It’s hard to miss the giant hammer and bright green signage seemingly sprouting out of the ground at the intersection of Washington and 50th, beckoning you towards Globeville Riverfront Arts Center. You might not expect to find this kind of place in Globeville – a neighborhood where nearly a quarter of families were living in poverty as of 2017, and the ongoing gentrification of neighboring RiNo and Five Points is starting to spill over and raise home prices – but, in spite of economic hardship, GRACe is a thriving community of resident artists dedicated to their craft.
Established in 2016, GRACe’s campus consists of two studio complexes that play host to over 80 visual artists of all kinds. Its main building is a cheery maze – plants and art line the walls and windowsills and hardware remnants from the building’s days as a meat processing plant hanging from its lofty ceilings.
Francine Campone has been creating her fiber textile and mixed media pieces at GRACe for “five or six years – I’ve kind of lost track.” Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Campone lived with her grandmother and grandfather who worked as a seamstress and a tailor, respectively.
“I say that I’ve got thread in my DNA,” she said.
Although Campone isn’t a full-time artist, the time she spends at GRACe is productive, as evidenced by the finished and in-progress works in every corner of her studio space. The community is the icing on the cake.
“Even though we work in different media, we can talk about each other’s work. We talk about color and texture and how it shows up in different ways, so I think that’s been very stimulating,” Campone said.
Down the hall, Liz Covert, who has rented at GRACe for two and a half years, creates metal pieces ranging from bowls to bracelets. Covert discovered her love of metalwork when she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in studio arts. She was working three jobs to pay her way through school. Metalworking was the only class that fit her work schedule and turned out to be “the first art class that I had ever taken where the thing that was in my head actually came out of my hands,” Covert said.
While this is the first studio space Covert has ever rented, she too feels like GRACe is fostering true connection between its artists, as evidenced by her fast friendship with fellow resident Piper Short, who just moved in this past June.
Short – along with their dog, Piglet – runs a gender neutral used and vintage clothing boutique out of their basement studio. The curated collection of clothes, shoes, and accessories is organized by colors and themes – like a Trans Pride rack and a “funny t-shirt pile” – rather than gender.
“Jumpsuits go for everybody,” Short said.
It’s no secret that Denver is an expensive place to live, and studios at GRACe can range from $175 to $1,325 per month – a fee that may be untenable for many artists still trying to recover from the pandemic. According to Eric Davidson – GRACe’s second-ever resident artist – this hardship has strengthened the feeling of camaraderie.
Davidson is renting a sunny, brick-walled studio featuring vintage furniture and the kind of model skeleton you might have had in your high school science classroom. He uses it as reference for some of his paintings – most recently a series of Renaissance-inspired, candy-filled paintings of a child’s vision of the afterlife.
“I think you have to be a little more serious about art right now to be willing to spend the money that it requires in Denver,” he said. “You have to really show up and do the work to feel that you’re not just wasting money.”
You can find more information on the many resident creatives at GRACe, by visiting their website. While GRACe isn’t open to the public most days, visitors are welcome to attend events like Autumn Artsfest, which will be held on November 5th as part of Denver Arts Week.