Last week, the TEDxMileHigh crew invited the Denver community to “Wonder” with us as we kicked off a week filled with engaging events culminating with our TEDxMileHigh: Wonder Conference week, with phenomenal speakers and performers. This time, it took place on Thursday, November 9th at the ATC DEN on 34th Avenue and Larimer street art gallery. The theme of the night was how artists use their art to help people find their “X”. Your “X” can be anything from humor, activism, strength, compassion, or explorations of identity.

The night was filled with wondrous and thought-provoking art pieces from local women artists like Kimothy Joy’s That’s What She Said, a thorough collection that brings depth to the flat perception of influential women. The 2016 presidential election put a damper on Joy’s spirits, and she was compelled to create something that would inspire people to use their own voice. As a coping mechanism to deal with her frustration, Joy spent each night researching strong women in history and how their resilience helped them overcome tumultuous in society. She asked herself, “What would Angela Davis or Jane Goodall say about all this? What would my mother say if she were alive?” As a result, Joy created That’s What She Said series. Joy will be publishing a book in April 2018 with 50 influential women in history with watercolor portraits and prolific quotes. She hopes her art will inspire someone to create change in their community.

The visitors also became artists with Andi Todaro’s Spirograph table and harmonograph machine where they drew their own cool and creative designs. A harmonograph is a device that creates wavy, spiral line art. The harmonograph consists of a drawing utensil, such as a pencil, on the end of a gyroscope attached to a pole. There is also a table that is connected to a gyroscope when the pencil and the table are turned simultaneously unique beautiful designs are created. Todaro loves the harmonograph as an artistic tool because “[it] describes the beauty of the universe without using science or math.”

Vitiligo becomes the center of Jasmine Colgan’s work, proving that all skin is beautiful with her touching photography series “Tough Skin”. It captures the strength and courage of people with vitiligo, the same skin condition Jasmine lives with and embraces. When Jasmine was diagnosed with the condition, the first thing she did was call her grandmother to tell her the sad news. Her grandmother then reinforced some courage and strength into Jasmine with powerful words about how she can get through this skin condition because she has tough skin. Four weeks later her grandmother passed away. Her grandmother’s powerful sentiment permeates to her soul and through her camera lens. Colgan is an MFA student at the University of Colorado – Boulder and a social activist where she uses her art to teach people to acknowledge people’s outer differences and how the outer difference of someone tells a story and connects with the person’s being. Each day Jasmine is reminded of her grandmother’s love because her vitiligo formed heart-shaped spots on her skin indicating that her grandmother is still with her.

Under the moderation of Bianca Mikahn, the night concluded with a panel discussion about art, femininity in art and owning one’s space as a woman artist. Denver’s first Youth Poet Laureate and former TEDxMileHigh speaker, Toluwanimi Oluwafunmilayo Obiwole kicked off the panel discussion with a beautiful poem on womanhood, femininity and what it means to transcend in the world as a woman. Her fellow panelists were local artists from different walks of life and artistic backgrounds, Bonnie Gregory, a welder and designer, Ahita Ardalan, an Iranian born, classically French trained dancer and teacher; Laura Krudener, renowned painter and Westword 100 Colorado Creatives, and the owner of the ATC DEN Art Gallery. Each woman spoke about their experiences navigating in a male-dominated industry, not asking for permission to be their authentic selves as female artists and lastly how important it is to own the space one chooses to occupy regardless of the odds or naysayers.

Women in Art Panelists

As the panelists amused on their personal artistic differences, they imparted wisdom to the audience that art is a shared experience between an artist and the viewer, sharing the vulnerability inherent in their work. The conversation evolved into a discussion on peace as an artist and peace within oneself, how the feminine touch in their work has often clashed with the masculine view on what art should be. All the panelist expressed how when they added their natural feminine touch to their own art they were met with men in their art field wanting them to “man up” their art. Krudener recalled an art instructor from her alma mater who told her that she needed to roughen her paintings up a bit because they were too pretty because pretty relates to femininity. Obiwole recalled times when receiving feedback from male poets they would request her work to be more aggressive and ferocious. Through their art, these women show that artistic value and expression cannot be labeled with a gender and there is no single masculine or feminine way to create art.

Creating often comes with vulnerability, and the way to counteract your self-doubt as an artist is having inner peace. Ardalan passed along her peace to her dances and encourages them to use it in their dance routines. Krudener mentioned the key to being an artist was, “…you have to have peace with yourself as you create and while creating allow creative vibes to flow…” Bonnie Gregory shared how magical it is when creating something that is not real and presenting it to the physical world. Obiwole expressed her vulnerability sometimes when she creates new work and wonders if her audience will be as touched and moved by her new pieces as they were before with her past work.


The women closed the panel with eloquent last words of what creativity is to them and that everyone is a creator. Krudener preached that creativity is a birthright and it is something we all have and can share with the world. Obiwole shared that art is a trifecta of passion, patience and adapting to the people that “you have to breathe with them” she mentions as she explains that art is a shared experience. Ardalan finished off explaining how art is an extension of life and Gregory ended the panel discussion with the inspirational words “when you choose to occupy a space—own it.”

From DJ Simone Says to the seven amazing artists, it surely was a night of women, art, and curiosity. These women shed their souls on their canvas to start a conversation and a movement for change and inspire art in people.

Photography by Kate Salley

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