credit: Courtesy Photos of Come To Life

The Phil Lewis Art Gallery on 20th and Pearl St in downtown Boulder, Colorado is 400 feet from my apartment according to Google Maps. I walk by it everyday. If in a rush, I force a detour. Phil’s blended ink and digital designs is the type of eye-trickery that inflicts disbelief inflicts a closer look inflicts a how long have I been standing here?

A long thought out estimation of the amount of time I’ve stood outside the Phil Lewis Art Gallery would either be a gross underestimation or a gross overestimation. I just don’t know.

The event Phil opened his studio doors to last night was one that disbelief can confidently be characterized a gross underestimation. It’s a daunting task to try to find words for the 3 hours I spent inside Phil’s gallery last night.

I’m eager to try.

Guayakí Herba Mate facilitated the community gathering of intimacy threaded by an aspiration for social justice. Guayaki was less the host than it was the assembler. With this the kick-off to the Come to Life: Colorado Tour, Caring 4 Denver, Rising Appalachia, and Open Door Tea Shop reunited for the mission that unites them.

Guayakí’s fair trade, farm to table, beyond organic yerba mate is indigenous to South America, where mate is a symbol of friendship, of connection, of bringing people together. Guayakí’s internationally enjoyed bottled and canned teas are less a product than a vehicle fueling change. Planted at its inception 23 years ago, Guayakí is only in the infancy of a plan for regeneration, connection, and community. It starts in Colorado but ends far and wide.

“We are working to make Guayakí the brand that’s synonymous with social and environmental activism – one of the companies that people think about when they think about doing capitalism the right way. That ethos has been around for two decades, but it’s only been in the last few years where we’ve had the resources to really start moving the needle,” Reuben Sadowsky, the event’s orchestrator, said.

Those resources have put Guayakí at the fore of the anti-recidivism movement. Along with a self-distribution system powered by the largest fleet of fossil fuel free electric cars, roughly 75 percent of Guayakí employees are system affected individuals. The Come to Life Tour is an initiative to bring awareness to recidivism and regeneration.

Gigi Douglas heads the Guayakí team in Boulder and spoke to the company’s goal with this month-long tour, “These system affected individuals are part of our communities and they aren’t receiving the proper resources or opportunities once out of prison to become successful members of society. We want to change that and bring awareness to it.”

It is that initiative that brought Guayakí and Caring 4 Denver together, whose ballot initiative seeks to pass the most progressive mental health Bill in the country. If passed, an annual 45 million dollars will fund programs and services for mental health services and treatment, reducing homelessness, improving long-term recovery, and reducing the use of jails and emergency rooms.

Reuben attributed that relationship in large part to Kristin Cardenas, owner of Open Door Tea Shop, located in the heart of Cole in Denver. Cardenas and Open Door employ and mentor system affected individuals. Artwork sold in her facility is created by inmates and reintegrating adults with proceeds going towards families left behind by incarceration.

Last night’s gathering at The Phil Lewis Art Gallery featured discussion on resiliency and regeneration amongst a variety of experts in our beloved Rocky Mountain community. The night inspired and built awareness around how we can play our part to regenerate the Colorado community. Phil Lewis offered his space to start the conversation,

“Even though this is an art gallery, it’s also a container. There’s so many people that are doing such amazing things in Boulder – artists, musicians, activists – and there isn’t really a venue to provide a home for that community. This is a place where we can all come together and meet each other and share ideas and really feel that sense of community.”

The month-long event series “Come To Life: Colorado” features concerts, farm to table feasts, gatherings all to connect via art and music, late night dance parties, and action days, teaming up with nonprofits to bring awareness to the importance of regenerating communities. You can learn more about the events happening and how to get behind the movement at the Come to Life Instagram page.

Courtesy Photos of Come To Life

Billy Oppenheimer, born and raised in Philadelphia, attended Lehigh University where he studied English and Economics and played Division 1 lacrosse. After graduation, a realization that he hadn’t ventured far from home and the comfort of friends of family sparked a quest for adventure. He spent six months playing and coaching lacrosse in Perth, Western Australia before a month-long van excursion along Australia’s East Coast. An unrelenting itch to ski impelled him back to his homeland and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The itch became a bug prompting him to chase winter to New Zealand then back to Colorado. Nomadic wanderings sated, he landed in Boulder in August 2018 eager to immerse in a community passionate about a healthy lifestyle amid the great outdoors. Billy is particularly interested in creative writing; he is passionate about learning and enjoys challenging and exploring abstract ideas. Learn more about Billy at his personal blog,, and email him at to be featured or recommend someone for “Faces of Boulder”.