Denver Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates 25 years

In 1996, five Denver residents made it their mission to advance the local arts scene. Philanthropist Sue Cannon, arts lawyer Marina Graves, photographer Mark Sink, painter Dale Chisman and sculptor Lawrence Argent led the charge of establishing a contemporary art museum in Denver.

While Cannon, Chisman and Argent have since died, Sink remembers the group’s first board meetings, where they created notes that said, “We need a logo… no, we need one. mission statement. ” But it turned out that an official name and logo would be years later. Instead, an exhibition came first.

The collector’s vision opened in 1997, on the mezzanine of 1999 Broadway; the exhibition included works from four private collections that focused primarily on established contemporary artists rather than local or emerging artists. Although the group was still debating an official name, WestwordMichael Paglia wrote that the show, hosted by Peggy Mangold, was “a remarkable start for the Cannon band, although it was a bit obvious to put together. (After all, collectors have already done the hard work. to select Art). ”

In less than two years, using the acronym MoCA / D, the group had settled in downtown Sakura Square, operating out of a former fish market. The first exhibitions, organized by Sink, were Slovak scene photography Altered Worlds and Flowers: unique visions.

Art dealer Cydney Payton entered the scene in 2001, signing as director of MoCA / D when it was “on the verge of closing,” Paglia wrote. His efforts helped revitalize the museum, now simply renamed MCA Denver.

Click to enlarge The first house of the museum, on Sakura Square.  - MCA DENVER

The first house of the museum, on Sakura Square.

MCA Denver

In 2003, two MCA board members, Mark Falcone and Ellen Bruss, donated land that will serve as the museum’s permanent residence. In 2007, architect Sir David Adjaye OBE created the magnificent structure at 1485 Delgany Street, his first museum commission in the United States.

Adam Lerner took over as director in 2009, doubling museum attendance over the next ten years and overseeing the creation of a dog logo (currently wearing a party hat). After Lerner’s departure (he is now director of the Palm Springs Art Museum), Nora Burnett Adams took over as director of the MCA in 2019.

The MCA “is constantly testing the possibilities of what a 21st century museum can be,” says Courtney Law, museum director of communications. As examples of its continued relevance, it highlights a shift in focus towards young patrons over the past decade, as well as the creation of the Octopus Initiative, which allows lucky members of the public to exhibit works of art. from the museum’s collection in their homes for a month.

“Our next chapter will be to embody a more decentralized, larger community-based model,” Law adds. “[We’re] developing the way we make connections across the city, forge partnerships across the city and region, identifying new ways to share our platform and highlighting the creativity that is happening here. ”

But even with all these plans, the museum is taking a break to throw a free 25th anniversary party on Friday October 8, a rooftop party with champagne, cake, party hats and DJ Ginger Perry playing music. ; there will be hidden quarters throughout the building and a special 25% discount on MCA memberships. The museum has also compiled a Spotify list of the greatest hits of 1996.

But it’s hard to imagine greater success than MCA Denver itself.

MCA Denver is having a free 25th anniversary party from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, October 8 at 1485 Delgany Street. For more information and to RSVP, visit the MCA Denver website.


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