History & Mission

The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver) is paving a new path for a 21st century museum that is both/and: We are both advancing the field of contemporary art and providing a platform for creative expression, in the broadest sense of the term. We present both world-class exhibitions and quirky events, serious lectures and epic parties. We are both sophisticated and unpretentious. 

MCA Denver was founded in 1996 by philanthropist Sue Cannon, along with Marina Graves, Mark Sink, Dale Chisman, Lawrence Argent, and others, with the mission to celebrate the art of our time in the heart of Denver. Together with many generations of her family, Cannon provided invaluable and ongoing support for the museum over multiple decades. Her vision for what MCA Denver could be, her commitment to ensuring that it achieved that vision, and her impact on civic life through her broad support of artists from across the region are but a few of the details of her astounding legacy. 

For seven years, MCA Denver occupied a renovated fish market in Sakura Square in downtown Denver, until 2003, when Mark Falcone and Ellen Bruss, members of MCA Denver’s Board of Trustees, donated a gift of land in Denver’s Central Platte Valley in order to realize the organization’s goal of building a permanent home for contemporary art in Denver.

In October 2007, under the directorship of Cydney Payton, MCA Denver opened its new, 27,000-square foot, environmentally sustainable facility in downtown Denver designed by acclaimed architect Sir David Adjaye OBE of Adjaye Associates (UK). The building, Adjaye's first U.S. museum commission, was designed to minimize boundaries between the exterior spaces of the city and the interior galleries of the museum. Thanks to a visionary gift to the museum in 2019, the iconic building at 1485 Delgany Street was named the Fries Building.

In March 2009, Adam Lerner was appointed director of MCA Denver. Upon Lerner’s move from his former position at The Lab at Belmar to MCA Denver, the Boards of Trustees agreed to merge the two institutions. MCA Denver’s dog logo came from Lerner’s work at the “Lab” at Belmar, as did the renowned Mixed Taste program. During Lerner’s decade-long tenure with MCA Denver, he showcased groundbreaking local and international artists, introduced teen-specific programming to the museum, and more than doubled museum attendance. He was instrumental in making MCA Denver the living room of downtown Denver by establishing a culture of creative risk-taking and a sense of humor not typically associated with contemporary art spaces. He cultivated a balance between rigorous exhibitions and light-hearted, whimsical programming that invited audiences to have distinctive experiences without taking oneself too seriously. 

In August 2019, Nora Burnett Abrams was appointed as the new Mark G. Falcone Director of MCA Denver. As the museum’s curator since 2010, Abrams played a critical role in conceiving, establishing, and implementing the museum’s curatorial vision and has cultivated exceptional partnerships with artists, community members, lenders, donors, and the national and international contemporary arts community. She brings a unique blend of global perspective and exemplifies passion for MCA Denver’s mission, including a deep interest in and commitment to exploring unconventional approaches to contemporary arts, curating and exhibitions, cultural production, and programming. Under Abrams’ leadership, MCA Denver seeks to embody, in everything that we do, our core values of being inclusive, human-centric, adventurous, and excellent. 

MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater opened in April of 2022. This performance and programming space, located on Denver’s Northside, greatly advances the museum's mission and generates new opportunities for our innovative, community and artist-driven programming and creative partnerships. MCA Denver’s leasing of the Holiday Theater, which is a 100 year old theater on Denver’s Northside, was established through a landmark arrangement with the recently formed Denver Cultural Property Trust. Established by Continuum Partners’ CEO and MCA Denver Emeritus Board Member, Mark Falcone, the Trust’s mission is to preserve important commercial spaces and residences on a long-term, affordable basis for artists and creative practitioners in the community.

Our Purpose

MCA Denver is the city’s creative center of gravity, sparking connections and curiosity through contemporary art and culture.

Our Vision

MCA Denver strives to advance what a 21st century museum can be by welcoming all audiences, celebrating all voices, and sharing all stories. We seek to create connections across Denver and the contemporary art field, to spark curiosity and conversation through world-class exhibitions and quirky programming, and to provide singular experiences for visitors. 

Our Mission

MCA Denver is an innovative forum for contemporary art that inspires and challenges, creating an understanding and dialogue about the art of our time. We are committed to being a custodian of Denver's creative future by helping to ensure that Denver's prosperity integrates the crucial creative elements that lend character and diversity to the city. The vision that drives us is that we advance what a 21st century museum can be by welcoming all audiences, celebrating all voices, and sharing stories. We strive to be both a singular site and a series of networks to provide one-of-a-kind experiences for the community of visitors, partners, and supporters we serve.