By Emily Clingman
A few years ago, it was rare to find alternatives to traditional Western-style art galleries. Edgy artists from off the beaten path lacked public venues to feature their work. Now, a burst of new galleries is popping up around Old Town. And they aren’t displaying images of horses and Aspen trees.
One such gallery will make its debut on December 2, which would not have been possible without an outpouring of support from the community. Opiate Gallery, the brainchild of popular photographer Darren Mahuron, will feature out-of-the-ordinary talent from local and national artists in a sophisticated, ground level gallery on Linden Street.
Funding the endeavor was expensive and mostly came out of Mahuron’s pockets, but he did find a way to offset some of the outlay. Using the website kickstarter.com, a funding platform for creative projects, Mahuron set a goal to raise $5,550 for the project. He made a quirky, informative short movie about his idea and turned it loose online. Within a week, dozens of donations poured in from people in the community who wanted to see Opiate Gallery happen. Within 30 days, more than 130 people donated nearly $7,500.
“People want this gallery to be here,” Mahuron said. “They want art in their town. This was a way for art lovers to pitch in and support the scene in whatever way they could.”
It’s likely that sustainment for Mahuron’s new idea stemmed from his prior involvement in the local art scene. Most known for the eccentric and often bizarre photo portraits he creates through his business, Summit Studios, Mahuron has brought alternative art into the mainstream. To further his passion for promoting artistic diversity in Fort Collins, he opened Gallery Underground (GU); a co-op of sorts for artists that gained quick popularity, especially on First Friday nights.
Unfortunately, that project dissolved earlier this year because the event outgrew its capacity limits and GU was forced to shut down. After many months of contemplation and a bit of traveling, Mahuron returned to Fort Collins rejuvenated and ready to try something new.
“The closing of [GU] was really hard for me,” Mahuron said. “I was discouraged and thought about moving away, but I came back here with some fervor. I realized that this is where I really wanted to be. I love to visit other places, but the sense of community here is remarkable.”
Mahuron likes the centralized, bustling art scene in Fort Collins.
“In big cities, the art scene is spread out,” he said. “Here, there is a deeper sense of appreciation for art. There’s lots of opportunity for discussions and collaborations.”
While there was a deep sense of loss when GU shut down, Mahuron is excited about the new galleries in town that have spawned from that incident, such as Rendition Gallery, GNU Gallery, Art Lab and Luscious Nectar – all of which also feature alternative artists.
Mahuron considers Opiate Gallery a progressive move in his career.
“I’ve learned a few things,” he said. “I want this to be a nicer place. I want it to have a larger city feel.”
Aside from the complete renovation of his new space, the grand opening will feature art by 13 local and national artists, which Mahuron said he is very proud of and is excited to show off. The gallery will be open to the public four days a week and will feature special events on Friday evenings, including drawing classes and community other arts programs. Artists can rent wall space for as low as $50 a month and exhibits will rotate regularly.
Mahuron hopes that Opiate Gallery will reignite the First Friday Gallery Walk. Attendance has slowed down a little lately.
“I want to get people in the mindset that First Friday is a scene,” he said. “A destination to be part of something.”
One of Mahuron’s favorite quotes is by Karl Marx: “Religion is an opiate to the masses.” He’s not necessarily a Marx fan, or very religious, but the quote resonates with him.
“People tend to seek out something of substance to grasp onto that reaches their soul,” he said. “I believe art can do that. I want people to come out and immerse themselves in the world of art for a while.”
Opiate Gallery is located at 237 Linden St. in Fort Collins. It is open Wednesday-Saturday from 12-6pm. Find out more at opiategallery.com.
A Note From Darren Mahuron: “Thanks to these wonderful folks for your hard labor! Without you we couldn’t have completed the Opiate Gallery on schedule.”
Nathan And Shyla Myrick (The Forge Publick House); Patrick McGaughran (The Rio Grande; El Monte); Bryan Simpson (New Belgium); Steve and Greg (Greyrock Concrete Design); Jamie Kruger (Alpha Plumbing); Jeff Bowers; Joe Mahuron; Rachael Yovanoff; Jocelyn Mahuron; Sierra Mahuron; Ryan Guiliame; Keith Van Eron; Katie McClelland; Joel Decatur; Steve Hix; Roberta Casnellie; Julie Sutter; Darin Steege; Polly Todd; Zach Yendra; Robert Yovanoff; Karen Yovanoff; Beau Kahler; Erika Napoletano; Kathy Bauer; Maggie Kunze; Tomas Hererra; Susanna Dominguez; Adam Wolf; Michael Guiliume; Ian Cochrane; Megan Noel