Rockin' to the Core

As any artist will tell you, cooperative galleries can be flighty endeavors, easily ravaged by lack of organization and/or funds, in no particular order. So it's encouraging to note that Core New Art Space, one of Denver's most enduring co-ops, has managed to remain intact since it debuted with four members in an upper 15th Street storefront in 1981. Subsequent moves to Larimer and Wazee street locations ensued, but Core held its ground as an egalitarian art space perhaps best known for its annual Wide Open Whatever shows providing anyone and everyone with a venue for their work.

Now Core is on the move again. Current member and spokeswoman Linda Pickrell says Core was simply priced out of its most recent location at 14th and Wazee, precipitating yet another move--this time back to Larimer Street, in the re-emerging Ballpark/LoDo neighborhood.

To raise funds for the move, which has required a number of renovations to the new building, Core artists offered to create one-of-a-kind personalized ceramic tiles in return for donations; finished tiles will decorate the new Core's entrance when the gallery reopens this weekend, in spite of incipient woes. But that project only begins to cover costs. "We're excited, but it's a lot more expensive than we thought," Pickrell says, noting that a pipe burst in the building during the recent cold snap, setting back the restoration timetable. "We're frantically trying to get things prettied up in time."

Still, no move can occur without some amount of shaking, rattling and rolling--which may be why members of the Elvis Connection, a local nonprofit Elvis fan club that stages charity fundraisers, decided to go to bat for the struggling artists of Core. While a standard reception officially opens the new venue Friday night, things truly break loose on Saturday, when an assortment of metro-area Elvis impersonators--ranging from consummate show-woman Lori Marie Muha (better known as Shelvis) to thirteen-year-old Luke McAlpine, an anomaly of a kid whose mom says he "just does his own thing"--swivel and jive into the gallery for a bang-up benefit party.

Core first caught the club's eye in recent years, when the co-op sponsored an Elvis mail-art show. Now the Elvis Connection is offering an evening of appreciative payback. And, they say, the King himself would surely approve: If Elvis could rise up out of Tupelo, Mississippi, and take over the world, unsung and starving artists should have a chance to do the same.

In that spirit, Muha, a sort of reverse female impersonator who does Elvis as part of an act that includes John Travolta, Tom Jones and other pop-culture heartthrobs, calls Presley an inspirational figure. "Here's a young man who had nothing, and he became the greatest entertainer in the world," she says. But Muha doesn't take the name of Elvis in vain: "Some people sleep, eat and drink Elvis. I don't. I just respect him as an artist." Art C., a veteran of the local heavy-metal club circuit who now dresses up for the stage in spangles and blue suede shoes, concurs. "I've always just loved him, that's the main thing," he says. But maybe there is a bit of a thrill involved in impersonating a legend: "When you go on stage in a band, you're just a band. When you go out as Elvis, you're like an instant star--people either love ya or they hate ya."

How does Art C. feel about donning the royal persona to do a benefit for a gallery? Pretty darn good. "He was an artist himself," he says of Elvis. "I guess he would think it's a pretty good cause."


Old & New Work, January 8-24, Core New Art Space, 2045 Larimer Street, 303-297-8429. Grand-opening reception January 8, 6 p.m.-midnight. Elvis Birthday Party & Benefit Show, 7 p.m. January 9, $5-$11.


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