Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature / People

DU grad shows Modernism is no thing of the past

Many successful people attribute their achievements to the tough childhoods they had to overcome. Not so for Dana Cain, founder of the Denver Modernism Show.

“I’ve always loved advertising, I’ve always loved television, my mom made sure I saw every movie that came out,” says Cain (BA mass communication ’81). “I’ve always just been able to wallow in pop culture to my heart’s content. I think it’s because I had such a great childhood and such a perfect childhood that I love anything that reminds me of it.”

The Denver Modernism Show, now in its fourth year, runs Aug. 28–30 at the National Western Complex. It brings in vendors from around the country who specialize in mid-century-modern fare: furniture, books, music, electronics, art, housewares and all manner of pop-culture collectible from the space-age bachelor-pad era of the 1950s and 1960s (with some “plastic 1970s” thrown in for good measure).

The show also includes live music and presentations, a vintage car show and an authentic tiki lounge.

“I’ve been a fan of that era since I was a little toddler,” Cain says. “My parents had it when it was still new. Back like in 1960. My mom was always quite the hipster and she had the aqua vinyl chairs and the pole lamps with the turquoise, white and orange shades. And then as I got older, I was a huge fan of “The Jetsons” and that really helped mold my aesthetic.”

The Modernism Show has only been around for four years, but Cain is no stranger to the world of collecting and conventions. She also hosts the Vintage Voltage Expo (classic stereo and musical equipment), the Collectors Supershow (toys) and a pair of annual chocolate festivals. In years past she’s penned collectors’ guides, run a full-time collectibles business on eBay and worked at local stores dedicated to mid-century style.

“I’ve kind of done everything in collectibles I can do, but I really settled into running the shows. It really suits my personality,” she says. “I love planning big events, I love throwing a good party, I love working with people.”

Whether it’s on TV shows like “Mad Men” or the clean-lines furniture on display at Crate & Barrel, Cain says she’s seen the mid-century look come back in a big way in recent years. She’s expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors at this year’s show.
“Part of it is nostalgia, but I think it’s really a timeless style,” she says. “If you want your house to look cool, you go for that look. It’s not like shabby chic — that’s if you want your house to look cozy. But if you want your house to look cool, you go mid-century modern.”

For more information on the Denver Modernism Show, visit

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