There’s no set career path for creatives. It’s not like becoming a doctor, where you know you have to go from college to medical school to a residency and so on. When Kristopher Wright and Corianne Wells moved to Denver (or back to Denver, in Wright’s case) after graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, that path seemed even less clear. They wanted to connect with fellow artists—Wells is a painter with a background in animation and illustration; Wright is a screen printer and oil painter—but they didn’t know many people. So they launched Odessa in June 2016, a website where they could track all the exhibitions and other events happening around the city; they also began writing about artwork they loved. “It emerged as an online resource for artists,” Wright says.
Last summer, their efforts expanded beyond the cloud when they curated Crooked Timber, a sculptural exhibition of Brian Napier’s works at RedLine. “That pushed us into a headspace of wanting to work more closely with artists on an individual level,” Wright says, “Helping to tell their stories [and] having opportunities to…work with them on specific projects.”
And thus, the couple’s path became (more) clear.
This year, Odessa has a curatorial residency at Collective SML K (pronounced Collective “Small K”), a studio/gallery run by artist Sammy Lee in the Art District on Santa Fe. The first show, Sad Magic, opens February 16, featuring around 10 works by painter and Colorado native Daniel Granitto.
Wright and Wells are focused on early-career and emerging artists and hope to use this yearlong endeavor to rethink the role of an art venue. “How can something that functions as a gallery better serve artists that really need it, and really want to learn, and grow underneath that format?” asks Wright. “We want to make the process more transparent, more creative, more experimental.”
Odessa will host six exhibitions with six different artists at Collective SML K. The pair will also continue to help run Creatives at Roundish Tables (CART); the monthly roundtable discussion series, now in its second season, is for artists to learn more about the industry and living a professional creative lifestyle.
Wright and Wells’ next step after this residency has yet to be determined. “Odessa is always nomadic; we’re willing to work in any space we find,” Wells says. “It’s going to look different with every artist and every project.”
Nomadic curators running an arts incubator may sound like a job description dreamed up by millennials (as defined by non-millennials), but Odessa actually fits right in with the 21st century, evolving definition of what art is—and where art can happen. (See, for example, the rise of immersive theater in Denver and around the country.) While the route may meander, the duo has a clear mission for their future: “Our biggest goal is to help artists communicate their value to new audience members, to the community at large, and to better tell the artists’ stories,” Wright says. “We’re not here to just show work. We’re here to support artists like us.”
If you go: Sad Magic will be on display at Collective SML K, 430 Santa Fe Dr., from February 16 through March 30. The opening reception will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on February 16.