Wearing an avocado-green skirt suit, long gloves, and a voguish hat, Skye Barker Maa serves retro stewardess vibes as she describes her latest endeavor—a Pan Am-themed cocktail lounge on the second floor of the Stanley Marketplace. “Guests will check in downstairs. They can have pre-flight cocktails. Then they’ll get a boarding pass with a boarding time and take the elevator up to the ‘gateway.’ We’ll have sexy leather furniture, and the drinks will be served on a roll cart. We’re gonna have nuts. It’s gonna be very cool, very 60s. You won’t hardly believe it,” she says stepping over a heap of construction debris, “but we’ll be open in February. I mean hopefully open in February.” She stops. Looks up. “No definitely,” she corrects herself. “We’ll be open in February.”
She wasn’t always so sure. “I remember our first epic disaster of a play,’’ she says. “I was doing “Yellow Submarine” in my backyard, and I was so wet behind the ears, I didn’t even know you had to license it. Someone asked, ‘How did you get the rights to this play?’ And I was like, ‘Rights?’ And you know what else? I bought two blue bath mats and sewed them together with armholes to make a blue meanie costume, and I made some poor child wear that. I still can’t believe I made some poor child wear that,” she chuckles with both horror and amusement.
Barker Maa’s come a long way from blue bath mats. Today she owns and operates an Arts Empire that spans four locations and includes four bars. Neighborhood Music, which lives at the Stanley Marketplace, offers private and ensemble lessons while Factory Five Five offers education and productions in fashion, film, theatre, and photography. “I wanted to create a factory like Andy Warhol’s New York experience,” she says. “And it’s working. We’re churning out creativity.”
Churning indeed. The Black Box Theatre, which is a warehouse-turned-stage offers something for everyone. “This first time around, I could only afford to build it to code,” she says. “But now I’m making it sexy.” There’s Storybook Theatre for ages 5-6, a part camp, part experiential opportunity that teaches children how to act out scenes from their favorite books. In January, children 7+ can audition to be part of “James and The Giant Peach Jr.” Tweens and teens will perform a production of “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.”
The fashion arm of her factory, which lives on the second floor of the Stanley Marketplace, gives kids the opportunity to show at Denver Fashion Week. Newcomers can start with the Fashion and Design Sewing Construction Class which teaches basic skills such as threading a machine or ripping a seam. Then they can move to pattern making and accessory creation. In January, they’ll offer Drag Tween/Teen Fashion which will feature classes in wig maintenance, drag makeup, and performance technique. Students can also take courses in millinery (hat making), corset making, and upcycling.
Factory Fashion also doubles as an event rental with a full bar. “I’m on the straight hustle 24/7,” says Barker Maa. “Artists always have to think about additional revenue, and that’s something I feel really strongly about—artists making liveable wages.”
Maa’s currently working on her first adult-production “Metamorphosis.” “There’s a sharp learning curve,” she says. “But it’s going to be epic. We’re working with real creative teams. We have music directors, set designers, sound and light designers. It’s scary but exciting.” If the past is any indicator of future success—there are clear skies ahead.
Photos by From The Hip Photo