We had the good fortune of connecting with Tim Vacca and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tim, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
During my undergrad I started with an undeclared major. At that time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, professionally. After a lot of soul searching, I decided that I wanted to pursue a creative path, since I had a huge passion for the arts. I declared a fine arts major and focused on photography and digital art.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started working at the Museum of Outdoor Arts (MOA) when I was an undergrad at the age of 19. It began as a summer job, assisting artists in the studios. It was a dream job at that age and it has evolved so much since. Now, nearly 20 years and a master’s degree later, I am the director of programs at MOA. I oversee education programs, exhibitions, communications and more. Since it is a small organization, we all wear many hats. I also do some grant writing, IT support and a whole laundry list of other things. Something I love about this type of work is that every day is a little different. A typical day might include updating our website, designing an event poster or other graphic work, posting to social media, troubleshooting our internal network, meeting with an artist, doing an ad buy with a local newspaper, installing art for an exhibition and more. Sometimes, it feels like a lot, but I really do like the variety.
Last year I was able to work on one of the biggest exhibitions of my career at the Museum of Outdoor Arts (at our indoor galleries). It was a Robert Rauschenberg exhibition that featured over 50 artworks by the late, renown artist. (If you don’t know his work, google him. You will be amazed at all that he accomplished in his 60+ year art career).
This year, we are focusing more on the “outdoor” in our name and just opened our newly renovated sculpture park called Marjorie Park. The park is located at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in Greenwood Village and is designed with an English garden aesthetic. It contains a life-size bronze series of “Alice in Wonderland” and is such a magical place. The park features a variety of concerts, fitness series, events and other arts happenings and we will begin a membership program soon.
Furthermore, I run one of the museum’s key education programs called “Design and Build.” This program brings undergraduate level artists together to collaboratively create an outdoor, temporary artwork for public spaces or a body of work for our indoor galleries. The program also has a national design competition and engages college students in creating design solutions for a challenge or theme that we provide every year. I love this program and staying connected to early career artists.
One thing I have learned over the years is that I prefer to work in a small organization over a large one. I shifted gears in 2013 and landed at the Denver International Airport art program, where I curated temporary exhibitions across the airport. While I enjoyed the work I was doing, it was missing that small organization feel. In a large organization, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. One of my good friends, Cory Gilstrap (an amazing puppet maker, artist and educator) once told me that “it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond.” I never really thought much about it until I went into a “big pond.” I love my MOA family and all that we have accomplished together. I landed back at MOA after a 15-month stint at the airport.
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.
Denver is such a great city to live in! I am a native to Colorado and grew up in Littleton. I now live in Lowry with my husband, Kelley and our adopted poodle, Millie. There is so much to do here and I love the cultural scene.
If I had a friend visit for a week, here is what I would do:
Day 1- After picking up my friend at the airport, we would head toward Lowry and enjoy breakfast at the Denver Biscuit Company at the Stanley Market. This is such a fun place to visit. The building is adaptive reuse and so creatively done. We would poke around the cool shops before heading out.
Day 2- Grab a margarita and some tacos at a local spot like Cochino Taco on Broadway in Denver. After that, we could walk it all off in the Baker neighborhood and visit some of the cool hiptster vintage and antique shops.
Day 3- Tour the Denver Botanic Gardens just before sunset. They have such beautiful gardens and I love the temporary art exhibitions that they install throughout the landscape. There’s a great local dinner spot called Shells and Sauce near the gardens. They have awesome martinis and amazing Italian cuisine!
Day 4- Take an overnight trip to Boulder. We would grab a room at the St. Julian Hotel and get settled. I would show my guest around the CU campus, which I attended for my undergrad then hit up “The Sink” on the Hill near campus for a beer and burger. This place is a classic! Pearl Street Mall is a great place to check out shops and the local scene. There are also amazing trails to hike all around Boulder. One of the best restaurants in Colorado is Frasca. Some call it “the French Laundry of Colorado.” This Michelin star restaurant has amazing wine, spectacular food and unparalleled service. We would have to eat dinner at the chef’s table in the kitchen. It’s so much fun to see the kitchen in action. Master Sommelier and proprietor, Bobby Stuckey is a star! I always love having conversations with him.
Day 5- Go see a concert! Of course, I would have to take them to Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre. My employer, the Museum of Outdoor Arts, owns the venue and I know it inside and out. It’s such a fantastic venue. We have a brand new sculpture park, Marjorie Park that just opened, located at Fiddler’s Green. It includes over 40 pieces of art throughout the property. It really is a gem!
Day 6- Brunch at Sunday Vinyl near Union Station. This place is also run by Bobby Stuckey. We would also have to attend a Wonderbound performance. Wonderbound is my favorite dance company in town. They are so innovative and inspiring!
Day 7- We would have to get up to the mountains at some point. I love to drive up through the Evergreen and Conifer area. I lived there as a small child before moving to the city. It’s not too far from Denver and it’s a great escape from the summer heat of the city. There are a lot of trails to hike, but I also like to play golf near Evergreen Lake. It’s very picturesque.
Wow, I would be exhausted after that week, but there is still so much more that I could do!
I enjoy visiting some of our small museums, like the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, Clyfford Still Museum, MCA Denver. We are also season ticket holders to the Denver Center for Performing Arts and enjoy many of the musicals that come through Denver.
The food in Denver is also amazing! I love to try new places, but am happy to go to our favorite “hole in the wall” as well.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people that I can thank for helping me get to where I am today. Of course, my friends and family are instrumental in this effort. There is one special person that I think of when I look back on my journey to a creative career. My high school photography teacher, Mrs. H (Barbara Hirokawa Gal). When I enrolled in her photo 1 class as a sophomore in high school, I did not know much about art. After that first class I was completely hooked. I took photo for the remainder of my high school days and pursued it in college. Mrs. H pushed me to continue on with the practice and constantly encouraged me. I still visit with her frequently and enjoy a lifelong connection with her.
Besides that, I would be remise if I didn’t mention my director at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, Cynthia Madden Leitner. Cynthia has given me an amazing education over my years of working with her and MOA. She has taught me so much about the art world, curation, aesthetics, relationships and more. Without her support and mentorship, I would not have been able to grow to what I am today as a creative professional.