Fueled by the pioneering inspiration of North Denver’s original co-op galleries that once lined Navajo Street off 38th Avenue, Brett Matarazzo and fellow artists and BRDG Project co-founders Michael Dowling and Michael Vacchiano seek to fuse art and community at their new location at 3300 Tejon St.
The Aug. 11 grand opening was well-attended and brought nearby neighbors together with local artists Penny Bidwell, Jen Starling and Megan Morgan, to name a few. Artwork reflected a wide variety of mediums. Many artists in the inaugural exhibit, Preface, have been crucial in opening the space by donating time, labor, artwork and creative energy.
“Before the gentrification of North Denver, we had an amazing hub of art and diverse culture,” said Matarazzo, a longtime North Denver resident who has witnessed many changes.
“We want to bring as much of that back to the neighborhood as possible through the use of this space,” Matarazzo said, “honoring, especially, the Latinx communities who were established here long before it became a popular area.”
The space is open and lofty, and just oozing with possibilities. The main gallery, while welcoming, evokes the feel of a highend gallery. Large garage doors on two sides let in sunshine and beckon passers-by to stop in, as Matarazzo hoped.
“We want the local residents to feel a sense of ownership of this space as part of their community,” he said. A goal for programming is that local creatives will pitch ideas, events and workshops that can be facilitated in one of BRDG Project’s available spaces.
In addition to the front gallery, there is a smaller exhibit area that leads to a performance space with a stage where live music and other events can be held. Offices that once surrounded those spaces are now available to rent as artist studios.
BRDG obtained its 501(c)(3) designation in September 2021. The Artist Proof Collective, a full-service print shop and Denver’s only unionized shop, which is run by Evan Akerfeld, is the gallery sponsor this year.
BRDG Project originally began as a pop-up arts organization in a vacant office building off of Platte Street offering art events during COVID-19. Their current 8,000-square-foot space provides myriad opportunities for art-related endeavors that are aimed at inclusiveness on many levels.
Matarazzo, Dowling and Vacchiano have been partnering with nearby businesses and organizations to collaborate on events and an ambitious list of things they want to do. They inaugurated a Third Saturday Art Market, in which a revolving collection of artisans provide accessible works such as smaller prints, fashion and unique objects in a relaxed setting.
Creative workshops, youth programming, creating volunteer teams and even a recording sound room are among the plans. The BRDG Project mission, according to its website, is to “bridge artist, gallery, youth and underserved communities together in an accessible and engaging space for contemporary expression and learning.”
Its galleries will be full this month with shows that opened Sept. 8 and run through mid to late October. The first of those shows, Impart, which is located in the Main West Gallery, will honor a group of university and college art educators who helped inspire and shape the Colorado arts community. Julie Havel’s mixed media pieces will be on exhibit in a solo show in the Central Gallery, and John Henley’s and Peggy Feliot’s sculptures will be on display in the East Stage Gallery until Oct. 28.
Learn more at www.brdgproject.com. To inquire about renting artist studio space or space for workshops or events contact Matarazzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.