Art News

Jonny Barber's Colfax Museum Hits the Skids; for Sale

Ian Gilchrist created this contemporary postcard for the Colfax Museum.
Ian Gilchrist created this contemporary postcard for the Colfax Museum. Colfax Museum
Jonny Barber, the founder of the Colfax Museum who's also known as the "Velvet Elvis," has reached the end of the line.

It turned out that the final straw was not one, but two floods that hit the museum's most recent location at Pasternack's Art Hub this summer, but Barber didn't recognize it at the time. He was too busy drying off collectibles from the country's longest main street and looking for a new spot for the museum, which had moved to the Art Hub from East Colfax Avenue a year before.

"Things didn't work out for the Colfax Museum in Lakewood, but it wasn't for a lack of trying! A lot of work went into getting it off the ground, and we want to thank Scott Pasternack and his family for all of their help and contribution to our museum," Barber wrote on Facebook last month. "Scott is still dedicated to seeing the museum find the home it really deserves and has pledged his support."
click to enlarge
Still pals: Scott Pasternack and Jonny Barber.
Colfax Museum Facebook

But while Pasternack's is now indeed an art hub, home to Kanon Collective, Core New Art Space, Next Gallery and Edge Gallery, and working with Lakewood on flood remediation plans, Barber is giving up on finding a new home for his museum. "It's been an incredible ride," he says over the phone as he drives down Colfax. But he simply ran into too many dead ends.

Barber isn't giving up on Colfax altogether, though: He's doing some consulting with businesses on the street, and is ready to complete a book dedicated to the fabulous Colfax strip. He promises that the book will not include any of the tales he heard when he hosted a "Colfax confessional booth" at the museum's Lakewood location. "I'm under sacred duty not to disclose the contents," he reveals."Those are stories I'll take to the grave; no human being could make them up."

While he's taken photos of all of the items in his collection and plans to someday put them on, he's in the process of giving away all the things that were donated to the museum to appropriate spots. (Pasternack's is keeping the beer-can bomber from the Hangar Bar, as well as the Sid King's Crazy Horse sign, for example.) "I'm hustling right now to find homes for all this stuff so it can live on Colfax," Barber says. "Most of the stuff is privately owned by me; it's going to be for sale."

And that includes the domain. "Colfax is Number 15 [bus line], it's been fifteen years, and I'm $150,000 in debt," he says, adding that he's probably made $300 over 10,000 hours of work. "It would be nice to get at least a grand, but it's Colfax, so I'm not counting on it."

In fact, the first bid when he posted the auction on the Colfax Museum Facebook page earlier today was $3. It has since gone up to $5. "Denver, what was fifteen years of my life worth to you?" he asks.

And what is properly commemorating Colfax worth to this city? That Facebook page also includes this message from Barber:

"Someday I hope that someone with much deeper pockets than I recognizes the true importance of the work I started and builds this town a proper Colfax Museum. I have extended every line of credit and exhausted all the resources I had and couldn’t get it done. Wasn’t for lack of trying, believe you me! It’s come time to throw in the gloves.

"I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride."

We have, Jonny. We have.
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Contact: Patricia Calhoun

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