Todd Duane Miller Bio
Todd Duane Miller fell in love with the Visual Arts by skipping school to go to the St Louis Art Museums, since his youth he’s never lost this temperament to test the boundaries and do what he feels he should regardless. He studied Commercial Photography in Southern Nevada and knew after working in advertising and commercial work for 10 years that he needed to push for photography to be seen as ART again as it once was, not just pushing a button and adding a filter. He is rediscovering the original processes of wet-plate photography and Instant film processes. Todd’s digital photography work is only the basis for the final outcome of his art pieces, as most of his works integrate wood, metal, acrylic and found objects and materials. Unable to stay stagnant in one medium, place or perspective has driven him to constantly push himself to try more, travel often, do more, go bigger.
Todd has opened his own Art space in Denver to allow for other up and coming artists to push themselves and show their work as well and he believes in the power of shared knowledge and collaboration. Todd doesn’t believe in doing safe art, he looks to challenge social norms, sexuality, fads, and conventionality in the art world.
You probably haven’t heard of 701 Gallery yet, and you definitely haven’t met two people who have sacrificed more to make sure that artists with no support structure, financial backers or a name that anyone has ever heard of has a space to show their work and the potential to launch their artistic careers.
How do two people from an extremely underdeveloped portion of Middle America in a fly-over-state, with very little exposure to the fine art world or any connection to the culture class of the social elite, and with no money or investors start an Art Gallery in the heart of Denver’s thriving Art Scene and build an incredible base of young talent, that is just bursting at the seams to be known and on their way to artistic fame? Well, it wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight, but Todd Duane Miller and Ramona Burns have been pushing for this dream of theirs for the past 8 years.
A bleak area of Southern Illinois is where Todd and Ramona call home. They both grew up there with pretty different backgrounds, but their environment and experiences of the culture that surrounded them were the same. This area was an art-desert, and lacked direct access to art galleries or access to art-education, and the nearest venues for the arts required substantial travel time. The area basically consisted of a thriving Walmart, and plentiful car lots selling the best mid-level minivans and SUV’s on the market. Success in this town is measured by the truck you own and how many times you can go out to eat at Applebee’s per week. Most people in this town work at the local brass mill or oil refineries, and most women while they look forward to the day they get married and can start their families are often surprised to find this happens to them far earlier than they had anticipated and become stuck in a situation that doesn’t allow for them to reach their youthful goals or ambitions. This story is probably a familiar story for many Americans, and it’s not that this is a rags to riches story at all, but a story of not living up to what your socioeconomic status has mapped out for you and not giving up on a passion no matter the risk or what’s at stake.
Exposure to the artworld for Todd came from skipping school to drive to St Louis to visit the Art Museums. When his Dad passed away at a young age he inherited his dad’s camera and soon after this would take Todd into a journey of artistic expression for him personally and professionally. Ramona was always interested in the Arts and managed to escape the stronghold of her surroundings and studied Fine Art and Interior Design in Chicago and is a now a professional Designer.
This pair although both working in a creative profession; Photography and Interior Design, wanted to expose more people like them to the arts; people with very little exposure to the arts, a blue-collar upbringing, and people who are often intimidated by Fine Art or visiting a Gallery due to the stigma of not understanding the art or not having the bank roll to be a collector. Todd and Ramona started collecting Art while traveling in order to directly support the people in the cities they were visiting and have a very special momento of their trips. This was not expensive art, in fact the first piece they bought directly from an artist was $20. They wanted to bring this mind-set to everyone that ever felt this way about art and they combined their passions for the Art world while living in Las Vegas and began several self-funded projects supporting local artists during their time there. From pop-up street art and graffiti artist mural projects in their own backyard, to coordinating collaborative group art installations, to charity art auctions, and volunteering for youth art groups sharing supplies and knowledge.
They decided after 13 years of living in Las Vegas, that they needed to find a brick and mortar space for helping up-and-coming, unknown artists and find a way to support these artists dreams not just with often promised exposure, but with the potential to sell their work and make money so they can keep making their art. So in 2015 they found a perfect spot in the well-known Santa Fe Arts District of Denver, CO and began pushing as hard as they could to achieve this goal.
Since then, 701 Gallery was formed, and a community of Artists began to call this space their own when the gallery started opening its doors every Thursday night for an Art Night. A night when any artist of any medium and any skill level can come work on their projects, share ideas, learn from each other and form very special connections to each other and support one another. No pressure, no expectations, no cliques and no judgements. This night has not only brought 701 Gallery it’s resident artists that show on a consistent basis, but also given these artists a safe place to work out ideas and concepts with constructive feedback from their peers. Uplifting and encouraging each other and teaming up and collaborating versus competing or forming jealousy.
With 3 years of programming under their belts, Todd and Ramona scraped every penny together they had last year; emptied bank and retirement accounts and took 701 Gallery and it’s artists on the road to LA, and showed 6 local artists within the Juxtapoz partnered Littletopia section of the LA Art Show in 2018. This experience and acceptance from the Littletopia jury was affirmation that the artists they are showing hold up in every aspect to the talent that has been deemed by the art elite as contemporary and viable.
This year, 701 Gallery has a full program of artists that you don’t know, but should. And they will continue to push for artists with avant-garde styles and processes, and art that isn’t safe, that makes you uncomfortable, and makes you think. Pricing the artwork they show to be affordable to anyone, from $10 prints, to $50 original paintings, $1000 mixed media pieces and priceless installations that can only be experienced, 701 Gallery wants this space to be a go-to for anyone that has ever thought about owning original art. And their goals for 2020 are to get back to LA with even more local Artists and get their work seen in markets that they would not otherwise have the exposure. 701 Gallery also does not believe in the pay-to-play model that many Galleries run. They don’t charge artists rent to show on their walls, and they don’t charge artists fees to apply for a showcase of their work. They believe charging artists to show their work limits the artists that can show to only those that have extra money to do so, therefor collectors and viewers have only a limited scope of the working artists in their cities.