We had the good fortune of connecting with Diana Merkel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Diana, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
To me, risk exists everywhere. Choosing what to risk is based on so many factors. As artists, perhaps Jeff and I are more comfortable than others in terms of stepping outside the lines, thinking differently, and finding innovative solutions to everyday problems. I believe that we both see challenge as opportunity. That without risk there is less chance for reward.

We have both lived and worked in our warehouse since 2006 in what has now become the RiNo Art District (in Five Points neighborhood). We bought it even though we could barely afford it. We had no idea that the neighborhood would grow up around us like it has, we were simply trying to find a space that met our needs as small business owners and artists. My husband had just lost his lease on Welton Street (where he ran his recording studio) due to redevelopment plans for that block, so we decided to sell his condo in Boulder and go “all in” on a warehouse live/work space on Walnut Street. In hindsight, yeah, it was pretty risky, but I had faith in our abilities to make it work.

As entrepreneurs, Jeff and I both take risks all the time in committing to execution of ideas that haven’t always been tested. To coming up with solutions that don’t always have a proven ROI. We try to challenge notions of “what is” and strive for “what could be”. That might sound risky, but we prefer to call it experimental. It can be stressful and we certainly have our share of failures, but grit and learning from mistakes has helped us grow, evolve, and succeed.

As chair of the BID board of the RiNo Art District, I strive to push the boundaries of what is meant by art and creativity, and to support artists and entrepreneurs that are trying new things. Our No Vacancy program enabled 16 artists and an immersive theater group to test out new ideas in a warehouse that was about to be torn down (@novacancyrino). I suppose it’s risky to create something not knowing how well it will be received, but taking those risks forged new community connections and gave opportunities to so many people, it felt well worth it.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My work has been described as “no idea is off the table”. From a creative perspective, that is the ultimate compliment to me. I love thinking through every creative challenge in deep collaboration with a client – whether it is brand development, a mural installation, or curating artists for an immersive experience. Uncovering the true purpose of a project, being flexible in thinking through solutions, and delivering successfully is what makes every day great. My work and personal life is so intertwined that I don’t really know or care where one ends and another begins, especially when I’m working on highly experimental projects.

So many lessons I’ve learned along the way:

Don’t force it. If a client relationship is meant to be, it’s meant to be. I base everything I do on my ability to connect with a client and our ability to elevate ideas together. Let something go if it’s not working.

A client can be a friend. If you truly care about who you work with, and they care about you, it can have such a deep impact on your life and the work that you do together.

Do what you’re good at, and what you love. I have tried and failed with different iterations of my company’s structure, and it turns out that I love working directly with clients and keeping things small – currently, a few subcontractors support my work and that enables me to be flexible in the projects that I take on.

Always keep learning. I am not a great book learner, but I learn from experience, and will never turn down an opportunity to try something new or chat about a new idea.

Be prepared. The more you can think ahead, the better you can lead.

Document your work. I’m working on this – it’s hard to keep up!

I’d love the world to know that I believe that doing work that supports your values, with people you respect, doesn’t feel like work at all. That the power of creativity can change our community, and our world, if we are open to new ideas.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We’d bike and walk everywhere, especially around my neighborhood for a mural tour, and a stop to check out the Art Park. I’d probably also suggest some pinball at 1-Up, dancing at The Beacon or Reelworks, and late night Happy Hour at Cart Driver. Wednesday comedy at Ratio Beerworks is always a blast too. If we had time for a hike, I’d take them to Golden Gate Canyon or Red Rocks. If we had time to camp and the weather was right, I’d head out past Kenosha Pass for some dispersed camping. And of course, we’d spend like 7 hours at Meow Wolf.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Definitely the RiNo Art District. They are such a kind, compassionate, mission-driven group that shares so many of the same values that I do, it has made my creative and community life so much fuller the past few years that I have worked with them. And of course, my husband Jeff, who supports and collaborates with me on so many fun ideas.

Website: ps.design

Instagram: @psdotdesign

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-merkel-83b4325/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/psdotdesign

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/psdotdesign

Image Credits
Susan Solinski

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