An a-mazing art exhbit

Local maze artist spotlighted at Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado art exhibit

Christy Steadman
csteadman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/29/22

Freedom. Gratification. Expression. This what local artist Warren Stokes gets from creating his maze art.

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An a-mazing art exhbit

Local maze artist spotlighted at Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado art exhibit

Posted

Freedom. Gratification. Expression.

This what local artist Warren Stokes gets from creating his maze art.

“In everything I’ve tried, I’ve never gotten such a positive response as with my art,” Stokes said.

Stokes, a self-proclaimed mazeologist, has drawn roughly 2,000 artistic mazes. Each is unique and they vary in size — often, Stokes will create them on discarded materials, such as a broken-up dresser drawer or shelf. Though intricate and detailed, each work of art is a solvable maze.

Stokes has always had an interest in art, and started creating his maze art in 2008.

“Art is a way to save me,” Stokes said.

Stokes’ art is available through various organic platforms — particularly word-of-mouth or reaching him through social media — but it has been a number of years since it has been available on consignment.

This is because his first experience consigning was negative, Stokes said. About five or six years ago, Stokes had a deal with a furniture retailer to sell his work. But the art was only available to the public for a short while before the Colorado Department of Revenue seized the property — including Stokes’ artwork inside — because the businessowner did not pay taxes, Stokes said. Eventually, the businessowner “did the right thing” and purchased Stokes’ work through auction and returned it, Stokes said.

But “I gave up on showing my art after that,” Stokes said.

That is, until last fall when a then-neighbor reached out to him and expressed interest in his work.

Kate Barrett, projects manager for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, thought Stokes’ work would be a good fit for the organization’s monthly rotating art display.

As neighbors, the two got to talking and Stokes invited Barrett into his home to view his art. That’s when Barrett asked if Stokes would be interested in being August 2022’s featured artist at the VOC, which is located within Washington Park.

“He’s a passionate and involved member of the community,” Barrett said. And “the VOC is not just a steward of the land, we’re also stewards of relationships and community.”

Stokes is a Colorado Springs native and has lived in Denver since 1997. A current resident of the Virginia Village neighborhood, he and Barrett got acquainted when he was living in the Washington Park neighborhood.

The VOC is an outdoor stewardship nonprofit that was founded in 1984. Each year, the VOC engages with thousands of people who volunteer their time to the outdoors, so it’s common for people to see VOC volunteers out on the trails and in the parks, caring for Colorado’s natural resources, Barrett said. But the art exhibits offer a different kind facet for the VOC to operate in the community, Barrett added.

They “cultivate a passion for natural art,” said Abby Hanson, the VOC’s administrative assistant.

VOC’s monthly art exhibit program offers local artists a space to display and consign their work with no overhead. It is free for artists to participate, and for every sale, the artist keeps 75% with the other 25% going to the VOC.

“It’s a mutually beneficial program,” Hanson said. “The art (is displayed) in an accessible space — we’re on public land, so the public is already here.”

Those who come for the art are introduced to the VOC and its mission, and those who are already familiar with the VOC have the opportunity to be exposed to nature-inspired art by a different Colorado-based artist each month, Hanson said.

And the exhibits provide VOC with an opportunity to learn about people’s vision of the state, Barrett added.

Stokes’ “mazes are an interesting commentary on nature,” Hanson said, “because they illustrate how everything is connected.”

He is inspired by animals, nature, parks and shapes, as well as “being Black in America,” Stokes said.

As an example for the latter, Stokes mentioned being called the N-word.

“Instead of choosing a fight with the person,” he said, “I’ll go home and draw.”

Stokes calls it “mazing it out,” because mazes always have a solution.

“I can’t solve hunger. I can’t solve homelessness. And I can’t solve racial inequities,” Stokes said. “But I can draw a maze, and it will have a solution.”

Stokes is looking forward to the consigning opportunity with VOC. Something he hopes to gain from the experience is the courage to keep going as an exhibition artist.

Something he likes to keep in mind is a quote, for which the attribution is unknown: “Don’t fear your future when your purpose is present.”

Warren Stokes, maze art, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

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