The Holiday Theater on 32nd Ave is about to be transformed. The theater, first built in 1914, will soon be the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s home on the Northside.
In August, the building was purchased by Continuum Partners, a Denver-based commercial real estate developer on behalf of a new nonprofit: Denver Cultural Property Trust. The trust was created by Continuum’s CEO Mark Falcone “with the mission to preserve important commercial spaces and residences on a long-term, affordable basis for artists and creative practitioners in the community,” according to the release announcing the new endeavour. The purchase was the first for the trust, which is formalizing its nonprofit status and will be governed by a board of directors.
MCA Director Nora Burnett Abrams talked with The Denver North Star to share some details on what the community can expect when they open their doors next spring.
The theater itself will be a space for exhibits, shows, and workshops with both professional and student artists. The engagement with the schools is important and the theater’s proximity to North High School means students can walk over.
The theater is only part of the complex though. Burnett Abrams noted that the “humble structure” is actually much larger than people realize. In addition to the theater, there’s 15 residential units and space below. She stressed that the units that are rented will continue to be, and no one is getting kicked out. As people move out on their own over time, they are looking at turning those spaces into housing for artists.
At the same time, they are exploring how best to use the space below. She hopes some of it can become workspace for the artist community and possibly workshops they can bring others into as well. If all of that comes together, the site will become a true enclave for artists in the neighborhood. MCA will be overseeing approximately a ⅓ of the entire structure, which also has other commercial spaces right now.
“Forces of urban development are pushing creatives out,” Burnett Abrams said. She explained it wouldn’t be possible except that the trust is renting them the space below market value, and the residential units will be rented out below market as well. MCA will have a 7 year lease with options to renew.
While MCA has their main museum at 15th and Delgany, Burnett Abrams believes in a decentralized concept where they can better engage different communities, highlighting the unique work of artists across the city and ensuring that North Denver artists have a place to call home. She hopes it will provide a place for the community to not just see art, but engage with the artist community and participate themselves. “We want it to be a beloved community resource,” she explained.
Don’t expect the theater to just duplicate their main museum either. “What’s happening on Delgany St will materialize differently over there,” she explained. One visual artist they are currently showcasing at the museum is also a DJ, who could perform or have workshops at the Holiday Theatre location for example.
MCA’s lease begins in December, and they plan to open in the spring. While there will be minor renovations, such as removing a non structural wall the last tenants installed for their church, Burnett Abrams said the building’s beauty will remain unchanged. “There’s so much history.”
The Holiday Theater was originally built in 1914 and was named the Egyptian Theater in 1926, then renamed the Holiday in 1953. It was one of the first theaters in the state to show Spanish language films during the 1960s and continued through the 80s. Most recently, it was a church. The MCA invited The Denver North Star to tour the space early next year, and we’ll be bringing you more updates as they get closer to opening.