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The Denver Art Museum's newest Creative-in-Residence brings power to poetry
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The Denver Art Museum's newest Creative-in-Residence, Kerrie Joy.

DENVER — At the Denver Art Museum, Kerrie Joy is determined to amplify the power of words and make them tangible for visitors.

“I love words. I just love the way they sound and bounce and interact with each other. It feels like music to me,” Joy, the museum’s newest Creative-in-Residence, told Rocky Mountain PBS.

A poet, singer, songwriter and educator, Joy began her residency at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) in April. The program, which runs through August, is a collaboration between the museum and a local artist who connects with museum visitors and ongoing exhibitions through a public engagement project.

“It's a really beautiful opportunity for artists that are, you know, on their way up, to engage with the existing exhibitions here but also find really creative ways to engage with the community,” said Joy, who is in the planning stages of her project.

“It’s a beautiful challenge,” Joy said. “This type of art deserves this space as well.”

Colorado Voices

Kerrie Joy, creative-in-residence at the Denver Art Museum

From a young age, Joy knew she had a gift for writing and storytelling. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Joy grew up in the church where she felt pressured to hide who she really was. 

“I feel like I discarded myself at a young age,” Joy said. “Growing up, there wasn't room for me to be me. And so I threw myself away. And I felt like I deserved it, because that's what I was taught.”

So her journal became her best friend, she said. “I realized I was pretty good with the pen at a young age.” But after being discouraged from pursuing a career in gospel singing, Joy began performing her poetry in her early twenties. 

Now, she uses her craft to heal from past trauma, and she hopes her time at the DAM inspires the same in others.

“I felt like everything that I tried to do was healing work,” she said. “I want people to be introspective, reflective, and hopefully … heal ourselves.”

Joy is the first Creative-in-Residence to utilize the DAM’s new Creative Hub in the recently renovated Martin Building. A learning and engagement space, the Creative Hub offers a welcoming, creative environment for museum-goers to gather before or after exploring exhibitions, exchange ideas with the Creatives-in-Residence and participate in creative exercises. 

Kerrie Joy inside the Creative Hub at the Denver Art Museum.

“The Creative Hub really began with this convening of community, stakeholders, partners and local creatives,” said Sierra Tamkun, the Manager of Creative and Public Engagement at the DAM. “How can we create a space that is for the creative community and where we can convene them, where they can convene each other, where we can really welcome people in and create his experience, not just our visitors, but for the creatives who make Denver so wonderful?”

Through workshops, events and hands-on activities, the Creative Hub provides a distinct outlet where visitors can explore their own creativity. According to Tamkun, the entire space, which was designed by artists Moe Gram and Frankie Toan, is divided into four different activities: inspiration, experimentation, reflection and “a space where visitors can shred their expectations of what it means to be creative and kind of let go of anything that's holding them back.” 

Throughout her residency, Joy can be found wandering through the Creative Hub, where she will interact with visitors during her office hours on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays 1 to 4 p.m. 

“Right now, I feel like we're finishing up the planning stage and now we're really going to get into like, you know, the creative … like I'm gonna get my hands dirty now,” said Joy, who hopes to have something for DAM visitors to enjoy by June. 

When she’s not at the DAM, Joy can be found throughout Denver, doing what she loves — centering community and uplifting other Black voices. 

“Community is always everything like we need our people,” she said. “So collaboration, connectivity, solidarity … that's who I am. I think that's what you're going to see in everything that I do.” 

As the co-executive director of The Kaleidoscope Project, a nonprofit organization, Joy works to “activate collective power in Black and brown communities through civic engagement, grassroots organizing and cultural fortitude,” she said. “Our culture has always been what has gotten us through and helped us redefine ourselves as Black and brown people.”

She is also a co-host of The SIP Podcast, or sisters in power, a monthly, Denver-based podcast that uplifts women of color. 

“We are all Black women, all artists that basically just try to come together and amplify other Black women,” Joy explained. “We interview women that are doing dope things, no matter what their creative inclinations are.” 

And since becoming a full-time poet in 2018, Joy finally feels like she’s living the dream her six-year-old self was yearning for. 

“It's taken a really long time to regain my self worth, and regain, this idea of who I know I've always been and give myself the permission to show up as such without any apologies,” she said. “I'm going to talk about my younger self a lot because I feel like I am tapping into her … Baby Kerrie Joy, I’m living the life that you deserve.”  


Jeremy Moore is a senior multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can email him at jeremymoore@rmpbs.org.

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