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The art world can feel very highbrow and unreachable. It’s difficult to feel accepted into a climate that feeds itself on critique and subjective opinions, and it’s difficult to even get into a gallery. Art collectives offer alternatives to this by creating a space of inclusivity and support, rallying a community of artists who collaborate to promote each other’s work.

Even then, most art collectives are driven by a core group of members who almost exclusively show their own art. Joining an already existing art collective can prove challenging to new artists, and starting a new collective can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. The artists with Flourish Creative Spaces are trying to change that by starting a new, innovative place for community and creation.

Robyn Frances, Samuel Flores, and Heather Penhale met while working at a club in downtown Denver in 2018. They didn’t know they were working towards establishing Flourish, as they had been sharing their dreams and goals with one another for quite some time. Their monikers, Grow Love, Wildflower, and LuckyPen, respectively, reflect the free-spirited individuality that their new collective encourages.

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Their collaboration was effortless, all working towards a shared goal of inclusivity and giving space and value to artists who might not be given the opportunity otherwise. You don’t have to be a member, which most other art collectives require, to show in the gallery space or to teach or take a class. For these three artists, providing an inclusive environment for their fellow creatives was quite simple. “It didn’t take very much time at all to create Flourish,” Grow Love explained. “It took two months from sharing that we all wanted a space, to leasing, completely renovating, to opening.”

Their vision was clear: a space for everyone to make art, live, love, and grow with one another. “All we needed was space,” Grow Love said. The space itself is industrial, raw, and unique. It’s comprised of three areas that connect to the other collectives in the surrounding buildings, forming one extensive maze of bright colors and intriguing mediums. It moves cohesively and acts as a warm, inviting home for all those seeking to create. It will act as a gallery, classroom, event space, and more, for and by the community.

Flourish have created a space without preconceived notions or expectations, and they allow room for art and artists to grow and art appreciators to expand their analytical eye. The main gallery space is free from title cards and thematic explanations usually found on the walls of museums and galleries that guide the viewer from piece to piece through themes and concepts. Instead, the space inspires critical thought.

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Inside Flourish Art Collective on West Colfax Ave. Photo by Veronica L. Holyfield

At first, I found myself in need of structure: what is this show about? What connects the artists; tell me the context; tell me the story. Then, you realize this could be a space where art can exist on its own, for both the artists themselves and for the audience. What a challenging concept, to be put in charge of your own experience in a gallery, without the narrative being dictated by an outside force. Flourish will nurture the art community in Denver, and it will in turn yield a new wave of talented artists and art-appreciators while challenging traditional elements of art institutions.

In 2020, the founders of Flourish Creative Spaces are looking forward to settling into their new space and their community. “We want to have as many artists as possible in our space to show art, take classes, teach, and generally be inspired and feel nurtured,” they explained.

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This new collective will bring a fresh outlook to the experience of art galleries, breaking down some of the barriers that have kept them unapproachable and rigid. “All artists and creatives are connected in some way, shape, or form,” they added, “and we’re here to provide the space necessary to collaborate on big things.” And big things lie ahead for Flourish Creative spaces in 2020.

Robyn Frances is no longer affiliated with Flourish.