Blue Silo; Making Room for Artists

Artists personalize their spaces.

Those who are new to Denver may not realize that there are a few special people who have been pioneers in shaping the “cool” of our city. Way before Denver was a coveted place to live, there were folks who saw the potential, or simply just loved Denver when it wasn’t so cool, and in the process curated the culture we have now.

Two of those pioneers are Chandler Romeo and Reed Weimer, owners of Blue Silo Studios, a turn of the century building situated next to two formerly blue, now gray, silos near the National Western Complex. Blue Silo sports 15 under-market, spacious studios for local artists and has evolved since its inception in 2003 to become its own artists’ enclave adjacent to the RiNo Arts District.

Romeo and Weimer are essentially Colorado natives. They have made art and participated in some of North Denver’s very first co-op galleries that supported young, contemporary artists who had nowhere to display their work. In the early 1980s after they both graduated from UNC and Denver was a much less populated and quiet place, artists could find (and afford), basically abandoned warehouses to use as studios. As time went on, the couple began to purchase some of these places, preserving our now precious real estate and saving room for their artist peers who have been progressively pushed out of these spaces by sky-rocketing rent.

“When we would search for a building, remoteness was key,” offers Romeo. “Artists often prefer your grungy, off-the-beaten path locations. Old architecture provides not only character, but often wonderfully tall windows that let in the natural light.” 

When they were searching for a building for the studios back in the late 1990s, Romeo and Weimer had initially settled on one closer to downtown. They soon discovered, however, that the new light rail would have a stop right in front of it. “That was a deal-breaker as we realized the growth with the light rail would ruin the idea of ‘remote.’” Their realtor called their attention to a small print ad in the paper for the building near National Western.The early 1900’s brick building, surrounded by the ghosts of trains and cattle was originally a creamery and later housed Swift Meat Packing. “This spot encompassed such great Denver history and the structure had wonderful bones to work with,” adds Romeo.

The history of the building and the remoteness provided the perfect blank canvas to offer a bunch of creatives the environment for establishing their own collective. “We had the hope that once the building was inhabited by artists they would connect and cultivate their own community in sharing this space.” And they did. Blue Silo now cradles a diverse collection of established and new creatives representing genres ranging from sculpture to painting to music. 

The unassuming outdoor façade of the building.

The website, designed by tenant and photographer Michael C. Gadlin, is a work of art in itself, full of photos embracing the artful grunge of the location mixed in with black and white portraits of each artist and their individual bios and artwork. Process and documentation of the goings-on at Blue Silo are greatly valued and reflected
on the site.

“Art Speaks, Passion Listens, Community Builds” is a mantra that is echoed throughout the website. So too is the reflection, “Our passions move through the building which gives these old red bricks the energy it deserves as we continue to exist in the midst of the changing and developing area that surrounds us,” reminding us all that our surroundings cue our daily activity.

Romeo affably giggles as she acknowledges that Blue Silo is becoming less “hidden” with all of the redevelopment at National Western. “There is literally construction happening on all four sides of our building, but it is safe.” Despite the rampant development, there are no concerns that Blue Silo would be at risk. It is being incorporated into what is planned, as is the historic Stockyard Saloon across the way where artists can wolf down burgers and fries on a whim.

As has been happening for a couple of decades, once an area is “discovered” bigger developers often swoop in, causing the once-affordable gritty spaces to increase in price exponentially. The vicinity of Blue Silo is no exception as the development creeps ever closer.  But the building will persevere with its specific purpose of supplying artists with affordable studios. In the controversy that gentrification can cause, on the outskirts of it, Romeo and Weimer dance to the beat of their own drum. They are, in their own way, developers, but intentional ones. The big guys could take a lesson from their methods.

Check out Blue Silo. They host art events and participate in RiNo’s Artist Studio Tours. And keep an eye out for the couple’s upcoming project that continues their legacy of preservation in Denver and beyond. Ever heard of the Wonder Tower?

Blue Silo Studios is located at 4701 National Western Drive in Denver.

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