Q&A with Darrin Alfred, Denver Art Museum Curator

Design After Dark

In anticipation of Design After Dark we caught up with Darrin Alfred, Denver Art Museum curator. Curious about bespoke? Take a sneak peak of what is to come on Friday, February 10th. Tickets are available now and at the door.

What is the inspiration behind Design After Dark?
Well, each year we explore a new title and theme. This year’s Design After Dark is titled, bespoke. Our inspiration really grew out of the desire to play off of the exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective which opens at the Denver Art Museum on March 25, 2012. Once a fashion industry-specific term, bespoke was reserved for individually patterned and crafted men’s clothing, equivalent to women’s haute couture. We loved the idea that the theme was rooted in fashion. It was Saint Laurent who transformed men’s tailoring into women’s high fashion. In today’s world, however, bespoke is increasingly being applied to individually crafted objects in other industries. We felt this correlated to the essential component of every Design After Dark: the innovative one-of-a-kind objects constructed by emerging and established designers and artists, in addition to a wide range of creative individuals and teams. These individually constructed items are auctioned off at the end of the night. It’s a way for the Design Council of the Denver Art Museum to celebrate and encouraged local talent while supporting the Museum’s Department of Architecture, Design & Graphics.

Looking back at the past seven years what were some of the most memorable or coveted items auctioned off?
That is hard to say! With each new year our artists and designers have created some truly unique objects. We like to choose a theme that is open to interpretation and encourages them to really push their creative limits. We’re always impressed by the results. And the bar has been raised year after year. Some favorites that come to mind are the objects from Momo Morton’s team at NAKA Designs, the boys over at DoubleButter are always pushing the envelope, and David Hamlin at Submaterial creates some finely crafted pieces. Furniture, jewelry, and unique experiences are always popular amongst the in-kind auction. We’re expecting a stunning pair of earrings designed by Todd Reed, and chairs from Herman Miller, Knoll, and Room & Board to be popular on Friday, February 10th.

What can people expect to see in this year’s auction?
We have asked over 30 designers, architects, and artists to create one-of-a-kind objects that will fit within a 24×24 inch footprint or pedestal. We’ve also requested that they play off of one of three fashion-related terms: pattern, cut, or stitch. I’ve invited a number of younger artists and designers in the community for the first time, including Amanda Gordon Dunn, Brittany Gould, Jeff Page, and Sandra Fettingis. I’m really curious to see what they come up with! We’ll also have live models wearing auctionable items and engaging our guests.

Throughout your time at the Denver Art Museum what kind of growth have you witnessed in the Denver design community? How does Design After Dark contribute to this growth?
Over the past four years I’ve witnessed an increasing recognition of Denver’s creative force by those outside of Colorado. There’s a tremendous support structure and unique opportunity available here that few places can offer. Denver provides an affordable urban setting where the creative community can thrive, connect, and experiment without the constraints found in larger, more competitive cities. At the same time, attitudes have been shifting in the business community, and within local and state government. They are recognizing the forward-thinking approaches to problem solving that designers in their own backyard can offer. What I love about Design After Dark is that it celebrates individuality, while providing an opportunity to bring together disparate design communities to connect with one another and with the broader community.

What are your hopes for Denver’s art and architecture in the future?
That it continues to grow and gain recognition… Not only outside of the city, but here at home, as well. There’s a wonderful community of creative individuals that have proven themselves to be able to perform just as well, if not better, than their counterparts in other cities. I think it’s important for the community to push boundaries and not simply rely on the status quo or create what others are achieving elsewhere.

If people are on the fence about coming to this year’s Design After Dark can you speak to the atmosphere and feeling of having so many talented creatives in one space?
Design After Dark is a fashionable event unlike any other held in Denver. I’ve had numerous attendees tell me that it’s an event and crowd on equal footing with those in San Francisco or New York. It’s always fresh, edgy, and a lot of fun thanks to a planning committee that’s not afraid to take chances and a band of supporters that demands value and values that which is out of the ordinary.

Images of last year’s Design After Dark courtesy of Denver Art Museum.