• Nikki A. Rae Photography

Denver’s art world is getting a big boost on the northside, with the nonprofit Museum of Contemporary Art Denver signing a seven-year lease to use the historic Holiday Theater.

The museum is leasing the theater from the Denver Cultural Property Trust, which purchased it for $5.1 million in August. The lease with MCA Denver was signed on Dec. 21. The hope is to operate it like a nonprofit and make the space more accessible to artists. The theater is located at 2644 W. 32nd Ave. in the Highland neighborhood.

MCA Denver is building a busy schedule of artist talks, lectures, performances, dance events and more.

“It’s a huge opportunity for a contemporary arts center,” said Sarah Kate Baie, MCA Denver’s director of programming for 12 years.

She added the space will primarily be used for artists and performances, lectures and music.

“Those kinds of things will find a natural home in the auditorium,” Baie said. “It can be the place to discover the next amazing contemporary artist, to see one of your favorite artists or to discover an amazing performance by someone you haven’t heard of yet.”

All of this comes from a unique arrangement. Mark Falcone, CEO of Continuum Partners who also serves as an MCA Denver Emeritus board member, helped establish the Denver Cultural Property Trust with a goal to help artists in the community. The Holiday Theater is the trust’s first purchase. The ownership structure enables buildings bought at market price to be leased to creative workers and the organizations that support them at below-market rates.

On March 3, Denver Cultural Property Trust announced that the Colorado Creative Industries office of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade chose the Holiday Theater project as one of eight recipients of the Community Revitalization Grant program and would receive a $1 million grant.

Denver North High School is nearby, and Baie said the organization will work with its teachers to develop programs that connect them to artists and shows at MCA Denver. The project also will include leadership programs for teens.

The Holiday Theater was built in 1914 and was named the Egyptian Theater in 1926. In 1953, it was renamed Holiday Theater. The theater closed in the 1980s and housed a Peruvian restaurant for a while. Highlands Church later bought the theater and utilized it from 2010 to 2020, when it outgrew it and decided to sell the theater.

MCA Denver already has a robust spring schedule planned for the theater.

“We’re thrilled that we can have this home in the community for these kinds of things,” Baie said. “We want to be a space where people can gather and enjoy contemporary art beyond gallery walls. We really think art is for everybody and we’re so excited to have this space that can be a home for live performances.”