By Jessica Hughes
A Colorado artist finds his second chance THROUGH ART AND IMAGINATION
Inspired by hard times, Colorado artist Rudi Monterroso creates beauty and space for imagination in the whimsical playhouses he designs and builds. Born and raised in Guatemala, Monterroso’s childhood was plagued by civil war and many challenges. To create a feeling of safety amongst the chaos, he built imaginative playhouses with whatever natural materials he found lying around.
“I would start to build shelters, a place to feel safe. A place where I could escape,” Monterroso says. “I would use sticks, wood, grass and whatever I could find to create an imaginative space where I could create stories and games to escape the horrible times in Guatemala.”
Tired of the hard life, Monterroso moved to the U.S. when he was 19 and built a profession as an artist and teacher. He made a name for himself in Denver with his live art demonstrations—painting with his feet while flamenco dancing. But when the pandemic hit, he suddenly found himself let go from his teaching job and all art exhibitions canceled.
At a loss, Monterroso got creative and found a new artistic path, and that’s when the idea for Playhouses Colorado was born. “I decided I wanted to create playhouses like the ones I did as a kid,” he says.
Stepping inside one of Monterroso’s hobbit-like playhouses is like stepping into a dream portal of the imagination. Whimsical in nature, the fantasy-like structures are detailed with natural elements—reminiscent of hobbit homes from which you might expect woodland fairies to fly.
Truly unique to the individual imagination, no two are alike. Monterroso uses mostly repurposed natural materials such as grass, twigs and greenery, along with whatever he finds at this local antique store. ”I like to make each piece as I would build for my own kids,” Monterroso says. “The process typically
starts with something I find at a resale or antique store.”
And because Monterroso is color blind, building these playhouses relies on so much more than just his sight. “My work is about process,” he says. “Understanding my process has allowed me to see things one step at a time.” As a self-taught painter, Monterroso has had to train his brain not to try to figure out the color. “I instead focus on the values versus the color of the paints. I mix colors until they have the same values.”
Monterroso has built nearly 90 playhouses since starting his business a few years ago and has no plans of slowing down. Commissions are customizable to each client’s needs and wants. The structures take about two to three weeks to build, then Monterroso delivers them.
“My hope is to give kids and their families a place where they can come together and create memories for themselves,” says Monterroso. “It’s about capturing the spirit of imagination and creativity.”