The latest casualty is Helikon Gallery & Studios, which Cayce Goldberg will shutter at the end of the year. What makes this particular loss so poignant is that with all the buzz about RiNo, where Helikon is located, it really should have made it. The space shows the kind of hip work that appeals to young audiences — like all those kids on scooters in the neighborhood — and Helikon didn't want for an audience. Nor were its studios going unrented. So what went wrong?
In a nutshell, the ongoing gentrification of the RiNo Art District led to the Helikon building, which Goldberg's family has owned for generations, to soar in its appraised value, resulting in an enormous increase in its property-tax assessment. Suddenly, the business was untenable from an accounting standpoint. But rising property taxes are only one of the reasons that the once art-mighty RiNo has been getting more and more artless with each passing month. The irony of Crush Walls, the annual street art celebration, having just finished its tenth event last week should be missed by no one. RiNo’s transition from a rundown industrial area to a trendy residential and entertainment hub is just about complete. And art can’t play in that league.
But if RiNo now seems to be all about craft beer and gourmet hamburger chains, there's a silver lining: Denver's Art District on Santa Fe is still holding on as the city's last true art district. For the time being, anyway.
Last spring it looked like Denver's longest-lasting co-op, Spark Gallery, might be forced off the street. Both Spark and Core New Art Space occupied two storefront rental spaces in a building owned by Denver sculptor Lawrence Argent, who used the rest of the place for his studio. When Argent died suddenly in 2017, the building passed to his young sons, who, not surprisingly, decided to sell it. Most people assumed the structure would be demolished once it was sold, and replaced by some new building with rents that alternative spaces couldn’t afford. In the panic leading up to the change in ownership, Core relocated to 40 West in Lakewood, and Spark almost did the same.
Kat Payge, wanted the building to continue as an art venue and studio complex. When Payge, an artist who was born and raised in Boulder, revealed her plans for the place, they happily included keeping Spark right where it was. In the space vacated by Core, a new artist collective launched under the banner of D’Art. And in the intimate space just off the entry is the new Payge Gallery, featuring the work of the artist-owner in rotating shows that will also include pieces by other artists.
After two back-to-back fortieth-anniversary exhibits that were only open to former members, Spark is back on its regular schedule of two simultaneous shows featuring members, with a third given over to a guest. In the west gallery is Lydia Brokaw: Shapes: Employed-Enjoyed: Organized-Reorganized, comprised of found-object sculptures, many of them incorporating the fragile parts of plants. Brokaw joined Spark decades ago, and although she let her membership lapse, she's now re-upped. In “Joys With Toys,” she has constructed a makeshift table of sorts with wavy twigs as legs; the toys of the title are brightly colored blocks and dominoes, which are scattered onto an informal top. The piece seems pretty fragile, as though it’s about to collapse. Another work, “Prickly, Stickley Rays,” with dead palm fronds as a chief material, looks like it would crumble if you touched it.
In the east gallery is Elaine Ricklin: Looking East, with paintings and photos by another longtime member. The paintings have conventionalized subjects: In the super-simple "Wyeth Country," for example, a flat, geometric shape evokes a barn. The paintings have been randomly paired with atmospheric photos of the landscape and the sea; the photos and paintings are very different in conception, and perhaps should have been displayed separately. The prints of line drawings of clams are particularly nice, though, and might indicate a different direction.
I'll hate to see Helikon go, but I’m glad that Payge saved Spark from having to leave town, and that she also provided space for other artists to come up with a brand-new co-op, D’Art.
Lydia Brokaw, Elaine Ricklin, Patrice Sullivan, through September 22, Spark Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-889-2200, sparkgallery.com.
D’Art Grand Opening Members Exhibit, through September 15, D’Art Gallery, 900 Santa Fe Drive, 720-486-7735, dartgallery.org.
Living in the Gray, Payge Gallery, through September 29, 900 Santa Fe Drive, katpaygeart.com.