Hadley Hooper's Swallow Hill Music art

Denver artist Hadley Hooper’s artwork for Swallow Hill Music’s Winter 2019 session.

What is it about Swallow Hill Music and artists named Hooper?

In 2017 and 2018, our school catalog featured original artwork from Nashville-based artist Mr. Hooper, whose instrument-playing animals delighted our students, concertgoers, staffers, and the community at large.

In 2019 we are excited to feature the artwork of another Hooper – Denver’s Hadley Hooper. While there is no relation between the two, Hadley took the baton from Mr. Hooper and gave us a wonderfully warm and inviting winter scene of some furry friends gathered to pick out tunes for our Winter session.

Hadley is a Denver native who has experienced the city’s many changes first hand as an engaged member of its arts community. In 2016 and 2017 countless Denverites and others experienced her art up close at Denver Art Museum through her Tableau installation.

To learn more about Hadley and get her thoughts on Swallow Hill, Denver, and the arts, please read our Q&A with her, which was conducted via email in December.

You are a longtime Denver resident, how has the city influenced your art?

I was born and raised in Denver. I left long enough to get a BFA then came right back in 1989. Denver in the 1990s was struggling financially, but the art community was strong and we put roots down creating and joining co-ops, starting non-profits, and generally building a creative life. The community was much smaller then, as was downtown; it’s hard to imagine now but it cleared out at night, ‘cept for a few great bars which we took advantage of. My influence, then and now, is this group of friends of videographers, performance artists, musicians, illustrators, sculptors, painters and eccentrics.

You’ll be creating the art for each of our six school sessions in 2019 – how do you approach a project like that?

I always start with research and was happy to be able to look through some of the photo archives of Swallow Hill. This first piece I created for the winter session was inspired by a photo from the late 60s of musicians at (Swallow Hill forerunner) the Denver Folklore Center sitting around with instruments. There was so much camaraderie in this photo, so much friendship. The idea of playing an instrument, and playing in a group, obsesses me with envy. This photo is so romantic in that way.

You knew Swallow Hill quite well before you started working with us. When did you first come to Swallow Hill? Do you have a favorite Swallow Hill memory?

My first concert at Swallow Hill HQ was Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore, that was an incredible introduction to the space. Her voice in that room was church! They are having a show with 3hattrio on January 25 that I am looking forward to.

I first became aware your work through your Tableau installation at Denver Art Museum, which ran in 2016 and 2017. Included in that exhibit was a wonderful whale cutout that you could hang out in. Where is the whale now? Can I store it for you in my living room?

Denver Folklore Center 1960s

Sharing music at the Denver Folklore Center was common in the late 1960s when Larry Shirkey took this photo. The musicians, from left to right, are, banjo player unknown, David Ferretta on mandolin, fiddle player unknown, Harry Tuft, Wesley Westbrooks, and Dick Weissman on the banjo.

I’m so glad you saw that installation! It was really fun to do and I got to work with other people to fabricate and install it which was the highlight for me. It was up for 18 months and I’d occasionally stop in and see people sitting on the moon or in the whale, that was cool.

At the end I considered some offers to move the installation to other venues but ultimately resisted since it was really designed for the DAM audience and that space specifically. I saved a couple of the smaller elements but the whale was cut up like sushi and put in the giant dumpster. I didn’t watch.

How do the arts fit into modern Denver? And what does that mean for arts and cultural organizations like Swallow Hill?

The city has more breadth and depth culturally than it ever has. On any given night there are so many options, from music to art to theatre. And of course we have all the breweries, distilleries and restaurants, as a consumer it’s an amazing smorgasbord.

And people are looking for different ways to be engaged with culture. The word you hear all the time regarding museums and galleries is ‘interactive’.

Swallow Hill feels uniquely structured to answer these needs. The live venue offers people the most direct way to experience music. And the school offers the hands-on opportunity. It’s a cool and accessible way to participate in a part of Denver’s history while helping create its future.