The Colorado Photographic Arts Center — formed in 1963 by Eugene Lang, Jim Milmoe and Glen Thrush, along with a dozen or so other regional photographers including the late, great Hal Gould — has for decades been a work in progress, moving from space to space, and often, in leaner years as a pop-up endeavor, having no physical space at all. Created in reaction to then-Denver Art Museum director Otto Bach’s apparent refusal to mount photography shows, CPAC’s morphing goals were always tied to dreams of putting Denver on the map as a center for fine-art photography. More than fifty years later, CPAC is still perfecting that bid for national recognition, and now, facility director Samantha Johnston thinks the gallery and photography resource can begin inching forward toward that elusive objective in earnest, thanks to a sudden move in 2017 from RiNo to a larger space at 1070 Bannock Street in the Golden Triangle.
A year ago, CPAC signed a one-year lease on the former Ironton Gallery space, a move up from its cramped quarters on Boulder Street in Highland, but Johnston says it was always a stopover for the organization, while the search for a bigger space with room to grow got under way. “I can’t say enough about being part of RiNo — it’s been great,” Johnston says. “But now we have a chance to work toward our long-term goal of becoming a world-class facility,” she adds, noting that the new space is not only bigger at 2,500 square feet, but is also blessed with the big windows and natural light that were missing at Ironton: “Now we have more dedicated class space, as well as more exhibit space. And our permanent collection will be more accessible at the new location. Right now, it sits in boxes. We’d like to put some of it up on the walls.”
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CPAC is committed to five years on Bannock Street, but Johnston notes that the new facility might also not be its permanent home in the long run. “Twenty-sixteen marked a year of growth and success for us, and this move puts us in an ideal position to continue that positive momentum,” she says. “Our goal is to spend the next five years on Bannock Street raising our visibility and the funds to sustain CPAC’s legacy for many years to come.” And for now, the proximity to the Golden Triangle museum district adds to Johnston’s excitement over the new digs, along with the possibility of increased foot traffic by locals and out-of-towners alike.
The center isn’t wasting any time introducing its new look, either. After a whirlwind move to the new location, the four-artist exhibit Relationship Show will open on January 20, followed by a grand-opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on January 27. The show runs through February 25, and then CPAC will help kick off Denver’s biennial Month of Photography with three exhibitions in March: Remember Me: Bree Lamb & Anne Leighton Massoni at CPAC proper; Varied Perceptions: Andrew Beckham, Marcus DeSieno, & Amy Theiss Giese at the Art Gym; and Jess T. Dugan, Every Breath We Drew at RedLine. In addition, CPAC will again host MoP’s Portfolio Review Weekend at RedLine in April; online registration begins this month. Learn more about MoP online.
Visit the CPAC website for information about exhibits, workshops and other upcoming events.