BY SAM DESTEFANO
Space ANNEX is the newest venue and gallery from the good people who brought us Space Gallery. Mike Burnett put his own art aside and once again wowed us with his architectural skills by breathing new life into this 1960’s warehouse. With the help of his four kids and wife, the ANNEX was born and it does not disappoint. With its New York style loft windows, salvaged brick facade, exposed steel beams and sandblasted fir wood ceiling, it truly offers eye candy from every corner. The newly-renovated 4,000 square foot Space ANNEX offers an intimate art-filled backdrop for any event. It has a warm industrial feel, an outdoor bar made from reclaimed railway beams, modern rooftop patio and unexpected adaptability, Space ANNEX is truly a unique setting. We met up with Mike to learn more about his newest addition to Denver’s art scene.
After building Space Gallery from the ground up, some might think you’d never want to go through the blood, sweat and tears again. What inspired you to open a second art gallery in Denver and how did you stumble upon this amazing building?
We definitely had some hardships on our first project but the feedback has been so incredible that it’s helped me move on from dwelling on the typical pitfalls of construction. I decided to open a second space for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most important was to provide more exposure to the artists we represent. With a large roster and curated programming that combines 3 to 4 artists per exhibit our artists were only able to show their work once every 12 to 18 months. With Space Annex, we will be showcasing 14 artists in every exhibit so they can present new work every two months. Secondly, we wanted to be able to offer a different kind of Space to our event clients. And lastly, I love a project and the idea of transforming a sad looking industrial building, at the end of the block that I live on, into a neighborhood gem was definitely appealing.
Transforming and restoring an historic building isn’t an easy feat. However, we have such an appreciation for restoration vs. tearing down and starting all over again. Can you walk us through the process of how Space ANNEX came to be?
The building was built in 1962 so historic might be a stretch, but that said, it has served the community well. My budget was limited and the bones of the original building were so good that tearing the structure down never crossed my mind. Before I ever considered buying the building I did some poking around and found that the original wooden ceiling was in good shape and loved that the entire space, because of the enormous steel supporting beams, was completely open.
I worked up a design on Google sketch-up and played around with a layout that I thought would be conducive to both gallery and event space. The concrete block structure lent itself well to editing and to changing door and window openings for a better layout. I gutted the entire space stripping it to the basic structure and kept as many of the original elements as possible. The old windows were; re-purposed with new double glazing units along the front side of the building, taken out of the alley and made into 5’x10’ doors for the front entrance and kitchen and two more were fitted with mirrors and hang above the bathroom sinks. We took out the old garage door that was falling apart and made new doors that fold to match the original windows. The doors open into the alley and the patio from the main space. We were able to salvage; some beautiful railroad ties to build a bar area, some old quarter sawn oak doors that were taken out of Cole Middle School for the bathroom doors, and find some amazing tile from Restore for the bathroom walls. We had to run new electrical, plumbing, sewer, hvac, put on a new roof, added a roof deck and clad the exterior with reclaimed brick to make it fit the victorian charm of the historic baker neighborhood. To finish it all off we had a couple of our artists personalize the space by painting murals on some of the exposed concrete block walls.
Space ANNEX is an inspiring place. Is it open for events?
Yes, we’ve been open since May and have hosted Weddings and Ceremonies, Corporate events, Anniversaries, Holiday parties, Non-Profit fundraisers, Batmitzvas, Concerts, presentations and trainings. People love it.
You’re connected to so many amazing artists both locally and nationally and over the years, you’ve made a name for yourself in the community. Can you tell us how you have taken this gift a step further by helping curate art for people’s homes?
I suppose its a natural extension of what we already do for the gallery. Curating exciting artwork into exhibits that elevate the visual landscape.
With over 20 years of experience bringing clients and artists together, we help find the right artwork to fit the environment, aesthetic and budget. Our services include site visits, consultation, proposals, framing and on-site installation. We are here to make the process of collecting fun, rewarding and meaningful from start to finish.
Which new artists can we expect to see In Space ANNEX in 2020?
We are very excited to present all the artists from our current roster as well as some new artists to the gallery for 2020. Look out for Rebecca Rutstein, Frank Martinez & Christina MacKinnon.
You and your family are philanthropists to your core, and are very driven by making a difference, whether it is with your consistent donations to India, where you adopted your youngest daughter, or connecting with the local refugee community. What local non profits are you most tied to?
We are lucky enough to work with many local non-profit organizations when they host their fundraising events in our gallery spaces. It is really amazing to see how many grassroots organizations are flourishing in the Denver area, and we are pleased to offer non-profit discounts for these events. We also remain very connected to offering financial support to our daughter’s orphanage in India and hope to be hosting some events in 2020 which will fund-raise for improvements to their facility.
There really is no such thing as too much exposure to art. What advice would you give an up-and-coming artist who is ready to embark on their own journey?
I think you’re right, exposure is a great way to learn and experience art on a personal level and to find out what moves you. For most emerging artists who are looking to get more involved I recommend a regular studio practice where you can commit 3 or 4 hours to your artwork 3 or 4 days a week. With consistency comes progress at any level.
You’ve certainly proven that, Mike. We appreciate your consistency in once again, upping the ante for the Denver Art Gallery scene.