Kazillionaire, arts donor and fine-art photographer Laura Merage has gotten a step closer to opening what she calls an "art incubator," dubbed RedLine, by forming a board of directors. The seven-member group includes Merage and two other artists, Lori Bauman and Tom Guiton, and four administrative executives, Sue Renner, Bruce DeBoskey, John Grant and Vicki Aybar Sterling. Grant is the deputy director of Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art and Sterling is the assistant director of the Denver Art Museum, which shows how much clout Merage has.
In pursuit of her dream, Merage bought an old commercial building at 2350 Arapahoe Street (pictured), in a dodgy neighborhood. She told me that when her husband, David, first saw the place, he asked if she was crazy. But Merage turned out to be quite savvy, because the area has been changing for the better over time, and now she aims to become a key part of it.
Last year, she began rehabilitating the building, adding a new interior by Bryan Schmidt of Semple Brown Design. When it's finished, there will be a large exhibition space that will feature international-league talents surrounded by studios with nominal rents. To get one of them, artists will need to be approved by a selection committee. (Applications are at www.redlineart.org.)
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One of the few things that irk me about plans for RedLine is the requirement that artists do community service. It's not that I have anything against the idea of good-deed-doing; it's just that most artists need a day job — the lucky ones teach — to make a living, and they do their work when they can, which doesn't leave much extra time. Plus, I think making art is doing a service. But this provision is extremely important to Merage, who is clearly putting her money where her mouth is, so it doesn't matter what I think.
On balance, RedLine looks to be a great addition to the scene with its promises of cheap work space for artists and first-rate shows for the rest of us.