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(Don’t) Paint It Black

Alum Turns House into Art Installation Before Demolition

By Sala Levin ’10


Zach Scanlon

Zach Scanlon

The purple Victorian house on a gentrifying street in Denver was about to be demolished, and that troubled artist Markus Puskar ’16.

A friend living in the 1890s home was moving out to make way for a bland multi-unit residential building—but not before Puskar stepped in to celebrate the personality of a little piece of the city’s history.

Over two months, five days a week, Puskar painted the house’s interior, covering the walls, ceilings and even ceiling fans in undulating lines and bright patterns. The result—which drew a flurry of local media attention—was a way for him to prove that this house wasn’t like the new buildings coming in, indistinguishable from thousands of others. This house had character.

“When everything else is flattening out, it’s just a good way to have a little bit of a memorial to those things that are changing,” Puskar says.

Puskar, who studied government and politics but always pursued art on his own, had some experience painting murals, “but doing it in an interior was the most incredible thing ever,” he says. “You trap the viewer. People can just walk or drive by a mural—it blends into the scenery—but this was a way to make an immersive experience.”

The house—now known as the Funkhouse—is in the neighborhood of West Colfax, where, in 2015, nearly two-fifths of residents lived in poverty. That demographic has shifted, though, as tremendous growth in Denver’s population has made the city a hotspot for new construction. (Puskar and Scanlon are themselves newcomers—Puskar moved to Denver in November, and Scanlon in September.)

The Funkhouse is slated to be demolished this spring, but for a little while this winter—before its owners objected to the attention it was receiving in The Denver Post and other news outlets—it was a gathering place for people to check out the installation, play music and talk about the transformations happening in their neighborhoods.

“(The demolition is) sad, yes,” one visitor told CBS Denver. “I don’t like to see the character of the neighborhood change.”

Puskar chose the Funkhouse’s maximalist—and vaguely psychedelic—style in part to capture the viewer’s full attention and in part to indulge his own artistic interests. “I’ve been particularly obsessed with jellyfish and mushrooms lately—they’re the exact same shape, and they’re a beautiful shape. It’s a fun experiment for me to try to incorporate those shapes into the painting.”

Ultimately, Puskar hopes the Funkhouse will serve as a monument to what he sees as the death of individuality in architecture and design, not just in Denver but across the country. “More than anything, this house was just a way to kind of say, ‘Let’s take stock of all the cool things that are not like other places and try to cherish them and see how special they are,’” he says.

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