The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is about to undergo big changes from top to bottom.
The museum in LoDo announced Wednesday its Elevated Heartbeat Campaign, which will funnel $18 million from donations into building renovations, expansion of the exhibition and programming platform and the launch of a civic art initiative that will support Denver area artists.
“It is a really momentous event in the history of the MCA,” said Adam Lerner, the director and chief animator of the museum. “It’s equivalent to the founding of the museum. In many ways, this is really setting us up for the next chapter.”
Construction is expected to begin next fall. Among the improvements visitors will see: a stage on the roof, where the museum hosts events like the B-Side Music Series, an expanded and renovated teen space and a redesigned entrance and reception area.
“That’s really exciting because … really most of the changes that we’re going to see in the building are due to our success with our audience, especially over the last three years, but really how we’ve grown over the last 10 years,” Lerner said.
Attendance at the MCA has doubled since 2014, according to a release. In the last year, more than 75,000 visitors have passed through — 10,000 of which were teenagers. When the museum first began teen programming in 2013, it saw 1,500 teens. And while the biggest chunk of the MCA’s visitors is coveted, hard-to-get 18- to 34-year olds, it’s that growth and progress with teens the museum is investing in.
“It’s the next generation of cultural participants,” Lerner said. “It’s not just because that group is not being served in any other art museum or cultural space very well, but also because we are very, very well suited — we’re perfectly suited for that group.”
“We are teenagers. We like to break rules, we like to experiment with different activities that might outside of what would be considered normal behavior. And we decided to reach out to teens because teens love us. We can create a safe space for teens to have experiences.”
And while the MCA Denver has become an influential force across the country and beyond since 2009, developing and organizing exhibitions presented in 22 museums across North America, it also maintains a focus on the local art community.
Money from the Elevated Heartbeat Campaign will fund a civic initiative commissioning work from Denver artists for an art-sharing program called the Octopus Initiative. When it launches in March 2018, the program will allow anyone in Denver to borrow work by local artists for up to a year.
“The Octopus Initiative, which both supports the artists in our community and gives wide audiences an unprecedented level of direct experience with the art, symbolizes everything we are trying to do in the next phase of growth by deepening our commitment to the vitality of art in our community,” Lerner said in a statement.
The lead gift funding the Elevated Heartbeat Campaign came from MCA Denver Board Chair Mike Fries and his wife, trustee Michelle Fries. With that $5 million donation, they get their name on the MCA’s building.
There’s also another $3.5 million for an endowment that came from trustees emeriti Mark Falcone and Ellen Bruss, earning them the naming rights to the director and curator positions.
“As passionate supporters of MCA Denver for over a decade, Michelle and I have never been more excited about the museum’s future,” Mike Fries said in a release. “Adam Lerner and his team have curated world class exhibitions, delivered innovative and impactful programming, and brought the power of art to thousands of teens in our community. Michelle and I are thrilled to support this campaign which provides the capital and energy to ensure that MCA continues to be the center of creative energy in Denver.”
The MCA will be celebrating at its gala Thursday, and you can attend the afterparty with a Neon Indian DJ set at 10 p.m. in the Sports Castle, 1000 Broadway. Advance tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. They’ll be $35 at the door. Admission is 21+ and it’s requested that you “dress like you care.”