From pawn shop to art house, Colfax icon gets creative with space

Scott Pasternack, longtime owner of Pasternack’s Pawn Shop at 9745 E. Colfax Ave., is putting the finishing touches on as many as nine new artist studios housed within a vacant storefront down the block from his flagship hock shop

AURORA | A new year means new artist studios for the Aurora Cultural Arts District.

Scott Pasternack, longtime owner of Pasternack’s Pawn Shop at 9745 E. Colfax Ave., is putting the finishing touches on as many as nine new artist studios housed within a vacant storefront down the block from his flagship hock shop.

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Scott Pasternack, owner of Pasternack's Pawn Shop and other properties along East Colfax, plans on turning his empty storefront at 9715 East Colfax Avenue into a gallery and studio space for artists. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

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Scott Pasternack, owner of Pasternack’s Pawn Shop and other properties along East Colfax, poses Dec. 30 in an empty storefront that was formerly storage for his pawn shop. Now, he plans on turning the space into an art gallery and studios for local artists. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161230-pasternacks-Denver, Colorado

Scott Pasternack, owner of Pasternack's Pawn Shop and other properties along East Colfax, plans on turning his empty storefront at 9715 East Colfax Avenue into a gallery and studio space for artists. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

The studios will range in size from 100 square feet to as big as 500 square feet, depending on artist preferences, according to Pasternack. The entire building is about 2,500 square feet in total.

Pasternack said he plans to lease the pods to interested artists throughout the beginning of January, with people moving into the studios sometime later this month. He plans to christen a roughly 800-square-foot gallery space in the front of the new studios with an opening exhibition event tentatively scheduled for Feb. 1.

“We used the building for all these years as storage for the pawn shop, but now we don’t need all the storage space and that’s why we deiced to do the art space,” Pasternack said. “It’s a minimal investment because you don’t have to do everything you need for a restaurant or something like that. For artists, you need a cement floor, white walls and maybe some teaching space.”

He said he’s budgeted 100 to 200 square feet of teaching space inside the new artistic venue. Other upgrades included new paint and updated bathroom facilities.

Pasternack said the goal is to lure more studios, artists and pedestrians to an arts district that sometimes goes overlooked in the metro-area arts scene.

“We’ve been designated the arts district for … probably 10 years … but nothing has really changed down here,” he said. “The galleries are a lot of what people actually come down to see. So that’s kind of the key.”

To bolster the success of his new artistic venture, Pasternack has worked with Tracy Weil, managing director of the ACAD, to find potential artists who could inhabit the studios.

Weil said he’s spoken with about 15 artists who have expressed interest in hopping into one of Pasternack’s studios. The pawn shop dealer said he plans to charge between $1.50 and $2 per square foot for rent.

“Scott’s been a stakeholder in this community for several years and it’s just amazing to me to see folks like that come to the forefront and help because that’s what it takes to make an arts district thrive — a good cross-pollination of local businesses, creatives and artists,” Weil said. “They all kind of work together to create a sense of place.”

Pasternack’s new venue could increase studio space in the arts district by about 30 percent, filling a niche that has dwindled following the sale of longtime Aurora studio space Sunrise Artworks on Florence Street. Former Sunrise owner Walt Weinberg sold his creative space last year and has since moved to a new workspace behind Jubilee Roasting Company on Kenton Street. The only other official studios are located in the city-run ACAD gallery at 1400 Dallas Street. Those 11 spaces have long been fully occupied, though Weil said there could be some turnover at the facility throughout January.

Local real estate agent Jeff Coutts with Cornerstone Realty Colorado, said he also may start renting out  as many as seven studios on the upper level of 1457 Florence Street this year. He said those spaces range from 300 square feet to 350 square feet and would run about $500 per month, including internet access.

This year could also signal a move forward for the ACAD on a grander scale, as the city is expected to firm up a contract with an outside consultant to analyze the area’s viability as a live-work hub for local artists.

“I’m hoping that study will dive into the cultural diversity that we have, with artists from different countries that we have around the district, as well as the actors and the theater folks that are in the neighborhood working at the Fox and the Vintage,” Weil said. “I think those folks would qualify for artist housing as well, and I think that could be a great niche.”