Posted: Wednesday February 7, 2018
The History of Artopia
For more than two decades, Westword has gathered local painters, sculptors, performers, musicians, fashion designers and more for Artopia, the newspaper’s annual celebration of arts culture and fashion.
SoCo venues like Club Vinyl and City Hall have been homes for Artopia since 2004, when Artopia moved from Temple Events Center at 1595 Pearl Street to Serengeti Nightclub, which is now Bar Standard. This year’s event on Friday, February 23 is touted to be livelier than ever with a new location (SoCo’s venue The Church) and a new emphasis on art created before your eyes. Some of the city’s best DJs and musicians provide tunes while guests can get immersed in the artistic process, whether it’s painting, sculpting, modeling or performing.
Since 2005, Westword has also championed artists during Artopia with its MasterMind Awards, a grant program that gives no-strings-attached awards to groundbreaking and often underappreciated artists. Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and Brandi Shigley were part of the first class of winners while organizations like Creative Music Works, Slam Nuba, Rhinoceropolis and Glob have been awarded over the last decade.
With so much to see and hear at each Artopia, sometimes it’s hard to even figure out where to start. Former Westword writer Patrick Rodgers noted about 2012’s Artopia that when looking over the schedule for the event it quickly became clear that it was impossible to see everything.
“Choices must be made and none of them are easy,” Rodgers wrote. “To wait until the end of the set; or make sure that you catch the beginning of the next act down the street…these are the dilemmas. Along the way, if you procrastinated on sampling the chili, ice cream, Indian food and other tasty treats scattered throughout the premises, and missed out, that’s no one’s fault but your own. The evening was a choose your own adventure book with a storyline winding through the depth’s of Denver’s local culture: A cornucopia of music, food, art, fashion and drinking…”
The inaugural Artopia was held in 1997 at Eulipions Cultural Center, which is now named Sherman Street Event Center, and billed as a “one-night celebration of sensual stimulation.”
“Imagine a better world,” Westword writer wrote in a preview of Artopia 1997. “But first, consider the building in which it resides – in this one, you step through a door into a splendidly detailed Moorish fantasy. Inside, there’s music. Art. Magic. Wine. Hearty brews. Food. Dancing. As you ascend into this heavenly place, the mood changes on each level. There’s jazz on one floor, the Ragin’ Zukes of Zydeco on another, and strong coffee and artsy conversation when you get to the top…”
In 1998, Artopia relocated to the Temple Events Center, where it stayed until 2003, when the event’s them was inspired by the film Chicago, which swept the Academy Award nominations that year. In 2004, Artopia moved a block north from Westword’s office to the Serengeti Nightclub, the SoCo venue that would later be dubbed Shelter and more recently Bar Standard.
Over the next few years, Artopia was held at Club Vinyl, where there was art, music and happenings on four floors, including the basement, main and second floors as well as the rooftop patio. As the next decade approached, Artopia expanded to Vinyl and City Hall before taking over five SoCo in 2010 by adding Bar Standard, Living Room and Mo’s (later named Salty Dog) to the mix as well.
This year’s Artopia runs from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Church (1160 Lincoln Street). A VIP ticket includes early entry with open bar and food from 5:30 to 7 p.m. A Late Night ticket is also available to enter the Church after 10 p.m. and hear music from top local musicians and DJs until 10:30 a.m. See Artopia’s website for more information.