23rd Avenue Sculpture Studio to Leave the Neighborhood

By Allen Cowgill

23rd Avenue Sculpture Studio supplied North Denver with decorative and functional railings, gates and more for over 32 years, starting with Dennis West and continuing with Amoreena and Josh Corbin. Left to right: Amoreena, Alden, Charleigh and Josh Corbin in front of the studio. Photo by Allen Cowgill

23rd Avenue Sculpture Studio will leave the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood later this year after being part of the community for over 32 years. 

Dennis West founded the studio in 1992. It has been run by his daughter and son-in-law since 2018, when West died from an aggressive brain cancer. 

West grew up in North Denver at West 42nd Avenue and Clay Street. He was one of the first male students to attend Loretto Heights College as an arts student, where he studied painting and silk screening. He later started welding on his own. 

Amoreena Corbin, West’s daughter and current co-owner of the studio, shared that he always described himself as a self-taught artist. 

Corbin said her favorite childhood memories of the studio were the community parties thrown by her dad. She also remembers the studio as a gathering place for neighborhood kids, and that people appreciated they had a place to hang out in the neighborhood. 

Back then, Corbin said, her father wasn’t known for his art, but he helped in the community by fixing things like bikes or broken chairs. His work transitioned when neighbors began asking West to take on practical projects like gates. He realized there was an opportunity to make a living helping out neighbors. As West created those things for neighbors, he did his best to make them artistic. Corbin said that spirit has remained with the studio, where today they undertake “functional art” projects alongside more artistic sculptures. 

West’s metal sculpture artwork–the functional railings and gates and the more decorative–can be seen all around the neighborhood. Examples include the window bars at Toast liquor store on West 23rd Avenue, numerous sculptures in the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood along King Street and Lowell Boulevard, and gates and fencing along Hooker Street. He also created the Pizza Alley sign and table tops for Stella’s restaurant on West 32nd Avenue.

“Most of the steelwork in the neighborhood that is not boring came from our shop,” Corbin said.

Outside the neighborhood, notable pieces by the studio include arbors at the Denver Botanic Garden, a gazebo at the Courage Garden at the Jefferson County Courthouse and a large public art piece in Norman, Oklahoma, designed by Vito Di Bari.

In 2010, Corbin’s spouse, Josh Corbin, started working with West off and on. Josh’s dad was also a welder, with expertise in structural welding. West’s more artistic style started to rub off on him. Josh came back to work with West more regularly in 2018, and shortly thereafter in May, West was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. West passed away in October that year. 

Amoreena and Josh felt the natural thing for them to do was to take over the studio. Despite a challenging transition, they continued the legacy. Their focus was to continue bringing the best of what West himself brought to the neighborhood. 

“You help your neighbors out,” Corbin said. “Having that sense of community, still having community events. My dad was always very involved at Brown Elementary. And fixing people’s favorite thing that broke and that no one else would fix, we get told that all the time.”

Corbin described how they often hear from people in the neighborhood who called 10 shops that refused to help them with small welding repairs. The studio makes time for those folks when others don’t, helping them with repairs and not charging them, just like Corbin’s dad did. 

Recently, owners of the property where the studio operates indicated that they are going to sell. 

Corbin knows residents in the community are upset with this change, but she wanted to emphasize “the owners of that property behind the scenes over the years have done so much to help us keep that place going. They supported my dad a lot and they have supported us a lot. And so while it’s really difficult that they are selling, we feel like people don’t really know how much they have done behind the scenes.”

“There was a time,” Cobin continued, “when my dad started, that he couldn’t pay rent, and they let him stay for a long time without paying rent, and they never made him pay it back. For us, while it’s very upsetting, we feel like we know it could and probably would happen at some point. If you look at the property values and property taxes we knew it would come some day. The universe makes things happen how they are supposed to, and we feel like it’s time to find our next place.” 

Corbin shared that while their new place is not close, it is perfect for what they need. They found a location on the Western Slope in Paonia that has a house, shop and acreage. They plan to be out by the end of summer so their kids can start school in August there.  

Amoreena and Josh Corbin plan to continue to work with a handful of key Denver customers. 

23rd Avenue Sculpture Studio will host one last neighborhood party on July 20 from 2 to 8 p.m. 

In the meantime, the Corbins are working to sell everything at the studio. Interested community members can stop in at 3500 W. 23rd Ave.

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