Simpich returns to Old Town
‘Showcase’ to have grand opening for gallery, museum, theater May 29

       The long-awaited Simpich Showcase will open its doors at 2413 W. Colorado Ave. Friday, May 29 at 3 p.m.

David Simpich is shown with marionettes that will appear in his Hans Christian Andersen play that will debut the Simpich Showcase theater.
Courtesy of David Simpich

       Built into the renovated lower part of the Old Colorado City building where Bob and Jan Simpich created their world-famous character dolls until their retirement in early 2007, the new multi-use venue will feature a museum displaying many of the dolls, an art gallery highlighting paintings by Bob Simpich and a 70-seat marionette theater.
       May 29 will also be the theater's “grand opening engagement,” at which the Simpiches' son David, a one-man marionette artist, will begin a run (through July 19) of his version of “The Hans Christian Andersen Storybook.”
       The business will be open every day except Monday. Admission will be free to the gallery (which is inside the main door).
       Behind the gallery, about halfway back, are the theater and museum. There will be a fee to attend a theater show and/or to visit the museum ($12 for both, or $7 for the museum, with discounts for children and seniors).
       The gallery will initially consist of about 30 works, 10 of them oils by Bob Simpich, whose original interest was painting (doll-making was a hobby that became an enterprise, according to David). As for Jan, also a classically trained painter, David joked that “”we're twisting her arm” to allow her brush work to be displayed also.
       The museum will have 50 lighted cases, some with diorama scenes, presenting about half of the character dolls that Bob and Jan had created over more than half a century (others from their collection will be rotated in as time goes by). Explanations will also be provided about the dolls and how they were made. “I worked really hard on the displays to showcase their work in a special way,” said David, who had helped with his parents' business before branching into marionettes 20-some years ago and spending a number of years on tour.
       A consignment area, to help people wanting to sell Simpich dolls, should be ready to go sometime this summer, he added.
       In his theater, David plans to do performances four days a week, including a Wednesday matinee for tour and school groups. He expects to offer five different shows a year, basically one for each season plus Christmas. Dating back to the '80s, he is prepared to do 16 shows in all, having previously written the scripts and built and dressed about 100 marionettes.
       A flyer for his Hans Christian Andersen story describes it as “a play that dramatically and humorously explores the themes of Andersen's most enduring tales.”
       Although Bob and Jan will contribute, David and his wife Debby will run the Showcase, with additional assistance from a third generation - namely, their four children (ages 10 to 20), who will help out on matters ranging from computer networking to artwork to concession sales.
       Bob and Jan Simpich ran their Character Dolls business out of their home for close to 20 years before the volume grew to where they purchased the current building in 1978. They chose retirement rather than selling the business.

A painting by Bob Simpich.
Courtesy of David Simpich

       A year ago, David had hoped to open the Showcase by fall 2008, as part of an arrangement in which the upstairs portion of the former Simpich enterprise would be (and since has been) transformed into four separately owned and accessed residential lofts. “It's been an uphill battle with the remodel of the old building,” he said this week. “That's what delayed it. But it's worth it.”
       The biggest issue, “overwhelmingly, was the fire rating,” he said. “It just got real complicated with the fire code, because of our separation from the upstairs. The city wanted everyone to be safe. I think we're safe.”
       The Simpich opening occurs almost simultaneously with the revival of another major Old Colorado City business - the Michael Garman Galleries, which is changing to a museum of Garman's works this weekend.

A display featuring the Simpiches' Alice in Wonderland character dolls will be part of the Simpich Showcase's museum.
Courtesy of David Simpich

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