The exterior of Helikon Gallery and Studios stands as a modern building surrounded by the construction ravaging RiNo. Its turquoise-painted exterior invites guests into this unique—and quite queer—art space.
Helikon Gallery & Studios is one of Denver’s best hidden gems, consistently delivering beautiful, eccentric art.
The construction surrounding Helikon is nothing new to it’s curator, Cayce Goldberg. Goldberg’s family left their mark on the city of Denver for years, as they ran a lumber yard and worked on many of Denver’s earliest construction sites. And the turquoise building was originally built in 1920, on 17th and California, but with the background knowledge of demolition and preservation by Cayce’s grandfather, the warehouse remained in tact as it moved to 35th and Wynkoop.
“When we designed it we tried to preserve as much of the original building as possible,” Goldberg emphasized.
Once moved and renovated, Helikon Gallery opened in 2013, holding pieces of Denver history within its art-filled walls.
“I’m in a unique position as an art gallery,” Goldberg said. “Art galleries are easily the number-one contributor to gentrification. Having come from a family that has been here for many years, it’s a weird conundrum. I’m always thinking about how are we affecting that issue and what can we do differently. Part of that is affordability; part of it is showing a style of art that feels more accessible.”
Helikon drives their work to be both gratifying for common gallery go-ers or first timers.
The building appears to mimic the color of the blue sky, but through the doors different stories are spoken, or rather blended together. The gallery’s snow-white walls are continuously changing as shows come and go.
Helikon Gallery and Studios has two galleries for shows, a coffee shop, gift shop, and 14 studios upstairs with 18 artists working.
Brigitte Thompson, an artist at the gallery, describes creating in a studio as quite reflective.
“We all vibe off each other. We give each other critiques; we give ideas to each other. You’ll actually see that a lot, especially when a new artist comes in; you’ll see them basically change in accordance to who they work with and who they talk to the most.”
Like many workplaces, the different views can sometime cause friction. The varying ideas on the commonly shared creation of art can create some heated debates. Regardless, these discussions are only a small fraction of the environment at Helikon.
“I’ll get into situations sometimes where we’ll just butt heads about how we think things should work. It’s good, but it can be combative in some ways because not everybody has the same view, obviously. It’s still challenging and I think that actually helps people. It helps me better understand what I’m doing and how that fits.”
Thompson is an artist at the Helikon Gallery. In the year 2019, she’ll be showing both her personal work and a collaboration.
“Be creative, even if somebody tells you that being creative is stupid and it’s not worth it. Express yourself. Not only is that important to other people, it’s important to you. Just do it, because it’s easy to lose your spirit. I think a lot of people end up losing their vitality; they end up losing that creativity because they don’t think it’s worth it to express.”
Thompson got involved with the gallery by lucky chance. A friend of hers had empty space in his studio and needed a someone to fill in the place. She is a fine artist who does portraiture and figurative art.
“The way I describe my art to myself is I try to visually manifest the bonds people have with each other and what that would look [like] to me in a physical form. I draw a lot of pink or blue people. I feel like those colors manifest those feelings or that realm of what that person is.”
She selects her color scheme based on what feelings she wishes to embody in her work. Thompson also incorporates poetry into her pieces as an echo to her visual representations. She mentioned how she’ll take ideas and inspiration from her everyday life, thoughts, and her poetry as well.
When OUT FRONT asked Thompson about what Helikon brings to Denver, she stated: “The way I look at galleries is that they’re a show to display artwork. I think having a show space helps artists understand that there is a show space. Which helps the art community, but I’m not really sure if galleries are really strong enough to infiltrate the culture of Denver. I want to get to a point where I can bring more people in and make it more enriching.”
Thompson expressed she believes Denver is still a growing city, and the art community will soon have a commercialized aspect to it.
“[Denver is] young in the way where some parts are established, but there’s a lot of new blood in the art scene. I think Denver is still young in the way where art really isn’t in the culture yet. I think it’s because we’re still a growing city. I feel like we’re headed towards more of a commercial art aspect.”
Helikon Gallery has become a contributor to the art community. The way it is run differentiates them from traditional art galleries.
“We like to call it a multifaceted art community,” Goldberg said. “What we are is an illustrative art gallery. We feature the intersection of fine art and illustration.”
The curators at Helikon Gallery carefully select their pallet of art to fit their upcoming shows.
“In some cases artists will walk in the door with their portfolio and ask if we have time to look at their work. I often don’t because I’m so busy. I’ll give them my email and check out their stuff. Sometimes I’ll find an artist I really like, but I won’t have shows for their work to fit in. We have a list of artist who have contacted us and when we’re doing a show we’ll go through the list and see if we have anything upcoming for them to be placed into.”
The gallery treats the artists with many benefits and options for displaying their work. The shop within the studios holds stickers and pins from the work of the artists.
“We provide all sorts of services to artists that many other art galleries don’t do. We provide free exhibit photos, we do blog interviews, books, enamel pins, stickers. We do as much as we can to offer this full package thing to artists. I think that is what makes us different.”
In addition to these services, they welcome interns to come learn at their gallery, even those in high school.
“The ability to get such an opportunity at my age is something I’m eternally grateful for,” explained Leo Dominguez, high school intern from Big Picture College and Career Academy. “I remember first walking into the gallery and not being able to control my excitement. Inspiration is the driving force in my experience at Helikon. Having my internship allows me to develop a more intimate relationship between art and myself.”
The Helikon Gallery and Studios has proven to provide care and opportunities for artists locally and internationally. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.
“Go forth and be weird,” instructed Thompson.