At the end of May, artist Eamon Ore-Giron wrapped his months-long exhibition at Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), which followed his large-scale abstract paintings combining ancient Andean architecture and 1900s modernism. He also created a mural for the museum that included video and his DJ tracks, highlighting his interdisciplinary work and the relationship between sound, rhythm, color and patterns.
Since 2007, MCA Denver has been located at 1485 Delgany Street downtown, where established exhibitions meet quirky programming. The museum expanded in April for the first time to the 100-year-old Holiday Theater at 2644 West 32nd Avenue.
Sarah Kate Baie, MCA Denver’s director of programming, says the new venue will provide more space for multifaceted exhibits like Eamon Ore-Giron’s, which require more room to showcase the entire breadth of his practice.
“It’s kind of a blank canvas we can use to think about our live programs,” Sarah says of the Holiday Theater. “It completely frees us from only talking about things on our gallery walls.”
But the expansion is bigger than the museum being physically large enough to host an artist; it’s also about the community. The Holiday Theater will continue hosting MCA programming for teenagers and young adults, who make up nearly one-third of the museum’s audience and have free admission to their Fries Building downtown.
Prior to the pandemic, the MCA served over 10,000 teens a year through various events, the paid MoxieMag internship and a year-long program called Failure Lab, where they collaborate with peers, local artists and MCA staff to put on programming, mount their own art exhibitions and more.
With the Holiday Theater a block from Denver North High School, MCA Denver expects an increased number of teen-focused exhibitions and events at their new creative location, like peer-planned fashion shows and music nights. During students’ off-campus lunchtime, the Holiday Theater plans to offer low-cost box lunches.
“How can the things we’re doing intersect with the work these education institutes are doing?” Sarah asks, always cognizant of the role the museum plays in the lives of those around it.
Distinctly aware of the new community they’re slowly and intentionally settling into, MCA Denver established a Holiday Advisory Cabinet, made up of residents who serve as liaisons between the museum and the Northside neighborhood.
For several years, the MCA held various programs in the Holiday Theater while Highlands Church owned the building. When the property went on the market in 2020, it wasn’t something MCA Denver could feasibly buy on its own.
Enter, MCA Denver Emeritus Board Member Mark Falcone, who founded the Denver Cultural Property Trust to keep cultural touchpoints in the hands of artists and creatives, then bought the Holiday Theater. The MCA moved in in December, opened in April and will lease the Holiday Theater for the next seven years with the option to renew from the property trust.
Promising to celebrate and share all voices and stories, the MCA at the Holiday Theater is now the dedicated home for the museum’s lecture and film series, artist talks and symposiums. The new space also boasts 11 apartments above and next door to the theater, which will be available as low-cost artist studios, all managed by the trust.