Exploring the RiNo Art District

By Monica Parpal Stockbridge

You’ve heard of the RiNo Art District, but … what is it, exactly? Not quite a neighborhood and more than simply a city sector, the River North (RiNo) community is breaking boundaries when it comes to the meaning of art, how people experience it and how artists thrive in the process.

What is the RiNo Art District?

“We always say that we are where art is made,” says Tracy Weil, RiNo Art District president and co-founder. In RiNo, art is the common thread that connects makers, artists, restaurateurs, musicians and more. It’s a place to foster, support and grow all things creative.

The district began taking shape in 2005 as a grassroots movement aimed at creating a supportive network of area artists. At that time, there were only a handful of creative makers and art galleries in this part of Denver. Today, the RiNo Art District comprises more than 22 galleries, 190 art studios and 200,000 square feet of murals, as well as more than 30 stakeholders investing in programs to activate the district in a way that honors its history while blazing a trail for the future.

Where is the RiNo Art District located?

RiNo Art District straddles multiple neighborhoods north of downtown, woven between railroads and the South Platte River. Weil points out that RiNo is not really a neighborhood, although a lot of people call it that. “We always want to be respectful of the neighborhoods that we are actually a part of,” he says. These historic neighborhoods include Five Points, Cole, Elyria Swansea, and Globeville. “These are existing historic neighborhoods that are super vibrant. And, the art district is more or less just a piece of those neighborhoods.”

How does RiNo support artists?

The RiNo Art District offers a RiNo Made artist’s membership program open to creative makers who are working, living or exhibiting in the RiNo district. Fees are based on a pay-what-you-can system. Over the years, membership has grown to include more than 350 galleries, artists, small businesses, dining and drinking destinations, and more. Members get access to supportive programming on topics such as how to price artwork, how to use online marketing tools, and the ins and outs of copyright law. “It’s a program for artists to help uplift their business and creativity,” Weil says.

Additionally, a RiNo Made retail store promotes all things made by RiNo Made members, from artwork to clothing to beer. This fall, much of the RiNo Made retail and programming will transition to a new space in the alley behind Denver Central Market, operated by Dread, a.k.a. Robin Munro — founder and curator of Denver’s annual art festival, CRUSH WALLS.

How can visitors experience RiNo Art District?

In case you missed CRUSH WALLS 2019, visiting the website (rinoartdistrict.org) is always a good place to start. If you’re in the area, visit the RiNo Art District office at Walnut Workshop (3525 Walnut Street) for a guide, a mural map and more insight to the area.

“First Fridays are a great way to see the district,” Weil adds. One evening a month, many artists and gallery owners open their doors and invite people in to have a drink and learn more about the art and the district. During the holidays, pop-up markets and rotating events offer multiple ways to view and purchase local art.

For interested art buyers, Weil suggests reaching out to artists using their contact information on the RiNo Art District website. Many artists would be happy to schedule an appointment in their studio to show off and talk about their work, he says.

For Weil, RiNo is a welcoming space for creatives and visitors alike because it’s so approachable. “We get a lot of visitors to the district because people feel welcome and it’s easy to navigate,” he says.

Indeed, there’s a pioneering spirit here. “Young and emerging artists who are passionate about what they do are finding their place here,” Weil says. Most importantly, “they are able to sustain themselves making art.”

To learn more about the RiNo Art District, visit rinoartdistrict.org

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