Q&A with Collin Parson

Arvada Center’s gallery director and curator makes 303 Magazine’s ‘Denver Artists to Watch’ list


303 Magazine’s annual “Denver Artists to Watch” list included a well-known Arvada name as the Arvada Center’s Collin Parson was praised for his artistic influence on the area.

Parson was included on the list because he “uses his position to bring some outstanding people to Arvada,” the article said. “As an artist himself, Parson works with mirrors, light, color and space in intriguing and sometimes illusionary ways.”

The list began in its current form in 2018, and this year, named 11 different individual artists and groups who plan to make big splashes in the Denver art scene this coming year.

Parson, who serves as curator for the Arvada Center and directs the center’s four annual exhibits, was one of those 11.

After graduating from CU Boulder in 2004, Parson joined the staff at the Arvada Center as a part-time art handler before working his way up to curator. Parson has been the brains behind numerous shows that have brought many Arvadans, as well as residents from all over the Denver area, to the center over the years.

His own artwork has been displayed throughout the area, including his “Echoes and Reflections” sculptures, which stand in Lakewood’s Addenbrooke Park.

Now, he looks ahead to what’s in store for his career and the Arvada Center in 2020.

The following interview was condensed for clarity.

When did you learn you would be included on the 303 list?

It was the day the article was published. I just got a text from a friend that said “congratulations,” and that was when I realized I was on the list. It was a very unexpected mention. I’m honored because there’s so many very talented artists out there. I’ve made art consistently for over a decade now and it’s a lot of work and energy. I make artistic goals and, from those, recognition hopefully will come.

How did you get your start in the art world?

I was raised here in Denver and both my parents are in the arts. My dad is a sculptor and works with the RedLine Contemporary Arts Center (in Denver), and my mom is a dancer. I’ve been around the arts all my life. I got my BFA at CU, where I studied lighting design and set design. That was my way of rebelling against my parents, I guess. But I wanted a change and I wanted to be my own director, and that was when I got a job at the Arvada Center.

Where do your ideas come from when you plan shows at the Arvada Center?

There are three galleries here in the center and it’s quite easy to say, “We could do this show,” but how do we connect three spaces? In a previous show, the link between the three spaces was chairs. One space was kind of a historic exhibit of chairs and chair design, and in one space, all the artists created something with the same chair model from IKEA. In the third, we had the artists’ pieces and I put chairs in front of them. Artists always have this chair in their studio that looks like it’s traveled with them from studio to studio. I asked them to bring those. I really get a lot of support and freedom from our executive staff. It’s allowed me to really highlight the best artists in the state, which is a passion of mine

What’s coming up at the Arvada Center?

We hold four exhibits a year, which typically run eight to 10 weeks, though our spring exhibit runs around four weeks. The next will open Jan. 16, and it’s a printmaking exhibition. We opened it up to any artists within 528 miles of Denver, so we have people from Utah, Nebraska, Oklahoma. Hopefully, this exhibit will show the wide range of art printmaking encompasses. I’m trying to show our patrons and viewers what is art. I encourage people to support their local, living artists, emotionally or by buying a piece.


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