Enigma Bazaar is a hybrid performance and art space which includes a bar, lounge, patio, gallery, rental room, and stage. The venue aims to be a community hub where artists, patrons, and staff feel inspired through all their senses and by the spirit of multi-disciplinary art and collaboration. That inspiration can range from simply feeling invigorated by a sensual experience to feeling moved to create something new. The Enigma Bazaar co-founders, Autumn Eggleton, Carly Howard, Chad Howard, and Christine Samar, intentionally leave this part of their mission open.
After three years of planning and renovation, Enigma Bazaar will host its grand opening in September of 2021 with performances by local artists, and an inaugural art exhibit featuring 100 variations of The Fool tarot card created by local and international artists.
The building that sits at 4923 West 38th Avenue has long been a Northwest Denver community hub. Since it was built in 1926, it has housed multiple restaurants and bars with names like Lou’s Club Tavern and Club 38. In most recent memory, Ziggies, Denver’s oldest blues bar, brought together a loyal community of neighbors, poets and music makers over the span of fifty years.
In 2017, Ziggies venue owner Carla Jordan’s ten-year lease was up. She learned that the owners of the building would try to sell it for $1 million. Carla and neighbors were certain that developers would purchase the building, level it, and build a new development over the lot. But developers were not the only buyers ready to bid for the building.
Longtime friends and creatives Autumn Eggleton, Carly Howard, Chad Howard, and Christine Samar had discussed for years creating the kind of venue they sensed was disappearing, and perhaps, that did not yet exist. They were inspired by immersive arts, New York theatre, Denver venues like the Mercury Cafe, and some that had already closed like Denver Syntax. They had looked for a space for their ideas to land for quite some time. They wanted to find a building that had room enough to foster creative community, and the former home of Ziggies seemed just the place.
Chad Howard purchased the building. Then the team of co-founders went to work, demoing the space to create a clean slate so they could plan together.
The grand opening of Enigma Bazaar comes three years later than originally planned. The building needed significant renovations, rewiring, and new plumbing, and the work took quite a bit of time. Then, the pandemic brought the world to a pause. Luckily, Chad Howard had purchased the building, which meant that the Enigma Bazaar team could take their time to further plan, renovate and beautify the building’s interior.
The Enigma Bazaar team wanted to create a space in which they wanted to spend time. All of them are creatives with experience in theatre, visual and performing arts, music, film, design, fashion, arts administration, and more. They explain their focus as a collaborative one, community-centered, and as connecting the physical realms with the ethereal, creating artistic and sensory experiences that can move from a performance or gallery wall to a gif destined for an NFT.
If that sounds too heady, let’s start with The Sun Room, where you will find spaciousness and warming colors greeting you from the door. On some nights, there might be standing room only concerts of varying genres. On others, dinner theatre or film. There is also room for surprises with pop-up events in the bar. The venue also has a cabaret license which means there will be dancing!
There is a horseshoe shaped bar with room enough on both sides for bartenders and clientele to promote openness and sociability.
An important feature of the Sun Room is that everything is made to shift: the modular stage, the curtains, a drop-down screen for films, and of course the tables and chairs. Carly talks about the multi-purpose possibilities of the house lights and film projector:
“We have a drop down projector for movie screenings, and even just projecting on performers, the light can really change the walls when they’re projected on. It messes with the color in such an interesting way.”
Enigma Bazaar is a hybrid space where one can expect anything to happen, music and dance, for example, a circus performance by Rainbow Militia, experimental performances by Control Group Productions, or an act by Denver Mentalists Anthem and Aria, who will be part of Enigma Bazaar’s grand opening in September.
An atmosphere of change and evolution is incorporated into Enigma’s structure so that the energy there never becomes stale. Art exhibits shift, designs in the space change. Even the menu items and cocktails change with rotating themes and experimentations based on whatever is happening at the venue. Plants, some of which are herbs for upcoming recipes, grow along the sills of the hallway and gallery windows.
Christine Samar explains that the building itself is based on a bird’s eye view of the kabbalistic tree of life: “I picked the tree of life because there’s a lot of archetypal references to the tarot, astrology, and people find many ways to connect to it. We took aspects from every part of the tree of life and translated it into the different segments of the building.”
The possibilities of the space don’t end with the experimentation and elements of its design. Enigma Bazaar aims to be a place that not only entertains all of the senses of every patron who walks through its doors, but also inspires artists of all calibers to be nurtured and to create art as a result of their experiences with the venue.
Carly Howard explains that while the Enigma Bazaar team have collected quite the catalogue of performers and artists, they are excited to see what the community can imagine for Enigma Bazaar: “We wanted to design the space with enough resources so that when it was ready to go we could almost give it to the community and see what people decided they wanted to put in here. We wanted to leave it pretty open, let it be a good avenue for people to get on stage. We’ve put a lot of time into it, and now we’re asking people ‘what can you do with it?’”
The Sun Room is but one experience a patron can choose during their time at Enigma Bazaar. If one looks beyond the bar, one sees a seeming portal which translates into a moon on the opposite wall. The Moon Room is a quieter, blue, otherworldly lounge in which one might sip drinks, have an intimate conversation, and enjoy artistically created menu items catered to the room by experimental Latin-fusion Xatrucho chef Edwin Sandoval Cruz.
Just behind the Moon Room is a hallway, which leads to the restroom facilities. The hallway also serves as a small gallery which currently features a glow-in-the-dark installation of one of local artist Annie Garcia’s Neon Lupita Altars. Proof to the point of the living nature of Enigma Bazaar: Denver hip-hop duo RAREBYRD$ & Neef recently shot a video in the Neon Lupita Altar hallway for their single “Patty Cake” which will be released to the public mid-July 2021.
There is a back patio with outdoor seating. Another hallway transports patrons towards the main gallery which holds its own surprises: rotating art exhibits, for example, and classes like Swing Dancing and Tango Thursdays (no partner required). Anyone can call for more information on how to rent the space for events and classes, as well.
“We’re a seedbank for multiple energies,” says Autumn. “We are saving something. Even before Covid there were gaps that needed to be filled as far as space for artists and I think now, even more so than ever.
Carly adds that “It’s the idea that a lot of artists even if they’re at the beginning of their career can come in and really be nurtured here, and start finding their place. It’s not just people who are established that we want to come in.”
“We saved this building,” Chad says. “I think the people we were bidding with were going to turn this into some sort of condos.”
“And other people we’ve talked to really appreciate that we’ve kept as much of the building as we can,” Christine says, “which is the original exterior, and that is a really beautiful part of the building.”
Enigma Bazaar opens with its first local and international art exhibit which will showcase 100 variations of The Fool tarot card in the west gallery and online, merging the physical world with the digital. Artists have the option to sell their work as NFTs. The Fool exhibit shows with Enigma Bazaar’s grand opening in September. For information on how to submit, visit: https://thefool.io/
Also, be sure to check out Enigma Bazaar’s fantastic happy hour which will feature $5 cocktails that won’t be beat.