Driving south on I-25, just before the downtown exit, there is a sign for the Colorado Performing Arts Complex. Destinations in Denver that are sign-worthy, especially on the highway, include city pride-and-joys Coors and Invesco Fields and the Pepsi Center. But the Arts Complex, Speer Blvd. at 1101 13th St., which serves as the arts, performance, and cultural Mecca of the Mile High City, has its importance emblemized in green and white reflective writing.
The Arts Complex—the second largest of its kind in the nation—is comprised of old theaters and new galleries, all connected under one glass roof. From the south, the building boasts simple, industrial style architecture with its exposed metal beams (a favorite for high school photography students), but go to the other side and the building's face fits with the historic façade of Downtown Denver.
It all started with the Quigg Newton Municipal Auditorium. Built in 1907, the Newton Auditorium was a multi-purpose venue that hosted conventions, theater, basketball games and even circuses. In 1955, the Newton Auditorium underwent renovations to transform the event center into a plush and intimate theater.
The lone Auditorium, surrounded by unused land, tempted developers. Cue Donald R. Seawell, visionary and current Chairman of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, who stood at the intersection of 14th and Curtis Streets and envisioned a state-of-the-art performing complex. By 1974, construction was underway and in four years Boettcher Concert Hall, the country's first 360-degree amphitheater, opened its doors.
Since then, the Stage, the Space, the Jones, the Ricketson and the exquisite Temple Hoyne Buell Theater, recognized as the "Highest Grossing Theatre Under 3,000 Seats in the United States" by Performance Magazine, have been added to complete Seawell's dream. The Complex's eight theaters are complemented by two premium restaurants: the Boettcher Bistro and Kevin Taylor's at the Opera House, located directly west of the Arts Complex in Hotel Teatro.
This past fall, the Newton Auditorium was renamed the Ellie Caulkins Opera House after a generous $7 million contribution from the George Caulkins family. The 2,400-seat auditorium now accommodates operas and ballet, and recently hosted movie showings for the annual Starz Denver International Film Festival.
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is also located in the Complex. The DCPA comprises the Denver Center Theater Company—a local troupe of actors—Denver Center Attractions, The Denver Center's Education Department and Denver Center Media.