Art News

Mixed Taste Mixes It Up With Collaboration Between MCA Denver and Off-Center

Adam Lerner created a tasty mix with Mixed Taste.
Adam Lerner created a tasty mix with Mixed Taste. Museum of Contemporary Art
For more than a decade, Mixed Taste has offered a very tasty mix of tag-team lectures on unrelated topics — Merle Haggard & the History of Dinner, Ukulele & Afrofuturism — which invariably turn out to be greater than the sum of their parts. The series got its start at the Lab at Belmar; when director Adam Lerner moved over to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, he brought Mixed Taste with him.

And now it's about to move on again: to Off-Center at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

"About eight months ago, we sat down and just thought that we needed to focus our education team's efforts on the next generation of programming for adults, so we began to talk to various partners throughout the city who would be able to work with us, to take Mixed Taste into its next phase," Lerner explains.

"We took proposals from two organizations, and we decided on Off-Center, because they have such a great affinity to what we do. Basically, their quirky and smart programming in the theater is the equivalent of the quirky and smart programming we aspire to in the art world," Lerner adds.

For an organization that is definitely looking for ways to expand and enliven its audience, Mixed Taste seemed an ideal addition, new DCPA CEO Janice Sinden told a City Club gathering last week.

And so MCA Denver and the DCPA decided to collaborate. "We've nurtured Mixed Taste for ten years," Lerner says. "It's been incredibly successful." So successful, in fact, that Mixed Taste had to move from the MCA building to the Holiday Events Center, which seats 400 but still regularly sold out. "It was heartbreaking to turn people away from a lecture program," he adds.

That won't be a problem with Off-Center, which plans to host Mixed Taste in the Seawell Ballroom. And Off-Center will bring more than seats to the program.

"We thought Off-Center could give it a fresh perspective if we worked with them to develop the programming," Lerner says. "That's something that would give it a different kind of life than it's had to date. There's something genius about the Mixed Taste concept way beyond our expectations. It's a formula that works with a very broad range of content...that's what made it so energized and so popular for so long. At the point where we still feel it's extremely relevant, we felt we should find a new voice."

Off-Center certainly gives voice to plenty of new concepts; under Charlie Miller, the programming has gotten raves. "I feel envious sometimes, Lerner admits. "And I don't often feel envious of what other institutions are doing."

Moving Mixed Taste to the DCPA and collaborating with Off-Center will "add to the creativity and make it more accessible to more people," Lerner adds. "It's truly a collaboration. We don't know exactly how Off-Center is going to take this program, how they're going to execute it, how they'll make it blossom."

The two organizations have signed a two-year agreement and will collaborate during that time. "Progammatically, it will be seamless for our audience," promises Lerner. "The venue is the primary difference, and the production credits; the staffing will be a little different."

But he's confident that mixing the tastes of MCA Denver and Off-Center will prove as successful as Mixed Taste itself.

The next round of Mixed Taste starts this summer; watch for title announcements here.

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Contact: Patricia Calhoun