Making Art Affordable to Members
ART GYM FINDS A UNIQUE SYSTEM OF OPERATION
As the name suggests, the concept behind Denver’s Art Gym, located on Colfax Avenue and Leyden Street, is most accurately compared to a fitness gym. Equipped with printing presses, a metalsmith and lapidary studio, a sculpture studio, a commissary kitchen, and even a dance studio, the establishment gives artists the tools they need to keep crafting.
“We were able to create a unique system of operating,” said Michael Keen, program director at Art Gym. “The model of how gyms function makes a lot of sense. If you want to get in shape, you don’t buy a treadmill, you join a gym. That just makes more sense.”
An artist himself, Keen fully understands the “starving artist” concept. Thus, he finds great importance in his job as program director. “Say you leave college and you have all of these things that you’ve gotten used to,” Keen said. “Studio space, printing presses— what do you do when you’re still paying student loans and you haven’t really gotten the job that would justify even the investment of your education, much less all of these other things?”
Art Gym’s founders purchased the space in 2011. At the time, it was a rundown blemish on Colfax. Now, after renovation, the space is open and sleek. With clean lines and smart architecture that allows for proper ventilation and creative freedom, Art Gym is now home to tens of members who use the space to further their artistic endeavors.
Along with a public coffee shop for visitors, the space also includes a public art gallery at its entrance. The current exhibit, SELFIE: Self Portraiture in the Era of Selfies, explores the concept of the self portrait with a relevant modern bend.
What makes Art Gym truly enticing is its allowance of what Keen calls “a cross-pollination of ideas.” The space invites printmakers, painters, dancers, and chefs into one space, along with all of the creative processes that come along with each. The membership is $100 a month for unlimited access to community areas. These include peaceful drawing rooms, access to the resource library, and to Mac computers equipped with Creative Cloud and Microsoft software.
Art Gym is big on acknowledging individual needs and, therefore, individual costs. “Things like storage are not included in the membership because of people’s varying needs,” Keen said. “Some people need a lot of space and some people need none. We’re into that pay-for-what-you-need model.”
With smart ideas, smart architecture, and smart members, Art Gym has changed the business model of the art world. An artist could look at the space as one big thumbing-of-the-nose at the current structure of the art resource industry, which—with over-priced tools and over-priced degrees—often only holds artists back. Instead, Art Gym offers a sleek creative space, the brainchild of artists for artists.
Above:Among other amenities, Art Gym features its own gallery.
photo: Mariah Taylor • CU Denver Sentry