Art News

MCA Denver Unwraps a Big Birthday Present for Denver

MCA Denver Unwraps a Big Birthday Present for Denver
Kelly Shroads
Over the past 25 years, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver has become an institution in this city, a go-to place to see great art and maybe even catch the next big thing.

Now MCA Denver's reach has become even bigger, thanks to a heck of a birthday present.

Through a landmark arrangement with the newly formed Denver Cultural Property Trust, MCA Denver will help create a long-term hub for the arts at the old Holiday Theater at 2644 West 32nd Street. The space is no stranger to the museum, which has been offering off-site programming, including Mixed Taste, at the venue for six years.

The theater dates back to 1914; it was named the Egyptian Theater in 1926, and then became the Holiday in 1953. It was the first theater in Colorado to present Spanish-language films, which were offered there from the 1960s to the 1980s. In recent years it's hosted a variety of events, including MCA Denver artist talks, but its primary use has been as a church.

When Nora Burnett Abrams, who became the MCA Denver Mark G. Falcone director in 2019, learned that the building was for sale, she approached a key supporter of the museum — one Mark Falcone — and told him, "Hey, guess what? Our primary presentation venue is for sale."
click to enlarge MCA Denver has been holding events at the Holiday for six years. - KELLY SHROADS
MCA Denver has been holding events at the Holiday for six years.
Kelly Shroads
Falcone, the CEO and founder of the Continuum Partners development firm, thought that a pandemic was a bad time to ask the board of a cultural institution to get involved in a capital campaign. So he thought some more, and came up with the idea of founding the Denver Cultural Property Trust as a not-for-profit that purchased the building from the church managers who owned it.

"It's an innovation that's being created through a private enterprise," Falcone notes, adding that the trust reflects "a new spirit around how to sort of leverage the private marketplace and private capital into longterm stability" for the cultural community. "We just can't continue to measure investments by maximizing yield."

The trust will manage the eleven apartments in the theater and four in an adjacent building; while fully occupied now, as tenants move on, the apartments will be offered to artists at below-market rates. Meanwhile, the museum has a seven-year lease (with an option to renew for two terms) on about a third of the property, the theater and lobby areas, which will allow it to add much more programming in this satellite space.

"MCA Denver advocates for the artists in our region to ensure that creative life, and those who make the city so vibrant, can continue to thrive, says Burnett Abrams. "Advancing our mission to celebrate and scrutinize the field of contemporary art, while also providing a platform for creative expression within a treasured, storied theater in a vibrant neighborhood, rich with history, is an absolute dream."

Both trust and museum leaders have worked to make sure the north Denver neighborhood is behind the project. "We're really committed to honoring the history of this landmark space culturally and spiritually," says Burnett Abrams. "We're heartened by how community stakeholders have supported this."
click to enlarge The artist will talk about Deborah Roberts: I'm on October 28. - MCA DENVER
The artist will talk about Deborah Roberts: I'm on October 28.
MCA Denver
And this could be just the start of the new trust's involvement in this city's cultural life. "It's really incumbent on us as a collaborative community to get things figured out," Falcone says. "I'm hopeful that we as a community can do it the Denver way: Come together and find solutions."

They certainly found a way for MCA Denver to expand its reach in the years to come. On October 28, the museum will hold its first event at the theater as a lease-holder, when artist Deborah Roberts will talk about her work and current show at the MCA, Deborah Roberts: I'm.

But first, the museum is holding a big 25th-anniversary bash at its home at 1485 Delgany Street on Friday, October 8. And now the whole city has real reason to celebrate.
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