Heading Westward

Michelle Courier Found a Dream Location for Her Gallery After Stumbling Upon Denver’s Tennyson Neighborhood Six Years Ago

Born from a family of artists, Michelle Courier is a creator at heart inspired by the landscape and people around her. Born and raised in Michigan, her acrylic paintings landed in their first gallery when she was 19, and by 21 she had her first one-woman show.

“I just kept trying to get in galleries. My goal was to get out west my whole life,” Michelle says. “I always felt at home in the west, so I concentrated on galleries out west.”

This desire to move somewhere that felt more like home led Michelle to take a leap of faith. When her last child moved away from home, she went on a 12-week journey, with the universe as her guide, to find a new place to put down roots.

Michelle set out to live in Tahoe but came to visit Denver a month before her move. While walking down Tennyson Street with her daughter, she felt another calling to open a gallery along this eclectic, artistic street.

“I peered through the windows, and I could see a vision of what my gallery looks like right now,” Michelle says. “And I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s my gallery.’ I don’t know why I said that. I didn't plan on opening a gallery; I didn't know anything about it.”

At the time, there was no number to call or information available about the building, so Michelle tucked the memory away as a cool thought, went home to Michigan, packed her bags and flew to Tahoe to find a place to live.

As she prepared to sign a lease in Tahoe, her daughter sent her a “for rent” sign for the building at 4400 Tennyson St. in Denver—the closed building she felt called to just one month earlier. Sure enough, Michelle let the universe guide her back to Denver where she toured the space and fell in love all over again.

In October of 2016, Michelle began construction on her gallery. Westward Gallery was up and running in eight weeks. “I had no knowledge of running a gallery. I had no business background. I just felt 100 percent sure that I was going to make it and I did,” Michelle says. “My third year in business was during COVID. And I thought, ‘Well, if I make it through this, I'll make it,’ and I did. I had my best year in COVID and I had an even better year in 2021.”

When Michelle began her career as a professional artist, she started by drawing and painting portraits. In the late 90s, she switched to landscapes. “I started to learn that trees were almost like portraits in a landscape sense,” she says. “Pine trees are completely different than Aspen trees—they feel different, they look different, they smell different. And so I started doing these forest paintings that, to me, were portraits of a forest.”

Today, with her roots and gallery firmly planted in Denver, Michelle finds herself working with acrylics to create landscapes inspired by her weekly hikes, portraits of those around her and, occasionally, gummy bears. She also aims to be an inspiration for women of all ages. Michelle, who’s over the age of 50, wants to show women that starting over is not as scary as it seems. “It’s a really fun thing to start over and let all of your past go completely,” she says.

Westward Gallery showcases Michelle’s acrylic paintings and other Colorado artists’ work. Michelle’s work can also be found in 13 galleries in Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Sidebar option:

Westward Gallery hosts an exhibit showcasing work from Colorado artists once a month. Join the gallery every first Friday of the month from 6-9 p.m. October’s exhibit will feature work from Kelsey Courier, Westward Gallery Owner Michelle Courier’s daughter.  

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