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New 'ArtPark' in Five Points serves as hub for emerging artists, chefs and bookworms

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The new 'ArtPark' in Denver's Five Points neighborhood is now open, with spaces for art, dining and reading.
The new 'ArtPark' in Denver's Five Points neighborhood is now open, with spaces for art, dining and reading.

DENVER — Nestled between the South Platte River and Brighton Boulevard is an art project over a dozen years in the making.

ArtPark celebrated its grand opening on September 24 in the Five Points neighborhood. It is a collaborative community effort to keep art in the RiNo Arts District while also serving the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Gentrification and displacement are on the news very, very frequently, so we’re doing what we can to ensure there is a safe and affordable space for all these different types of art,” said John Deffenbaugh, the projects director for the RiNo Art District. The park has a space for literary arts, culinary arts and visual arts.

“It's just so exciting to be here on opening day weekend to see art going on the walls, food coming out of the kitchen and books going into the library,” Deffenbaugh said.

Colorado VoicesArtPark in Five Points opens

In addition to access to the South Platte River, ArtPark features a food incubator designed to support beginner restaurateurs. The green space also has eight dedicated studios subsidized for local artists from the RedLine Contemporary Art Center, a local nonprofit. The space also houses a new branch of the Denver Public Library.

“Our location at ArtPark is rooted in our values of welcoming everyone, fostering curiosity, strengthening connection, challenging inequity and honoring the public trust,” said Anne Kemmerling, Denver Public Library’s director of neighborhood services.

Koko Bayer, the artist behind the widely-known “hope hearts” around Denver, put one of her signature pieces in one of ArtPark's studios. Bayer told Rocky Mountain PBS about the historic and ongoing gentrification of Five Points, which was known as the “Harlem of the West.”

“I think that there has always been a fear that we’re going to, like, get swept out of the neighborhood as more and more high end development comes in,” Bayer said.

“It’s really cool that they consciously made that effort” to create reliable spaces for artists, Bayer continued, adding that the park could serve as a model for other places in the city and across the country.

The park is now open to the public.

“The whole objective of this facility is to be open and accessible to all,” said Deffenbaugh.

Deffenbaugh added: “It's very transparent. There's lots of glass, there's lots of color. It's playful. It's designed to encourage people to come in and enjoy it and to be part of it.”

You can find out more about ArtPark on its website.

Jason Foster is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS.

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