Mirada Fine Art Gallery is an Art-Felt Mission

By Amanda Bonner

The award-winning Mirada Fine Art Gallery is well worth a trip to the foothills.

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Courtesy Mirada Fine Art Gallery

You don’t have to go to New York to visit a nationally ranked art gallery. Mirada Fine Art has consistently been named one of the top 25 art galleries in the nation by American Art Awards. The Indian Hills gallery (only minutes from Red Rocks Amphitheatre) shows around 30 artists at any given time, predominantly painters and sculptors, from all over the world. Most of the artists at Mirada—who include Australian-born painter Danielle Hatherley, encaustic artist Gabriela Aguilo Firehammer and sculptor Jill Shwaiko—are exclusive to Mirada for the state of Colorado. “We’re a destination gallery,” says owner Steve Sonnen, “so we want to make sure that when people come here, we have art they’re not going to find in other galleries in Denver. We’re totally off the beaten path, so most of our clients come here because they know we’re here. Sometimes people will walk in assuming we’ll have carved chainsaw animals or ‘wipe your paws’ bears, and they’re really shocked.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

How did you choose such an out-of-the-way location for a gallery?
“We were actually getting close to signing a lease in LoDo, and I happened to drive by this place in Indian Hills and fell in love with it. It reminded me a little bit of Santa Fe galleries, where an old historic building holds contemporary art. This building is about 100 years old; it used to be called The Trading Post, and it was sort of a general store and sales office when Indian Hills was being developed. It’s worked out great for us; it’s a little getaway for clients, a way for them to immerse themselves in art. And it’s a great place for events; for example, on Valentine’s Day, we bring up a top chef from Denver to do a long, romantic night here.”

How do you pick the art you show?
“To be perfectly honest, a lot of it is gut feel. We often go out to clients’ houses, and many of them, especially mountain homes, have a lot of neutral colors, so clients are really looking for something to pop. Many of the homes have amazing views of the mountains, so the owners want something complementary to that. Our niche is contemporary and what we like to call ‘livable.’ I like seeing edgy stuff in other galleries, but I don’t know if I’d want to live with some of those pieces in my own house.

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Art for art’s sake The gallery, which is housed in a historic building, features such pieces as “Freedom/Stars & Stripes”, by Cynthia Chartier. Courtesy Mirada Fine Art Gallery

What makes a piece “livable”?
“I always ask: Does it speak to you? Does it tell a calming story? We all have such crazy lives now, a lot of people are looking for something poetic. Even this piece [a colorful painting of a dog by artist Jeanne Bessette] brings something to your heart. Jeanne always throws in subtle things like peace symbols and these fun, happy messages, and a lot of good karma comes with them.”

Do you like every piece you show?
“I really do, because if I don’t like a piece, I’m not the type of person who can really gush about it. And a lot of the artists, to be honest, have become friends over the years. One thing that makes Mirada unique is the friendly atmosphere we create. Part of this is because it’s a real family business.”

What are your clients like?
“We get the young couple who are buying their first original piece of art, and they’ve been saving and want to start a collection. They are always really excited, and those are the most fun. We have some people who have been collecting forever and they’re looking for something unique. And we get some people who are working with designers. I try not to steer people, but I usually have a good sense for how some- thing is going to look in a room—sometimes clients will send me a photo of a wall and I’ll Photoshop in different pieces of art.”

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“Circular Force”, by Jan Fordyce Courtesy Mirada Fine Art Gallery

Should clients look for art that’s an investment?
“I get the question all the time, ‘Which artist is most likely to appreciate?’ But it’s really a crapshoot, unless you’re looking at Picassos or artists like that. I tell clients to just get something they really love.”

Are you and your wife, Jenni, art gallery lovers yourselves?
“Yes. Whenever we travel, we go to art galleries, and sometimes we find artists there that we want to represent. We’re always keeping our eyes open. And I do a road trip once or twice a year with a big trailer to go visit our artists, see how things are going and pick up new art.”

What’s it like getting to be surrounded by beautiful art every day?
“It’s awesome. I lived in the corporate world for a long time, and this environment is so much better. In fact, sometimes I’m bummed out if we get in a brand-new piece I absolutely love and it sells right away. I’m like, ‘Dammit, I really liked that piece!’Sometimes, when it’s snowing outside, and I’m sitting by the fireplace with my dog, Charli, and the art, I say to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, life’s pretty good.’”