We were honored to have our organziation featured in Boulder and Cherry Creek Lifestyle magazine this month. The print issues are out on stands now and feature interviews with artists we've commissioned for projects including, Sam Parker, Anna Charney, Mando Marie, Jaime Molina, Pedro Barrios & Rather Severe. The features are posted below and can be found on Boulder Lifestyle Magazine and Cherry Creek Lifestyle Magazine online. Read Curator/Founder, Leah Brenner Clack's full interview with Boulder Lifestyle after the photos.
Interview with And Art Space Founder/Curator, Leah Brenner Clack
Boulder Lifestyle: What is And Art Space’s goal?
The goal of And Art Space is to make more murals happen. I decided to stop feeling frustrated about the lack of street art and murals around me and do something about it. I started by just trying to find walls for artists to paint and it’s grown from there. I want to help people find artists that are inspiring to them and to live with art that they love in their environments.
As the founder of this organization, what is your personal background with art, or specifically street art?
I was drawn to underground culture as a teenager in the 90s. Art was always a part of the culture I was in- from concert posters, skateboard graphics and late night street “tagging” walls and getting into trouble. The element of danger and risk associated with graffiti was really exciting to me. A lot of the kids I hung out with were artists in different mediums- photographers, musicians, tattoo and graffiti artists. I did some creating back then but I kept it pretty private. It was a way for me to process my emotions and experiences. We were all just trying to figure out how to express ourselves and feel connected. For me, it wasn’t something I was wanting to share with the world at that time. As an adult, I’m still drawn to that raw expression, and the people who are able to effectively share their vision with the world in such a public way. It’s really inspiring to me.
I started really getting into physically collecting, and curating a tumblr art blog around 2007. It felt really exciting to discover new artists and share them with people. In 2010 I was presented with an opportunity to curate and run a gallery for an artist friend in Denver. I jumped in with both feet and felt like I was finally doing what I was meant to do. A couple years later I got another opportunity in Boulder to curate a gallery and retail store for madelife. This was right around the time that I started getting super inspired by murals and street art even more. Pow Wow Hawaii was really the first mural festival I discovered and I was blown away by the concept. The movement was starting to evolve into something bigger and I wanted to be a part of it. madelife in Boulder happened to have a really amazing wall on Pearl street, perfect for murals. Suddenly I had access to a wall to share art in a very public way with Boulder, outside of the gallery setting. I curated and produced five murals on that wall for madelife in 3 years. It became the first professional rotating mural wall in Boulder. I was surprised at how it felt to watch people interact with the murals and express themselves with it. The murals became this catalyst for other people to be creative too. Videos, photo shoots, spontaneous dance and more art started happening regularly in front of the murals. That’s when I realized that this was something that needed a much bigger platform than just one wall in Boulder. That’s why And Art Space was born.
From what I understand, And Art seems to organize a coalition of mural artists, do you yourself help in the creation of this art as well?
I’ve had the gift of meeting so many amazing artists over the years that are masters of their craft. While I don’t create the art on the walls, my craft is to be a catalyst, connector and instigator for the murals. I’ve compiled an amazing network of contemporary mural artists in Colorado and beyond and I am constantly researching new and inspiring artists to work with.
Are you a staff of one? What is the business structure of And Art?
I am a staff of one! This is my passion project, it’s what I want to do. While it’s hard to juggle all the moving parts, it’s also rewarding to know that if I work hard at it, I can accomplish my goals. I also really enjoy variety, so it suits me to be working on different aspects of multiple projects.
I also collaborate with amazing photographers and videographers to document all of the projects. I am so grateful for my photographer Ladd Forde who has shot most of the photos of the mural projects and artists. He’s an amazing photographer and generally awesome human. Documenting the mural projects is something I think is really important. It allows the physical experience to be translated to the internet and shared globally, which is huge.
Can any artist get involved with And Art Space?
Yes! I am always accepting artist submissions. I keep a database of artists and when projects come up, I curate a selection that fit the client goals and the art direction of the project.
If a company or storefront would like to have a mural placed on it, is there a legal or permit process they need to go through?
In 2016 Boulder implemented it’s first ever Public Art policy. This follows the new city-wide Arts and Cultural plan. The City has been very supportive of the mural projects I’ve done with And Art Space. I’ve been able to navigate the process in the past and have built strong relationships with the City. As of now there is not a special mural permit process, in Boulder murals are regulated through sign permitting- (meaning murals just need to be reviewed and approved as non-advertising/signs) but I anticipate that changing in 2017. Denver does not have a mural permit requirement either, which actually makes it super easy to incorporate art on building walls. Part of what I offer clients is to navigate the entire mural process including permitting (if needed), artist curation, art direction, project management and documentation.
Why is street art important to a community?
Encountering street art often gives to moments of “pause” and reflection. Experiencing art in this way removes a lot of the boundaries or expectations you find in a gallery setting. It makes art accessible to everyone in the community and allows a very personal interaction with art. Street art and murals are the visual voice of community. Street art can also be a tool to bring awareness to issues like social justice, environment, corruption or the human experience. At the most basic level it’s a reflection of culture and community and therefore incredibly important that it’s supported.
The And Art website states that “And” focusses on inclusion. Can you elaborate on this concept?
I believe that including art in diverse environments creates a point of connection for people. When you experience art in unexpected places, it has a way of connecting you to that place, that community that culture- you’re part of something. Art is powerful especially when it’s outside of the walls of a gallery, it comes with so much more freedom to be inclusive. Including art in public spaces, schools, businesses, alleys, streets- allows for art to be experienced by all people regardless of status, ethnicity, age, disability or gender and there are no rules of how it should be experienced or understood. Public art is a way for us to connect with each other as human beings.
Is mural art synonymous with graffiti? How are they different? How are they similar?
Graffiti was the earliest expression of street art and done mostly illegally, really developing in the 70s and 80s- Graffiti is usually lettering and words spray painted in a highly stylized way. It was a form of rebellion and very ego driven, artists writing their name over and over on buildings, trains, objects. “Street art” encompasses many more artistic techniques and subject matter. Street art can be anything including wheat paste, stencils, found objects and murals. I think we are in a third stage of evolution now with mural arts, and it’s taking on it’s own identity separate from graffiti or street art. A lot of traditional painters and studio artists, not having prior experience in street art or graffiti, are wanting to do mural work to explore a larger formats and mediums and reach different audiences. It poses new challenges and techniques that I think are really exciting to the contemporary artists right now. It’s also an incredible way to gain exposure.
What would you say to people who see mural art on the streets as vandalism or no real art? How has culture shifted to be more welcoming of this form of art?
The sentiment that murals are vandalism or not real art is becoming all but non-existent. I’ve actually experienced more people expressing their appreciation for the art form and for the contribution in creating a sense of place and inspiration than anything else. I’m sure there are people out there who feel it’s not real art or it’s vandalism, but overall the culture has definitely shifted -which is really exciting. The art world’s acceptance of street art culture as a legitimate art form has definitely contributed to the shift. When street artists are being shown in museums and galleries around the world, and major cities are bringing in artists from all over the world to paint at large scale mural festivals- the legitimacy of the work speaks for itself. With this growing acceptance of street art and murals, what I hope will be maintained is the authentic voice of the artist.
Do you personally have a favorite mural or street piece in the Denver/Boulder area? What about in another city or location?
That’s a really hard question to answer because i’m inspired by all of them! One of my favorite murals in Denver is by Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios on Rebel Restaurant on Wynkoop. In Boulder, I think the newest mural project I did with Anna Charney is my current favorite. (Boulder bike path 6th street underpass) Globally, I really enjoy the artwork of Hownosm, the Never Crew and Roa. I am constantly discovering new artists and that’s my favorite part of doing this!
Is there anything else you’d like to add about And Art Space and the work you do?
Anyone who has a desire to integrate art into their spaces and isn’t sure where to start, please reach out! I provide creative options for all kinds of mural projects, regardless of the wall size, location or budget. If you have a wall and an idea, let’s make it happen! The mural project is constantly evolving and in 2017 I hope to expand and collaborate with more people to bring awareness to important issues through art. Art has a way of crossing boundaries and speaking truths in a nonverbal way. Public art will continue to be an incredibly important avenues of self expression, free speech and activism -to be protected and valued. If you have a project you would like to collaborate on, please get in touch! Thank you so much for interviewing me. :)