We're hesitant to tell you about Pon Pon, because once you know about this boozy, beautiful, artistic spot at 2528 Walnut Street, it will be harder for us to get a seat at the bar. Still, the place is so great we can't resist sharing the news. Paul Garcia and Eric Corrigan are the masterminds behind this new spot, which is half bar and half gallery, and advertised with nothing more than a paper sign out front that was drawn by Corrigan's kids.
Both owners are artists and musicians, who've realized a decade-long dream with Pon Pon. Once they found the space, creating Pon Pon took over two years, and there are still a few details to work out, including whether to keep the crayon sign or get a new one. They're also working on the lineup for gallery shows and music performances; the website still said "Coming Soon..." even after they had opened for business Christmas week right next to the new Stowaway coffee. This is a true "art bar" — comfortable and well-curated — amidst a sea of other spots that claim to be the same.
The inaugural exhibit for the gallery half of Pon Pon, called the Lane Meyers Project and separated from the bar by a blinding white light, are works by international artist Nat Murray, who grew up and then attended art school in Nova Scotia and currently lives in Tapei, Taiwan. Murray's statement for the show ends with this: "A shirtless man in a desolate landscape whispers, 'Just get through the day.'"
The gallery will be an integral part of Pon Pon. "You can close it, open it, combine it, so the bar always has that art element," says Corrigan. "It's organically turned into showings with the artists we know. The funny thing is that when I started, I wanted to be sure of this because I know when looking at other galleries in this town, I see how much they struggle because it's hard to sell art. So I wanted maintain this level of professionalism in a way. It's not showing in a bar, it's showing in a gallery in a bar." Corrigan who moved to Denver fifteen years ago, has his own art hanging near the bar.
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Pon Pon means "man overboard," one step below SOS in Navy lingo, so you'll find nautical details scattered through the space, including hidden lighthouses and a Hemingway-esque wallpaper up front. There's also plenty of comfortable, grandma's house-style seating (that's often full), as well as a skylight rimmed by multi-colored lights."We were just thinking, we're the type of people who never take Christmas lights down," explains Corrigan. Asked for the inspiration behind Pon Pon, the two men cite every bar they've visited in their lives. Garcia's worked at some of them, including Forest Room 5, but his experience runs beyond that. "I used to live in and run a DIY venue called 'The Hipster Youth Halfway House' which was at 2719 Walnut Street, a block away from Pon Pon," he says. "Now it's this big loft condo space called Hartley Flats. It's kind of full circle, I guess, to end up on the same street ten years later."
There are some DIY aspects here, too, including vinyl and tape player options for customers. "To be a part of the music in a space is to define that space," Garcia explains. But there have also been live acts in the space, including the Night Shifts female DJ duo and Rick Griffith; next Friday, January 15, Dan Landes will spin music with a legit tarot-card-reader alongside him.