the Mile High City’s art scene. In 2005, he established the biennial Month of Photography Denver (MoP), a coordinated statewide effort to showcase photographic art. “There’s community and power in numbers,” Sink explains. “I’ve always worked to gather people, really talented people.” Mission accomplished: More than 180 galleries and museums throughout Colorado took part in this year’s MoP. It helps that Sink is a talent magnet, a power that has also been on display at his Denver Salon collective, a group of the city’s top photographers that has exhibited everywhere from New York to Japan. For nearly a decade, he also ran the well-received Gallery Sink, and he now curates shows for contemporary art standouts like RedLine. Says fellow art ace Adam Lerner, “Mark accomplishes so much.” We can’t wait to see what he does next.
Ginger White Brunetti
Deputy director, Denver Arts & Venues
If you’ve listened to a bass line reverberate off stone at Red Rocks or watched Swan Lake’s difficult series of fouettés at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, you’ve been touched by Ginger White Brunetti. As the deputy director of Denver Arts & Venues, a city-run agency, White Brunetti’s fingerprints are all over nearly every concert, performance, and cultural event that’s come through town over the past year and a half. But her biggest mark may still be in the works. Launched in March 2013 and headed up by White Brunetti, Imagine 2020 is a kind of artistic think tank with a mission to develop a vision for Denver’s creative future. Currently, Imagine 2020 is in the process of gathering input from Denver residents and arts leaders in order to craft a cultural plan that will go before city council for approval in February 2014. It’s been nearly 25 years since the city engaged in such a major cultural undertaking, and the results of that 1989 effort included the “one percent for art” ordinance (and, consequently, more than 100 public art pieces) and the establishment of the Denver Arts & Venues bureau itself. While White Brunetti is staying mum about specific projects, she expects the plan to integrate arts into daily life via alley murals, flash mobs, and pop-up art exhibits in parks; address arts education; and spotlight assets the city already has, like the McNichols Civic Center Building. “It’s not just our sunshine, great sports teams, and walkable downtown that draw people to the city,” says White Brunetti. “Arts and culture can be part of the story that gets told about Denver as well.”