Exclusive: Proposed Snowsport History, Art Museum In Denver Lands Temporary Exhibit Space
A plan to develop the International Center for Snowsport History and Art (SCSHA) in Downtown Denver, Colo., has taken on new life at a temporary location expected to open this fall.
Bernie Weichsel, co-chairman of the National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and producer of major consumer ski shows in Boston, Denver, and Minneapolis, has told SnoCountry.com exclusively that parts of the extensive Mason Beekley Collection of Skiing Art and Literature and other related artifacts will go on display at the REI retail sporting goods store. The display will be located in its own room at the store, which itself is located in the historic 1901 Denver Tramway Building at 1416 Platte St.
“The store is located in Confluence Park, which is a super location,” Weichsel told SnoCountry.com. “We’ll have a room in the store where we will set up a gallery of some of the paintings from the Beekley Collection as well as other artifacts, all under the ICSHA name.”
Weichsel, who has spearheaded the project from the start, said a lease of selected artwork and other pieces is currently being negotiated with the Beekley Family Foundation – the legal structure the foundation requested. The collection is currently in a secure, climate-controlled warehouse facility in Denver.
The collection contains 200 paintings and sculptures of skiers; 600 posters; magazine covers dating back to the 19th century; unique etchings and lithographs; 2,400 ski pins and stamps; and one of the world’s largest libraries of ski books. Mason Beekley, who died in 2001, was an entrepreneur and founder of the International Skiing History Association.
The original plan called for the new museum to be housed on the third floor of the historic McNichols Building, a former Carnegie Library, also in Downtown Denver.
An informal agreement existed with the City of Denver to make the space available to the museum at “a reasonable rate,” according to Skiing History magazine in its May-June issue. Weichel had announced in 2011 that those proposing the museum hoped to raise $200,000 each year for ten years to meet the $2 million cost for renovations and operations of the museum.
But, the agreement turned out to be just that: “informal.” The hope for a permanent home of at least 10,000 square feet of permanent space was sidetracked when the city changed direction and did not wait for fundraising to be completed for the ski project. The city re-opened the McNichols Civic Center Building in November 2012 with modern exhibit and function space, so the was slowed.
Weichsel was undeterred, believing that Denver is such a thriving, fast-moving city with new downtown developments regularly coming on line, that a home will be found within a few years.
“My best guess is we’ll be at REI no more than two years – but it does give us a chance to say The ICSHA exists in Denver,” he told us. “It’s a very good way to showcase what we are talking about as we work with the city to find a permanent home.”
Weichsel said the new location at REI was found through the assistance of Visit Denver, the city’s tourism bureau. “We still don’t have a permanent home, but this is good news!”
He has said the project retains verbal support from several funding sources that can be drawn upon when a permanent home is secured.
What It Means: Bernie Weichsel is indefatigable. This quest to develop the International Center for Snowsport History and Art in the appropriate city of Denver will go on until he finds it. We have every confidence he will do just that. The very good news that at least a temporary showcase for some of this incredible collection from our sport’s colorful history has been found and is welcome indeed.
Top photo: Art from the Beekley Collection by Ladis W. Sato, 1947; Bottom photo: Temporary home for displays of the proposed Center for International Snowsport and Art, now an REI store.