by Greg Boyce
TRINIDAD — Trinidad’s ArtoCade has entered into a lease agreement with Trinidad State, with plans to turn an underused college facility into an art car museum, gallery and creative space. Tentatively named Art Cartopia, it will house ArtoCade’s permanent and growing collection of art cars, which now numbers more than 20.
ArtoCade is known for a zany art car parade in downtown Trinidad that happens the second weekend in September. But the organization has longed for a space where art cars can be displayed the rest of the year.
Leasing the first floor of Trinidad State’s Mining Tech Building at 2702 Freedom Road will meet that need. With 6,000 square feet of high-ceiling industrial space and another 3,700 of classrooms, restrooms and office space, this partnership opens the door not only for more art cars, but art education.
“The new space literally is making us evolve to a bigger, broader, more visible space,” said ArtoCade Director Rodney Wood. “The visibility from the interstate is huge.” According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, approximately 13,000 vehicles pass the Mining Tech Building on I-25 each day. That’s nearly 5 million a year.
“Because of the location, scale and quality of the building it gives us the opportunity to grow quickly from being a quirky, fun little local museum, to a national presence. We will eventually be the biggest art car museum in the country,” said Wood. “We’ll be adding arts and education to our mission statement in addition to being a tourist draw.”
“This is a great opportunity to grow our art program,” said Trinidad State President Dr. Carmen Simone. “Supporting the Creative District here in Trinidad is one reason to expand art offerings, but this partnership with ArtoCade is just incredible to me. And that national draw piece is so important. We’ve learned those lessons with our gunsmithing program, where we have a program with a national draw. Our art program could become the second of our programs that has a national draw. This has the ability to bring art to life in a different way for our students.”
“There’s a space in there we’re going to use as a gallery. We can have an art gallery in there that’s related to art cars, or not,” noted Wood. “It’s so much more than just a garage and it’s going to be beneficial for both locals and visitors.”
“Imagine kids coming in there and saying ‘This is art, too?’ It plants a seed that you can express yourself in so many different ways,” said ArtoCade volunteer Pat Patrick.
Wood expects to get national publicity fast. He listed websites that specialize in the zany, odd and unusual. “Roadside America, Atlas Obscura, Narrow Larry’s. There are five or six of them. Their whole deal is aiming people to odd sites, museums, etcetera. People will be coming to Trinidad for this purpose. That kind of thing is going to expand our impact on the local, regional and state level, and even national.”
Wood is now focusing all his time on this year’s ArtoCade on September 8 in downtown Trinidad, and the dance party called Cardango that night at the Las Animas County Fairgrounds, but he and a small army of volunteers plan to have Art Cartopia open by Christmas.