Art News

While Next Cleans Up, the Colfax Museum Clears Out

Jonny Barber and friend amid the flood flotsam and jetsam.
Jonny Barber and friend amid the flood flotsam and jetsam. Jonny Barber
A new mountain has appeared in Lakewood: Mount Colfax. "Want to scale the latest fourteener?" asks Jonny Barber. "It won't be there forever."

That's because Mount Colfax is a mound of ruined pieces from the collection of the Colfax Museum, which until recently was being set up in an old pawn shop at 6851 West Colfax Avenue. But just shy of a year in that space after moving over from East Colfax, Barber decided to take his show on the road, again, stashing much of his stuff in a storage space at the end of the building, now transformed into Pasternack's Art Hub, until he could make a move.

Then a flood moved it for him. When the skies opened on July 20, water rushed into the Art Hub, pouring through Next Gallery, which had relocated to the 40 West Arts District from the now-defunct Navajo Street Art District two years ago, and into Barber's storage area. The flood reached waist-high, and while much of Next's art was just out of reach on the walls, Barber's boxes were stacked on the floor. Most of their contents were destroyed, and are now part of Mount Colfax.

Some things did survive, though. The big, heavy signs of old Colfax businesses — Sid King's, the Stonewall Motel. The World War II bomber made of beer cans from the Hangar Bar. And the light fixture from Smiley's Laundromat, "which you could use as a boat anchor and it would make it," says Barber. But you can see water lines on the furniture and organs from Music City, and it's lights out for the Pam Grier movie poster.

Fortunately, the signed photo of Grier (a graduate of East High School) survived, because it was out on loan to Denver International Airport, which is displaying Colfax Avenue: The Longest Continuous Street in the USA through the end of the month. That display includes other pieces from the Colfax Museum, so they're safe, too, as are the photos and archives stored off-site.
But the Colfax Museum collection definitely took a major hit, as Barber documented in the above video, and it has him thinking about looking into a different model, one where he doesn't have to pay to keep the museum manned, one where he's not the only one on the hook for the cost of restoring a neon sign...or dealing with a flood. "I'm not going to be able to pull off a third museum incarnation on my own," he says. "It would be so much simpler if someone else started a Colfax Museum."

Then he reconsiders. "I'm in too much shock to make an accurate statement on my emotional state," he admits. "It would be like handing my child and a briefcase full of hundreds to someone."

And so he keeps picking through the trash of Mount Colfax, thinking about the "crazy ride" he's had so far, pondering his next step and where the museum might go. "You want to do Colfax justice," he says. "I want to get this right. And it has to be right, because people won't be satisfied with less."
click to enlarge The scene at Next Gallery on July 20. - NEXT GALLERY
The scene at Next Gallery on July 20.
Next Gallery
While Barber was tossing, Next was mopping. Although the gallery is usually open on Sundays, it was closed the day after the flood, but reopened on Friday, July 26.  Next's Facebook page notes that "the city of Lakewood is working on a mitigation plan. Our landlord is doing the best he can to help us. 40 West is our biggest supporter. We are all in this together."

This was the second flood in as many weeks, however, and was far worse than the first.

"It was an unbelievable storm," says Bill Marino, board chair for 40 West. "We had water in the 40 West Studios building (Reed Street) and flooding at Gallery of Everything/Red Herring Art at Lamar Station Plaza.... Pasternack’s Art Hub was hit the hardest." While there have been other recent floods in the area, this was certainly the worst.

The solution? "All of this will be addressed as soon as the City of Lakewood pulls the trigger on the flood mitigation plan," says Marino, noting that the Mayor Adam Paul supports the plan, as do most council members. "All of our West Colfax-based organizations have actively advocated for this capital improvement (for years!)."

Meanwhile, after going "through permit issues, location changes and floods," the Kanon Collective next door promises to continue with its grand (re)opening party on Friday, August 2. On that same day, Core New Art Space will open its first show in its new space in the Art Hub, the WOW Show. The WOW stands for "wide open whatever."

Just keep the floodgates closed.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun