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Rising Stars: Meet Amanda Corrales


May 17, 2022

My name is Amanda Corrales, the Founder & President of Avante Garde, a nonprofit whose mission is to build a diverse & inclusive community

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Corrales.  

Hi Amanda, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories. My name is Amanda Corrales, the Founder & President of Avante Garde, a nonprofit whose mission is to build a diverse & inclusive community that gives artists a safe space to cultivate & grow in their artistic journey together. 

I was born, raised, and reside in Denver, Colorado. I accomplished a Bachelor’s degree in Photography from The Art Institute of Colorado. I have worked as a photographer since 2009 and continue my education in art, business, and communication through programs attended at the Art Students League of Denver, General Assembly, & Cornerstone. I also work in the nonprofit sector as an events & communications coordinator at Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit geared toward creating a community for entrepreneurs. 

Through several educational and professional opportunities, I lived overseas from 2014-to 2017. I found myself immersed in a culture of Socialism; experiencing communities nurtured in social responsibility opened my eyes to a construct of society you can only know through experience. Missing my community eventually led me back to my hometown, Denver, Colorado, and I wanted to find a way to contribute to my community. 

When I returned, I found my hometown in a place obstructed by gentrification, politicians selling the city, neighbors experiencing homelessness at a never-before-seen rate, the access to clean food & having the money to do so, to name a few. I felt the overwhelming need to find my contribution. I’m no politician or Bree Davies, the host of City Cast Denver, but I am an artist and have been grounded in the art community since I was a kid in 8th grade, showcasing my pottery at the Denver Public Library. 

In 2020, with the highly publicized protests in the past few years needing Bipoc voices to be louder than before, I felt the importance of an outlet for the representatives of the public- of the people to be heard, invested in, and elevated. Art has a way of wording and voicing the expression of the people, and Denver has always been a place for artists to thrive. Denver has always been a place to live in an area that invests in public art and culture. So why not a business that supports the foundation of public art and the voices of the public? The producers, the creators, the originators, the artists. 

And that’s when it started. How can I do that for Artists? I spent the first year just thinking of how a community of artists can come together and thrive together. I finally sat down with a colleague, Derek Simon, also known as Sky Welkin, by the second year. We had those complex meetings you see in movie montages where there were a lot of ideas on how we can bring about impact in the community that we had to put aside and a lot of ideas that we decided we could unpack. 

It took four months of research, multiple filings, and learning how to file for a 501(c)3 tax exemption to establish Avante Garde on August 4th, 2021, officially, and is on a mission to provide a way to support, elevate and contribute to the artists in our local community. 

Avante Garde has hosted a reoccurring public art event, Undefined: A Projection Art Exhibit, where artists’ work is exhibited on public buildings around downtown Denver in collaboration with Deep Space Drive-In @dsdi_. This show is Free & Open to artists, creators, and originators in the local community. Avante Garde has hosted an episode of its online learning series with Susan Sahab, Operations Associate, Art + Design Research Team, on what collectors are looking for when evaluating artwork. We have also distributed a few givebacks to the community from The Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Symphony, and Blick Art Materials! 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Yes! Absolutely. Any job is always just a position of constant troubleshooting. 

Avante Garde has had many board members come through with contributions but has lost many due to the typical conflicts with volunteering. (Schedule conflicts, personal responsibilities, etc.) We also have had the challenge of learning a lot of nonprofit legalities on the fly! Filing for a tax-exempt status takes many steps and even requires your corporation to have a website before applying. 

We know we will always have challenges along the way and the current team turns challenges into a great way to be inspired and continue to create & build. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?

What has set me apart in the work I do, is the number of experiences I have had. My resume consists of at least 11 different companies with numerous job titles that led me to the nonprofit world, from payroll and human resources, leasing agent, and gym & dance coach. I have accumulated many random skills over the years that allow me to accomplish many aspects of different industries. 

I’m primarily known for my work as a photographer, AJ Corrales, in the art community. Until last year, I was shooting with my Nikon D5000. It was my first professional camera in college, and I used it until this last year when I upgraded to a Nikon D600 Full Frame camera body. I also shoot 35mm and 120 films and have a ton of film cameras from a Minolta, Holga & Diana to a Lomo-instant & Fuji-Instax. I’ve recently experimented with paint, mixed media collages, and freeform ceramics. 

Avante Garde is what I’m most proud of; combining my skills, passions, and community into the work that I get to fall more in love with every day. I am proud of that, and I know I have yet to see the fruition of my labors, leaving me with a passion for a lifetime. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?

I don’t think there’s luck in anything you do. I have had no luck in my life or business. 

I have taken risks and made decisions that have taken me in a direction not many are able/available/ or open to. There are a lot of opportunities I missed because I didn’t know how or didn’t know where they would lead me. I was closed off or unavailable. The ones I didn’t miss- the ones I chose, have brought me here. Not to mention a thirst to see progress in my work. I’ve always had to find my purpose or why when working. The more I observed myself and which parts of my mind would operate at a high level, I began filling those needs- my needs, to get what I wanted to accomplish. 

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