Junction Box – 1075 Park Avenue WestDenver, CO
When we moved Wonderbound (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado’s professional dance company) to Junction Box in March of this year, it was the culmination of a year of intensive organizational evaluation, innovation planning, exploratory meetings, branding and fundraising. It was an ambitious undertaking to do this while we continued all of our existing programs without interruption. But when saw the possibilities that began growing out of the endeavor, it gave us the energy and fortitude to keep driving the project forward.
Those first days in the space were like a dream; each discovery a small revelation. How the sunlight played through the windows and skylights, bathing the dancers in warmth. The disbelief of passersby, accustomed to used luxury cars populating the space through the twelve-foot garage doors facing Park Ave West, as the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” wafted past them, and objects of mechanical grace had been supplanted by living beings of infinitely greater beauty. The pleasure of being freed from full-length mirrors and their judgmental and opinionated glare, now replaced by the attentive eyes of visitors who stopped by “just for a moment,” but were still there two hours on.
When the Rockies Opening Day arrived on April 5, the streets were flooded with purple-clad revelers, anxious to see athletes engage in feats of agility and precision. The sunny spring day, perfectly calibrated at 70 degrees, encouraged those who wanted to save a few dollars to make their way by foot the extra blocks down Park Ave West.
The scene was magic. Volunteers from Community Coordinating District No. 1 (CCD No. 1) were planting cherry trees outside Junction Box as Wonderbound’s dancers intensively rehearsed for their upcoming production, a collaboration with The Colorado Symphony. Our oversized couches and chairs, accumulated thriftily through Craig’s List, were populated by a variety of season subscribers and donors. Before we knew it, we had an audience three deep on the sidewalk outside the garage doors, mouths agape, captured not by the specter of a grand slam to center field, but by the agility and precision of another kind of athlete that they had no worldly expectation of seeing that day. The bold music of composer Ofer Ben-Amots accelerated in tempo to a climatic final, matched by the dancers with a last exuberant toss into the air. The sidewalk erupted in applause and cheers.
As we settle into our new home, we continue to navigate the subtle complexities of our neighborhood and its diverse inhabitants. Our neighbors include three homeless missions who provide valuable services to those most in need in our community. We have come to know the migration patterns of the citizens who depend on these organizations, as they make their way from one, to another, and back again. We have come to know the individuals – the affable Deadhead who lives in transitional housing and (having been here for decades) knows these streets better than anyone, and openly admits that he has an addiction problem that he can’t kick; the transgender panhandler who is friendly, most days, and tosses pennies on the ground because the dealers don’t take pennies; the talented artist who was once quite successful, working for a national television station, until his own mind betrayed him and left him with little more than a sketchpad and paranoia.
Having grown up in a family that depended on the assistance of both human service and arts organizations during my young life, I know intimately that a lot of people live precariously close to this reality; all it might take is a lost job or an illness. Unfortunately, anonymity breeds distrust and it is all to easy to judge a person without knowing their story.
Two months after we moved in to 1075 Park Ave West, an architect came through our door. He had in hand copies of the original architectural drawings for our building, rendered in 1922. Until that moment, we had no idea what the original function of our beloved new home was. We learned that it was a United States Post Office Garage, built to repair and maintain a new fleet of motorized vehicles at the dawn of a new era. In essence, Junction Box was born to facilitate connections between people.