Meet Kia

Photo by Christopher Patronella, Jr

Growing up in a house full of artists, Kia Neill was allowed to endlessly explore her creativity. But while her parents focused on the commercial aspect of art, graphic design and illustration, Kia knew by the age of 5 that was not her path.

Laughing, she recalls her uncle asking if she was going to grow up to be an artist like her parents.

Her reply? “No way. If I’m an artist, I’m going to be like Picasso.”

Language of Evolving Trails by Kia Neill

And like Picasso, there is no denying an element of surrealism in her work. A Chicago native, Kia moved to Colorado to explore the mountain landscape, both physically and through her artwork. Her creations meld drawing and photography in a seemingly effortless way; the addition of a sketch to elongate a swirling cloud or to expound on the tracks left by a cross-country skier. Her intention is to evoke the feeling of the photograph. She describes it as “more of the experiential, something that is not really seen but what you can feel when you are in the moment.”

Kia’s Open Studio Hours

With her strong connection to the natural world, it’s no wonder Kia is excited her installation will live in Joy Park, and she needs your help to finish it! Kiddos and grown-ups are invited to come by during her open studio hours to meet Kia, collaborate on a piece, and explore art in a whole new way!



Saying Goodbye

Ajean Ryan’s residency at the Children’s Museum comes to an end

On January 11, we celebrated the closing of our final artist-in-residence of 2016, Ajean Ryan. Our inaugural class was full of inspiring artists, who leave behind not only a piece made just for the Museum, but their individual legacies.

Jamie Molina, who taught us there are no mistakes in art.

Nicole Banowetz, who introduced us to the unseen world of rotifers.

Wes Sam-Bruce, who showed us the value in posing penetrating, even unanswerable questions.

And finally Ajean, who imparted us with the wisdom that art is transformative. But more than that; art is magic.

With the help of Museum guests, a new world, The Upside Down Garden, came into being; constructed with bits and baubles, Q-tips and pom poms, googly eyes and plastic apples, collected from garage sales over the years with no intended purpose.


At the Closing Reception, Ajean vividly recalled memories from the individual children and adults that helped create the garden. A young girl who visited during her first open studio hours and created a basket of “fresh strawberries” for her; the “perfectly choreographed” way a little boy carefully constructed a creature out of her garage sale “junk”; the enduring patience of an “adult helper” as he painstakingly wrapped coil after coil of pipe cleaner around a Dixie cup to create a new species of plant.

Has a child ever proudly handed you their creation and waited expectantly for your reaction? Too often, we merely mutter, “That’s nice” before moving on to tasks we deem more important, never giving that moment a second thought. Ajean insists we must celebrate these creations, and encourage the children in our lives to explore their imaginations.


Her series of botanical drawings, inspired by The Upside Down Garden, aims to give these pieces a lasting place in the world; “The great thing about this is I was able to capture something that looked like detritus, something that didn’t look valuable, and I feel like that’s really what I love to do. To capture something that these kids made, because for them it is precious, it is a work of art. So to elevate it in the way that I can and give it this representation, it was really important to me.”


Through Ajean’s botanical drawings, these small wonders of a child’s imagination are now a permanent fixture in our Museum, reminding us always that art is magic.


Ajean Ryan’s series of botanical drawings can be viewed outside The Art Studio.


Class of 2017 Artists-in-Residence

After reviewing dozens of applications submitted by talented local artists, the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus is pleased to announce the our Class of 2017 Artists-in-Residence:

Kia Neill – Winter Session

Armando Silva – Spring Session

Betony Coons – Summer Session

George Perez- Fall Session

Kia Neill

Kia Neill is a multidisciplinary artist working in mixed media drawing, painting, photography and sculpture.  A Chicago native, Neill received her MFA from The University of California, San Diego. She relocated to Denver, CO in 2014 after repeated visits as a Guest Artist in the Breckenridge Arts District (now BreckCreate) to explore her deep attraction to the mountain landscape, which heavily influences her work.

Armando Silva

Armando Silva was born in Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Mexico. His family moved to the Northern Colorado area in search of the American Dream when he was just five. Armando quickly became familiar with pop culture in America; everything from Michael Jackson to current cartoons.  In 2010 he received his BA in Fine Arts from The University of Northern Colorado. Since graduating, Armando has used his artistic platform to pursue his passion and purpose. He believes he has a responsibility within the community to lead, educate and give back. Armando paints portraits to help tell stories, sometimes in his studio or on stages in front of thousands. As a creative, Armando looks for opportunities to paint a bigger picture. His intuition is to find the greens in a red rose and the blues in an orange.

Betony Coons

Betony Coons was unschooled in rural Kansas on an apple orchard. Her parents highly valued abundant play and gave all five children the time to explore and follow their curiosity. Those same values have stayed with Betony through adulthood. As a mother of three, Betony is constantly moved by the beauty and wonder of childhood. This is reflected in her wild and whimsical paintings and murals. Betony’s paintings are large, iconic images holding frenetic energy and bold color within the collage elements and acrylic paint. Her pieces explore home, struggle and love.

George Perez

George Perez is an artist that creates photographic works through impractical techniques such as long exposure, digital screen shot appropriation, and/or scanography. He received a BFA (Cum Laude) in 2014 from the University of Colorado, Boulder and has also served as artist-in-residence at Redline in Denver. Perez’s work is based on the banal or mundane environments he interacts with on a day-to-day basis and his interpretation of present day society, either in real life or the digital realm. Images are documented and manipulated to alter the meaning into another perception of a particular common narrative.

Nicole Banowetz

Artists: Where are they now?

Nicole Banowetz

We have another exciting update on what a former Artist-in-Residence is up to! When an artist concludes their time with us, they’re not just leaving a legacy here at the Museum. They continue on to wonderful new art opportunities all around the world!


Nicole Banowetz, our 2016 spring artist, is doing exactly that. During her residency, her giant, 3-D inflatable art wowed and inspired artists of every age. She graduated from CSU in 2004 with a BFA in sculpture. She has worked internationally, creating mosaic work in India and working and showing in Italy, Ireland, Russia, Germany and England.

Now, the Netherlands can be added to that list!

Nicole was one of the coveted artists selected for the 2016 Amsterdam Light Festival. This annual light art festival brings designers from all over the work to display their art on the picturesque streets of Amsterdam in a unique, interactive light-art experience. Each route or “walking trail” has it’s own theme, and Nicole’s selected theme is called Rotifers.

According to her festival feature page, Rotifers is a “microscopic view” of the circle of life and nature as a whole. Here are some of the works in progress of these cool critters!

Nicole Banowetz’ work is on the Illuminade route in Amsterdam from December 15th, 2016 to January 8th, 2017. We can’t wait to see amazing photos of this international artist’s newest finished works. After all, it makes knowing that we have a piece of hers in our very own Museum even more special.


Pop-up Books with Ajean

We had a great time last week with Ajean Ryan’s private family workshop!  Each guest got to learn  how to make 5 different types of 3-D effects from her, then they got to select colorful paper and blank books of their own to make eye-popping stories. Very rarely do young children get the chance to have one-on-one moments with professional artists and we saw the impact of this opportunity first hand. Check out some of the scenes below!



Artists: Where are they Now?

Wes Sam-Bruce

One of the cool things about our artists is that their influence stretches far beyond the walls of our Museum. We love hearing about the wonderful opportunities they receive due to their expertise, the new knowledge they’ve gained from working with us and the joy they continue to bring to others.

Our summer 2016 artist, Wes Sam-Bruce, who encouraged families to explore their relationship with nature, is no exception. Since working with us, his imaginative, mixed media works have been featured in numerous art galleries, museums and institutions across Colorado and the US. Here’s an overview of some of the pieces he’s made for  Svper Ordinary Gallery (which he collaborated on with another past AIR, Jaime Molina!) and Tointon Gallery.


Wes summarized his year of thinking and creating through an article on his website, and the impact it had on the world around him:

“Over 4,500 different people were able to participate in workshops, community center partnerships, education programming, gallery interactions, and other elements that I was able to craft and collaborate on this last year.  These programs empowered personal and social empathy in communities and neighborhoods, grew character, inspired deep attention and curiosity, encouraged self / world awareness, and worked generally towards creative and innovative good both tangible and intangible. “

The list of bragging rights don’t stop there! Wes’ work is going to be the subject of upcoming artistic film. According to the trailer, the movie aims to be “a feature documentary that follows the vulnerable and inspiring path of the creation of a world within a world.” It’s set to release in 2017. Needless to say, we’ll all be awaiting it with eager eyes!