While artists continue to complain that Denver is not encouraging the creative class to stay here, pointing to the six months (and counting) it's taken to put together a planning policy to accommodate DIY spaces, Lakewood is on the move. Colorado’s fifth-largest city has been making some big deals lately, snagging arts venues from the much bigger metropolis to the east. That’s pretty good for a place whose most renowned cultural landmarks were once the horse outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner and Casa Bonita, that Pepto-Bismol-pink palace.
A few years ago, when then-Lakewood city councilman Adam Paul was contemplating a run for mayor, he vowed to celebrate what made the city creative. Today, Paul is the mayor of Lakewood. “It’s coming along,” he says. “It’s really cool.” And it's getting cooler: After leaving the Navajo Street Art District, Next Gallery, an artist cooperative, reopened in late April at 6851 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. Pirate: Contemporary Art isn’t far behind; it closed its last show on Navajo in May and will reopen at 7130 West 16th Avenue this summer.
Lakewood’s most recent score? Reed Photo, the fine-art printing enterprise that lost all twenty parking places outside its office at 888 Federal Boulevard to the City of Denver's project to widen and update Federal Boulevard. Finding Denver officials less than sympathetic to his plight, owner Bob Reed decided to move rather than force customers to try to find parking elsewhere in the neighborhood. “These customers are picking up forty-inch by sixty-inch prints; some are mounted, so they’re four by ten feet,” says Reed. “Give me a break.”
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He found one in Lakewood. Reed attended a meeting where he heard Paul talk about how important the arts were to the town, and talked about his situation with Bill Marino, executive director of the Lakewood-West Colfax BID, which helped put 40 West Arts on the map. “They were addressing a lot of the issues,” he recalls. “We’re excited. They’re rolling out the red carpet.” And so in the next couple of months, Reed Photo will move into an old theater at 8000 West Colfax, most recently a Harley-Davidson dealership; the company has bought the building across the street, too, where it hopes to house artistically minded tenants.
Reed has moved before, from the Art District on Santa Fe; during the economic downturn, he sold his space at 833 Santa Fe Drive to photographer John Fielder, who’d been running a gallery there. “At the time, there were maybe 24 galleries there,” Reed recalls. “Now there’s close to a hundred. It’s amazing.” But even a big name like Fielder can find running a gallery in Denver challenging; John Fielder's Colorado hosted a closing party at the June 2 First Friday.
Meanwhile, Lakewood is in the midst of hosting Inspire, an arts celebration that runs through June 11. And the city's mayor is not only touting the city’s creativity, but he’s gotten pretty creative with his own promises for Lakewood. “I pledged in my State of the City that I’d do a cannonball off the cliff at Casa Bonita,” he reports. All for charity, of course. But is it too much to ask that a Pirate ship be lurking in the lagoon below?