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By M. Perry Williams

This story – originally titled “Dream Realized: The ‘Little Arts District That Could’ Comes of Age with the Arrival of Two Top-notch Galleries” – is excerpted from the third issue of West Colfax Lately magazine. The newest edition is out now and available for pickup free of charge at 40 West Arts Gallery, 1560 Teller St., Lakewood.

Pirate: Contemporary Art, an independent, artist co-op gallery with roots back to 1982, has been at the cutting-edge of innovative art exhibitions for more than three decades and was long a popular destination on Navajo Street. Pirate describes itself as “an audacious and eclectic alternative, artist-run cooperative art space ... many member artists have come and gone, but Pirate persists. It’s an institution that remains flexible and edgy.” 

With the latest real estate boom in Denver, Pirate and its 30+ artists set sail for Lakewood. Pirate has settled in the heart of 40 West Arts, one block north of West Colfax at 7130 W. 16th Ave., the street that boasts seven murals from the district’s first West Colfax MuralFest in 2015. It’s also neighbor to The EDGE Theater, 40 West Gallery, and C2 Gallery located in the adjacent building and a short two-minute walk along a painted footpath to 40 West Studios, a workspace for more than a dozen district artists and creatives.

“Pirate has always had a repertoire of high achieving contemporary artists,” says Artist Laura Phelps Rogers, a member of both 40 West Arts and Pirate. “The regional and national acclaim [associated with Pirate artists] will help extend energy beyond the district. 40 West can harness this to attract and build a greater base of artists, art patrons, and art collectors.” 

NEXT Gallery, also an acclaimed, independent co-op gallery, had been a neighbor to Pirate for more than a decade, and now is just a block away in its new West Colfax digs. According to its website, the NEXT Gallery “is driven by all its artists ... that continually push the co-op to move in new directions.” This group of more than 20 artists was the first to make the move, opening in April 2017 in the old Metz Lumber building at 6851 W. Colfax. Now NEXT Gallery is centrally located near Pirate’s new location and a two-minute walk to Lamar Station Plaza, home to Lakewood Arts Gallery, Gallery of Everything, WestFax Brewing Company, and iconic Casa Bonita of pop culture fame.

NEXT’s new space is just a block from all of these creative destinations as well as only two blocks from RTD’s W Line light rail station.  

“As a gallery that’s been around 10+ years, our co-op members felt that we could move in and hit the ground running. And having local support was a major factor,” explains Artist Charlie Walter, who was among the first NEXT members to exhibit in the new space. 

“We believe our move will help the district. Our fan base will visit and explore this growing art community. That was certainly the case during our opening on April 28. We had more than 200 visitors that evening and that was during a snowstorm! Our hope is that more and more artists will see the value and commit to this creative community.”

“The arrival of Pirate and Next helps solidify our transition from being 40 West Gallery and 40 West Studios centric to a broader district-wide focus – that’s been an important goal all along,” shares Liz Black, 40 West Arts’ executive director. “These two accomplished galleries help to anchor the other creative assets here. The fact that they chose us says a lot about us as a district.”