These historic buildings in Golden are getting a new life as an arts hub for the city

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An RTD bus passes under Golden’s iconic welcome sign, Nov. 21, 2023. There was a time when an RTD rail line was part of the regional transit agency’s growth plan, but those days are over.

Golden, a city renowned for its outdoor recreation and craft breweries, is currently undergoing a revival in its arts and culture scene. Over $15 million has been invested in renovating three historic downtown buildings in the last six months, repurposing them as new arts venues.

The Foothills Art Center has undertaken a $6 million project to transform two 19th-century structures into state-of-the-art facilities. On May 18, FAC unveiled its new "Creative Campus" in the former First Presbyterian Church built in 1871, now housing classrooms, artist studios, and a ceramics studio.

On May 25, the Foothills Art Center will open its new exhibition and performance space in the newly restored Astor House, which narrowly escaped demolition in the 1970s. The building was originally built in 1867 as a hotel for miners and legislators during Golden's time as the territorial capital.

The Astor House renovation adds modern amenities like an elevator while preserving historical features. It will host major art exhibitions and cultural events.

A grant from the Colorado Gives Foundation allows the Foothills Art Center to continue offering free admission. And a new free membership level offers a deeper level of commitment and engagement, regardless of ability to pay, providing accessibility for all.

Hassan Najjar, the executive director of Foothills Art Center said the new buildings add to the group’s core mission: to create community through art.

“And one of the best ways that you can be part of our community here at Foothills Art Center is by becoming a member. But again, there's a friction there because there's a cost involved. So we thought, well, what if we had a free [membership] level and at least had some base-level benefits and allowed people to be part of the community that way?”

Eden Lane/CPR News
Members of Miners Alley cut the ribbon on their new performing arts center in Golden's old Meyer Hardware building, Dec. 2, 2023

Just next door, across the parking lot, the new $9.5 million Miners Alley Performing Arts Center opened in November. It repurposed another historic building into a performing arts center. Scott Vargo, Golden’s city manager, emphasized that the long-term goal is for both Miners Alley Performing Arts Center and the Foothills Arts Center to be integral components of an arts hub in the heart of Golden’s downtown.

As these buildings find new life alongside Golden's public murals, galleries, and Victorian architecture, the city hopes to position its downtown as one of the region's pre-eminent arts destinations.