Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remembering Jake Adam York

In December of 2012, our community lost one of its most beloved contributors, Jake Adam York.

In 2004, when I first came to The Lab at Belmar – long before I would take a job there, long before The Lab would become my second home – I came as a member of the audience. Like so many others, I drove in what might have seemed like an intellectual reverse commute –– from downtown Denver to a half-developed suburban shopping center in Lakewood, Colorado. We came to hear some of the most interesting talks being produced anywhere. This was Mixed Taste: Tag Team Lectures on Unrelated Topics, and there was nothing else like it in the world.

In the early years, going to Belmar was like taking a pilgrimage to a magical place where easy humor and absurdist fun met with deep scholarly insight. And no single speaker embodied this more than Jake Adam York.

Adam Lerner, who founded The Lab and invented the Mixed Taste lecture program, said this in his eulogy of our friend:
When we did a program on T.S. Eliot and Meat Sausage, Jake talked about T.S. Eliot because he was a great expert on poetry. When we did a program on Barbeque and Avant-Garde Film, he talked about barbecue because he was a great expert on food. He’s the only speaker who could have done both sides of Mixed Taste, the scholarly and the popular. Jake was Mixed Taste. And he developed his own following; the most loyal and adoring was Sarah Skeen, who became his wife.
In the early days, before Mixed Taste would draw hundreds of people, Jake would be there every night, even on the rare nights when he wasn’t a speaker. And afterwards, he would go out to pizza with the people in the audience, where he would continue to make connections between the subjects.
I wasn’t aware of it then, but in these numerous public talks Jake was developing into his role as a civic figure in Denver. It is rare for any artist to become such a recognizable civic figure, but I think it is more rare for a poet. And it is a testament to his force as an artist, which pushed ever outward, reaching ever-broader circles. The Lab at Belmar grew in stature feeding off of the energy that he generated. But he continued ever wider, seeing the city as a platform for his many talents.
Last night, on January 25, 2013, Jake Adam York’s friends and family gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver to celebrate his life and his work. Jake’s contributions were many – and his influence is great. And though he was a member of numerous communities, we are proud to have had him as a part of ours. The above video is a compilation of his many talks at The Lab. We will miss you, Jake Adam York.


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