Jeanie Nuanes King is very familiar with the financial difficulties that go with being an artist. A painter herself, King used to own the Fresh Art Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe (she later rented the building to Spark Gallery and Core New Art Space). Then she decided to retire—and started fielding phone calls from artist after artist complaining about the city’s rising rents and lack of affordable studio and gallery spaces. So King started looking for real estate.
In February, the Colorado native purchased 11 acres of land in Commerce City—just five miles northeast of the River North Arts District—with the goal of transforming the former farm into an arts complex she calls Concept Colorado. Right now, the property is a dusty canvas awaiting an artist’s vision, but King has big plans. One field will be home to a 21,000-square-foot steel building housing up to 31 studios (priced as low as $1 per square foot) and two art galleries. Another field will be home to a second gallery-meets-studio space. An old white barn may house a pop-up art space or a seasonal, high-end veggie market. The former bunkhouse walls currently hold a pop-up exhibition (as does a semi-trailer on the site); in the future, it will house a kids’ crafting area where they can paint small birdhouses that will then be placed around the property. King hopes to build some townhomes she can sell to art-based owners as well, and maybe add a coffeeshop. “Whatever the need is,” she says.
Artists seem to appreciate King’s vision: Building one, which is slated to open in the spring, is already 75 percent leased. Twenty-eight artists are on board, including many well-known creatives such as fine art photographer Mark Sink and mixed-media artist/photographer Terri Bell. Ice Cube Gallery, which closed its RiNo location this summer, will be the first gallery to open on-site.
Collectors will now have a one-stop shop to view a variety of works and styles.
“The project,” King wrote in an announcement, “directly addresses space concerns related to escalating real estate prices that have impacted and displaced many in Denver’s creative community.”
The original farm feel will remain, King says. Old tree trunks have already been converted into seating. Massive spools now serve as sculpture-like features strung with lights. And while Commerce City may feel like a way’s away, it will get quite a bit closer when RTD’s N Line, which will includes a stop just two blocks away from Concept, opens in 2017.