Remembering John Gratkins

For nearly 30 years John Gratkins watched over the Arvada Center as if it was a work of art itself.  As the Facilities Manager, he brought a matter-of-fact vibe to our creative world that kept us grounded and secure. John passed away unexpectedly in early March 2021.

Many of our staff members have known him since they were children, and we wanted to give people whose lives he touched a chance to reminisce. There has been so much change in the past year, and as we are looking forward to the return of live theatre and a sense of normalcy, it is bittersweet to do so without John.


John Gratkins (center)

“John was the calming center of the Arvada Center. A stable and comforting presence that could always be counted on in any situation. The Arvada Center was his home and he made sure that everyone that came to the Arvada Center was welcome. As for me, I will miss our little talks. More often than not, I would find him in the Amphitheatre Front of House. We would talk of Zambonis, Parking Lot Lights, Weather Apps, Contractors that Worked (and didn’t), Star Wars, His Parents and Sister, the Squiggles Water Feature (broken and always being fixed) and the Talking Trash Cans (a long time ago!). We miss you, John. And thank you.” 

– Keith Ewer, Music Director

“In late summer of 2010, the City Hall Annex building was vacated for major systems updates, etc. The Housing Division (as we were known back then) moved temporarily to the Arvada Center. John was a key player in finding space for everyone in my work group. He was extremely helpful to ensure we had what we needed as we got settled. Then, he made sure we were doing ok once we had settled. I feel I can speak on behalf of our work group, everyone appreciated all the work John did to make us feel welcome, supported, and included into the community at the Arvada Center. When we moved back to our building, John was so gracious that he gave us each a beautiful pottery piece that he purchased from the works done at the Arvada Center. All of us felt comfortable during our short time together at the Arvada Center and this would not have been possible without the care and dedication that John put into his work. He was a very caring individual, and would go the extra mile to help people. I cannot express what a tremendous loss this is for his family, the Arvada Center as well as the City Hall staff who had the opportunity to work with him.”

- William Quintanilla, City of Arvada employee

“Pre-COVID I worked in the office posting volunteer hours and I looked forward to seeing John whenever I was there always with a cup of coffee in his hand.  I would knock on the door and if he was in his office he would let me in so I wouldn't have to stop at the box office to tell them I was there.  His was usually the first face I saw and he always had a smile and a "Good Morning" greeting.  If I needed help with the computer, he was always there to help.  I looked forward to his visit when we had Volunteer Council meetings as a lot of the time he would come in and visit before our meeting started and kept us abreast of what was going on at the Center.  John, to me, was Mr. Arvada Center and I will miss him.  It won't be the same without him.” 

– Nancy Bickford, Volunteer

“Several years ago, I worked on a committee coordinated by the City to put together the text for the Arvada History Walk brochure.  The text was also used on the numerous signs placed around the City on the Arvada History Walk.  One of those signs was placed out by the curb in front of the west entrance to the Arvada Center.  Over the years some of the signs on the Walk deteriorated a bit, including the one at the Center.  A friend of mine noticed it first and brought it to my attention.  It really looked bad.  I was embarrassed that I had never noticed it myself being that I was at the Center so often! The plastic casing was cracked and the text panel underneath was weathered.  I sent an email to John asking if something could be done.  In the next day or two, that sign completely disappeared.  About a week or so later, a new sign stood in its place.   John never said a word to me.  Just quietly got it fixed.  So typical of how this dear friend of the Center handled things.” 

-  Mary Joe Giddings, Volunteer

“I worked with John for over 15 years. I was that young twenty-something and he was that seasoned veteran when I first started. His hair wasn't white but quickly turned white after a few years of working with me...I always wondered if there was a link. My job as the Director of Galleries and Curator is to fill the Arvada Center with art. Art isn't always something you just simply hang from the wall...many times it requires hanging from the ceiling, attaching to a beam, putting huge holes in weird places, moving huge stuff in tight spaces, or securing something to the floor. Because of these varieties of types of work, I worked closely with John to make sure the building and our patrons were always safe. I always joked with him that "I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't driving him crazy.” We had our challenges and moments as all colleagues have, but we had respect for each other and John always helped find a solution and helped make art happen. So there's not one memory of John that I can say sticks out. I think of the many projects he had his hands on and how they always came out successful....the Black Box addition, the plaza concrete, the polished concrete in the galleries, the dance studios, the ceramic studio upgrades, the Digital Lab, the donor lounge, the lighting on the amphitheatre, the LED monument sign, and yes...even the parking lot lights which was a project that never seemed to have an end for him.

One of my projects that never seemed to have an end was the refurbishment of a sculpture out on our grounds. This sculpture was made of flagstone, so John volunteered to go with me to the quarry outside of Lyons and help select the stone. This was probably the first time John and I really got to know each other better. I learned that he attended Westminster High School, loved hockey, he was a dog lover, and many of those small other personal things one never learns until they sit down and actually talk to someone. Well, we selected the stone and organized the delivery date. Unfortunately, I was out of town when the delivery happened so John took the lead of the project. I called him while on vacation and asked how it went...he said fine....later I learned it DID go fine except one of the stones slipped and smashed John's pinky. It was broken and had to be bandaged for some time. That was John though...never really brought up his problems or issues. He just solved others!”  

- Collin Parson, Director of Galleries and Curator

“I had a blast working with John. It never felt like “work.” He was the best manager you could ask for. Far too many stories to share, but as for my favorite image, this: watching John help guide a class of Arts Day preschoolers from room to room looking like some proud Papa Goose. Beyond adorable.” 

– Christopher Willard, Former Arvada Center employee (Front of House Manager 1996-2005)

“I had the pleasure of working with John for nearly 10 years. John was so dedicated to helping the Arvada Center succeed, you would be hard-pressed to find a harder worker. John's tough exterior was just a cover for how caring he truly was. I will surely miss seeing him around the Center every day.”

– Andrew Terek, Director of Finance

Home,Reignite the Arts,Art at Home,Support Arvada Center Artists,Virtual Auction,Donate Now,Corporate Giving,Art Circle,Subscribe,AC Flex Package,YP Access,Visit Us,COVID-19 Entry Policies,View All Events,Gift Certificates,Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express,528.0 Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition,Imprint: Print Educators of Colorado,Pink Progression: Collaborations,Stories and Songs to Celebrate the Season,Black in Denver,Carley Warren: Three Pieces,Wood.Works,Small Mouth Sounds,Race and the Myth of Rock'n'Roll,Million Dollar Quartet,Amplify with Cleo Parker Robinson,Viral Influence Art in the Time of Coronavirus,Brady Smith: (Don’t be embarrassed by) your trouble with living,Melody Epperson: 100 + 1: Women and the Vote,Simply Swingin’: Great American Crooners,Rockley Piano Sale,Coffee Concerts: Moonlight Sonata,Keyboard Conversations: The Glorious Music of Chopin,I Do! I Do!,Jazz Classics: The Music You've Been Missing,Conversation with the Curators: In Other Words,Sylvia,Roland Bernier: In Other Words,Word Play,Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema,Elf - The Musical,Amplify: A Breakbeat Testimony,The Liar: Sooper Credit Union Scholarship Fundraiser,Amplify: Museo de las Americas,Big Band Royalty: Dukes, Counts and Barons of Jazz ,Coffee Concerts: Pathetique Sonata,Keyboard Conversations: Fantastic Fantasies,Brazil Calling: Featuring the Music of Antônio Carlos Jobim,Kinky Boots,Dance Academy Ballet presents Cinderella,Art of the State 2022,Dance Academy Jazz presents Dancing Through Time,Phamaly Theatre Presents: The Spitfire Grill,The Liar,Animal Farm,Stick Fly,Dining Partners,Amplify,Amplify Performers,Theatre,main stage musicals,Black Box Plays,Auditions,Million Dollar Quartet Auditions,Holiday Plays,Galleries,Current Exhibitions,Wood.Works Know Before You Go,Gallery Events,Upcoming Exhibitions,Art Sales,Art Submissions,Viral Influence Call for Entry,Sculpture Field,History Museum,Big Ink,Education,Dance Class FAQ,View All Classes,Classes for Kids,Classes for Adults,Ceramics,Front Range Youth Symphony,Dance Academy,For Educators and Community Groups,Arts Day,Arts Day Outreach,Ageless Adults,Scholarships,Teen Intensive 2021,Yesterado,Music and Dance,Jeffrey Siegel,Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra,AEDA Summer Concerts,Humanities,On Their Shoulders We Stand,Private Event Rentals,Humans of the Arvada Center,Straight Talk Series ,Straight Talk with Philip Sneed,COVID’s toll on Colorado theatre: 224 productions and counting ,Straight Talk with Lynne Collins,Straight Talk with Rod Lansberry,Straight Talk with Phamaly, Buntport, Colorado Shakes and Rocky Mountain Rep,Straight Talk with Creede Rep, Town Hall, Candlelight and Theatre Company of Lafayette,Straight Talk with Aurora Fox, BDT Stage, Cherry Creek Theatre and Misfits,Straight Talk with Su Teatro, Vintage, Backstage and Counterweight,Straight Talk with Local Theater Company, Theater 29, The Source and Equinox,Straight Talk with the Denver Center, Jesters Dinner Theatre, Glenwood Vaudeville Revue and Germinal Stage-Denver,Actors' union issues safety guidelines for re-opening,Straight Talk with square product, Forge Light, Springs Ensemble Theatre and Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville,Straight Talk with the Fine Arts Center, Miners Alley Playhouse, Dangerous Theatre and Lone Tree Arts Center ,Straight Talk with Lake Dillon Theatre Company, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and Northglenn Arts,Straight Talk with The Catamounts, Bas Bleu and Thingamajig,Straight Talk with Curious Theatre Company,Straight Talk with OpenStage, Firehouse and Adams Mystery Playhouse,Straight Talk with Platte Valley Players and Theatreworks,Straight Talk with Parker Arts, Stories on Stage and Thunder River ,Staight Talk 2 with Philip Sneed: This much is uncertain,Pivoting With,Pivoting with The Black Actors Guild,Pivoting with ... Emily Van Fleet and Nathan Jones,Pivoting With ... Tammy Franklin and the Curtain Playhouse,Pivoting With Nick Sugar and the Town Hall Arts Center,Pivoting With Helen Murray and the Aurora Fox,Pivoting with Edith Weiss and Christy Montour Larson,Pivoting With Scott RC Levy and the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company,Pivoting with Todd Debrecini for Halloween,Pivoting with Ashley Campbell,Pivoting with Meghan Anderson Doyle,Pivoting with Jenna Moll Reyes,Pivoting with Erik Fellenstein,Pivoting with Ray Bailey ,Pivoting with Tara Falk,Community News,Inside the Arvada Center,Barbra Streisand,Governor's mask mandate does not apply to Candlelight actors,Pink Progression: Collaborations: Grow Love and Moe Gram,Director's Notes: A Midsummer Night's Dream,All About Printmaking Techniques,Watercolor Class,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Collin Parson ,Arvada Center Makes Masks,Earth Day Craft,Christina Noel-Adcock,"Bright Star" cast unveils video as message of hope,Podcast: B+ with Geoffrey Kent and Jessica Austgen ,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Christine Moore,Humans of the Arvada Center: Steven Cogswell,Humans of the Arvada Center: Ashi K. Smythe,City of Arvada to install new sculpture in Hoskinson Park,Humans of the Arvada Center Jessie Page,Here are the 2019-20 Henry Award nominations,Arvada Center to Offer Students World’s First Zoom Musical,Humans of the Arvada Center Cal Meakins,Humans of the Arvada Center: Adam Stolte,Supreme Court workplace ruling hits home for Lisa Leafgreen,'Time for talk is over': Arvada Center launch 'Amplify' series to raise black male voices,Humans of the Arvada Center Jon Olson ,The 5 Most Screwed Job Titles in COVID-era theatre,June in Colorado Theatre: 'The Reckoning' has begun,New Arvada Center, Aurora Fox seasons reflect current complexities,It's virtually impossible not to have fun in our summer camps,News roundup: Who The Denver Actor's Fund DEAR Fund has helped,Humans of the Arvada Center: Abygail Rosales,Pink Progression Collaborations: Jina Brenneman and Margaret Kasahara,Pink Progression: Julia Rymer and Drew Austin,Revealing The Dialogue,Amplify Epiode 3 launches, series expanding to include black women,Colorado Springs reaches the Mountaintop at 2020 Henry Awards,Photo Blog: Sweeney Todd Rehearsals,Humans of the Arvada Center: Gabriel Morales,Deeper Dive: A closer look at Million Dollar Quartet,Deeper Dive: A closer look at Small Mouth Sounds,Pink Progression: Sangeeta Reddy and Jodie Roth Cooper,Deeper Dive: A closer look at Private Lives,Front Porch Series Kickoff,Cleo Parker Robinson dances back in the box with Arvada Center,Amplify turns the mic over to local Black women ,Beth Malone bringing 'joy bomb' to Arvada Center oon September 4,Theatre news: Live streaming panel Monday on a big new 'Idea',Deeper Dive: A closer look at They're Playing Our Song,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Emily King,Amplify Women Episode 2,Special Book Honors Special Dance Teacher,Arvada Center pivots to radio-play series for fall ,amplify-series-comes-to-powerful-conclusion,Denver Film moving forward with longer, smaller, virtual 2020 festival ,How COVID is impacting individual artists,Take a stroll through 'Sculpture in the Field',Arts In Education Week,Colorado Theatre News: Miscast pivots to CAST ,Essay: Was the Aurora Fox a safe house on Opening Night? ,Lessons from a summer of outdoor theatre in the time of COVID ,Humans of the Arvada Center: John Hamilton,Theatre news of the week: DCPA launches Recovery Fund,Zachary Andrews take a one-man bite out of 'Dracula',Trick Art Treat coming to Arvada Center parking lot ,What to do? Theatre happenings for October 16,Spotlight Manos Soap,Doreen Montalvo in Denver: Compassion and grit,What to do: Theatre happenings for October 23,Betty Hart's presidential promise: Build a bigger tent,Theatre happenings October 30,Virtual theatre sprouts a new branch with Arvada Center's 'The Family Tree',Humans of the Arvada Center: Brenna Clendaniel and Sophia Koop,Theatre happenings November 12,the barnstormers are back,On being Black in Denver and all the colors that it brings,Getting to Know: Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales,Theatre happenings November 19: Companies entering cancellation mode,A Married Couple's Christmas in Wales,2021 in live theatre: A look into the Crystal Ball,Senior Art Kits,2020 True West Awards: Buntpivot ,2020 True West Awards: Lily Bradford,2020 True West Awards: The Scenesters,2020 True West Awards: Podcastic,2020 True West Awards: Phamaly takes 'Honk' to Japan,2020 True West Awards: Christine Moore,2020 True West Awards: Alive Inside,2020 True West Awards: Michael Ensminger,True West Awards: They Wrote the Book,True West Awards: Rent-A-Pals,True West Awards: Of Spacious Skies,True West Awards: Christopher Page-Sanders,2020 True West Awards: Suffer the little children,2020 True West Awards: Spirit of Giving,2020 True West Awards: Secret Gardeners,2020 True West Awards: Denis Berkfeldt,2020 True West Awards: Amplify,2020 True West Awards: Reclaiming One Star,2020 True West Awards: William Hahn and Jessica Robblee,2020 True West Awards: Lisa Wagner Erickson,'The Family Tree affords actors rare chance to work during pandemic,SCFD: New picture of COVID carnage on metro nonprofits,New Arvada Center video offers diverse slate of holiday stories,20 for 20,Meet the Frasers,Bev Newcomb-Madden: Colorado's feisty, ferocious fairy godmother passes away ,Lucy Roucis' final act is a gutpunch,Reunite the Arts Collin Parson,Jodie Steeves and Nancy Terry,International Women's Day,Reunite the Arts Lisa Leafgreen,The Con Must Go On,Clear Fork Cider Spotlight,Remembering John Gratkins,Reunite the Arts: From our CEO,Adapting the Great Gatsby,Small Mouth Sounds returns,Danielle Johnson Q&A,Reunite the Arts Lynne Collins,The Show Must Go On,Diana and Mike Kinsey,Get to Know Kazu Oba,Reunite the Arts Rod Lansberry,Meet Suzanna Champion,Getting to know Eric Many Winds Herrera and Red Feather Woman,The Gear of Million Dollar Quartet,Music for the Young and Young at Heart,FRYS and the Symphony,Get to Know Carlou D,Stories From the Studio,Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Lares Feliciano,Elf Performances Canceled,21 for 21,Arts Advocacy,Volunteer,About Us,Ticketing Policies,Contact Us,Ticket discounts,Accessiblity,Health and Safety,Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access,Careers,Entry,Tours,Adopt an Actor 2022,Adopt An Artwork,Dinner and a Show,Temp,Virtual Theatre FAQ,New Website ,Pink Progression Events,On Demand Troubleshooting,Blog,Lorem ipsum,Lorem ipsum 2,Newk’s,Steuben’s Arvada,The Family Tree FAQ,Home for the Holidays,Land Acknowledgement,Gala,Errors,404,The Family Tree Dining Offers,Privacy Policy