BY JC FUTRELL

The Reach Studio at the RedLine Contemporary Art Center is an opportunity for socially engaged artists to collaborate, create, and share ideas in an inclusive community. The program centers around a free, open, and supportive arts studio space where community members experiencing homelessness, dealing with unemployment and financial hardship, or facing emotional challenges can create, collaborate and share ideas in an inclusive community. Viewing art and arts education through a lens of social issues, the organization ensures equitable access to the arts for under-resourced populations by working to fulfill a vision of empowering everyone to create social change through art. Over the past year, Reach Studio grew from once-a-week open studio, to every Tuesday and Saturday, in an effort to accommodate the growing popularity of new and drop-in participants. Attendance over the year reached 521 individuals, of that 22 participants were regular attendees.

It began in 2010, when RedLine’s Reach Studio partnered with the St. Francis Center and Cornerstone Transitional Housing Facility to hold intensive art workshops and in-depth studio classes for homeless clients. Workshops include photography, ceramics, painting, drawing, and mixed-media. These classes hone the skills of art-making and give basic instruction in art administration, while developing the use of art skills as a guide for social and work-readiness skills. These summer sessions culminate in three exhibitions of Reach Studio participants’ artwork at the Center for Visual Arts in Denver’s Santa Fe Art District and at RedLine in the RiNo Art District. Reach Studio makes art a tool to assist staff of managed cases with moving clients on the pathway to self-sufficiency by creating a nonthreatening pathway for homeless residents to begin their re-entry into mainstream society. Their completed projects receive affirmation from peers. Their art is presented in the public forum building concrete professional skills in the following areas: meeting deadlines, creativity, proposal making, idea generation, accepting criticism, problem solving, public presentation, project completion, and time-management. This pilot period of Reach Studio was deemed a success and has laid the foundation of what is now a signature program of RedLine.

They are funded through the generosity of many giving organ-izations. Without their financial sponsors, staff and volunteers, Reach Studio would not be possible. Their success is primarily due to being a participant-run program, driven by the community and for the community. CORE artists have become the community of support to address mental health issues and the artistic practice. Relying less on RedLine’s staff and drawing more from their peers, Reach has become an example of how a program can operate from within a community. Their financial successes and community involved projects are one of  the many ways that their studio thrives. They take great pride in their artists and celebrate their achievements in and outside of their building.

This past year staff capacity has been addressed by maximizing their volunteer pool. They currently have a volunteer dedicated to administrative needs and two others for studio maintenance and programming. With three dedicated volunteers and RedLine’s education team, their Community Studio has been able to expand programming to their REACH artists, host community partners in their space, and provide workshops and professional development activities to outside organizations. Their volunteers are essential to their programming, but this is a temporary solution to a continuing issue. The Community Studio will continue to need greater staff capacity to support the increasing demand and related maintenance of the space.

Their greatest need came during the beginning of the pandemic. Their artists are in need of all manner of social services, including child care, food services and financial assistance. They have tried to leverage their resources to help their community through this difficult time, but they could always do more. Their artists need access to art supplies and space to create. They are currently developing a plan to safely reopen their space and allow their artists to return.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for their community. They shut their studio doors on March 17th, 2020 and have not returned to a normal schedule. Not only do their artists rely on the studio for support in creating, storing and exhibiting their work, the social aspect and camaraderie involved with working among one another cannot be understated. They hold Zoom calls every Tuesday for any Reach artist to connect and share with one another. This has proven to be extremely beneficial. The artists are still sharing their ideas and getting inspiration from our weekly calls.

The Reach Studio program at RedLine is currently featuring an exhibition and virtual showcase by participating artists entitled Art of the Moment. The work is a culmination of all that has happened between March 2020, when they were forced to close to the public, and now.

These uncertain times have only strengthened their bond and commitment to one another. Although their voices have been temporarily silenced because of injustice and quarantine, their artwork has not. It is their pleasure to present to you, Art of the Moment at RedLineart.org.

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