If history is written by the victor, how much do we know about history? As an arts archivist, I’ve been consumed by this question as I watch our city quickly gentrify, displacing longtime residents and deeply rooted cultures. Will the stories and records of these people be taken with them? Decades from now, what will we know about the creative spirit of our city, its neighborhoods, and the people who shaped it?
Answering these questions is vital to understanding the potential of archives in contemporary art and local history. Artists’ archives are more than just piles of paper in a dark basement; they are the documents of human existence, providing a window into understanding the artist's intent, process, and sources of inspiration. Contemporary archiving is not a passive act. Rather, it is a radical one, in which the people play an active role in who and what is archived and what is deemed “history.”
was born against this backdrop. Gathering committed archivists, artists, educators, and activists, our organization aims to be a public arts library and community archive. Our goal is to challenge misrepresentation in our historic record by creating an equitable model for every artist to leave their mark. Community archiving is a form of political activity that challenges misrepresentation. It empowers people to own their histories and mine them for new narratives while strengthening intergenerational ties.
At its heart, Arthyve is a crowdsourced memory bank. Through it, artists self-curate materials that serve as snapshots of their time and place. Any artist or collective can submit to the archive. We will collect a wide range of media—visual arts, music, performance, spoken word, writing, street art, craft—that represent the diversity of the arts in Denver. The materials donated by artists will not sit in isolation; we will work to make them central to our city’s creative life
Collections will be open to the public, who can engage with and draw inspiration from this work. Arthyve will use it to inform workshops, exhibitions, and programming, and to teach members of the community to become their own citizen archivists. We will use these materials to develop a series of informational, visual, and digital literacies that will teach the community and our city's youth how to evaluate information in both visual and textual forms. By doing so, they will learn how to better gauge the credibility of information—a skill that’s more vital than it ever has been before.
As a newborn non-profit, Arthyve is rapidly fundraising and working to secure a brick and mortar location to house our archives, arts library, and programming. Our city needs a public organization dedicated to the active documentation, preservation, and accessibility of its artistic communities. Every day, pieces of Denver disappear forever. Our goal is to have temporary space within the year and a brick-and-mortar location within three years. It will become a living time capsule of Denver’s art and culture.
We are launching the archive on August 18th at Denver’s Civic Center with an event, Archives for Artists. All artists and arts organizations are invited to attend. The assembly will empower artists and arts collectives in shaping archives—individual and collective—as well as Denver’s artistic history as a whole. Attendees can take part in interactive panel discussions led by inspiring thought-leaders from our city and beyond. Together, we’ll discuss how community and personal archives can challenge misrepresentation and inequity, and how artists can be citizen archivists. The ideas of intersectionality, collective memory, and artistic intent will also be a focus. Without such preservation, much of Denver’s identity—and its soul—are at risk of being lost to the march of progress.
I’m excited to see our city’s artists, activists, and archivists collaborate on this essential project. On a profound personal level, it’s a way for the people of the city to connect, share, and better understand each other. Archives for Artists will be an opportunity for our community to come together and address the important questions that affect Denver’s future as well as its past.
To learn more and participate, please visit Arthyve.org