I remember where I was, because it was the night of a meeting for artists to hear from city officials and learn about Safe Creative Spaces. I registered to attend, because I was really curious about what was going to happen. After all, the event happened a few weeks after the Denver Fire Department shut down two DIY artist spaces: Rhinoceropolis and Glob, on Brighton Boulevard in Rino. Rino has become glittery new school, but those two spaces were refreshingly old school.
The eviction on December 8, 2016, came after the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, in which 36 people lost their lives.
When I was still at the Rocky Mountain News, I had visited Rhinoceropolis to view a couple of art shows. I never went upstairs, and did not attend any events. I saw no issues.
But it rattled me that artists looking for spaces they could afford – as the city’s rents zoomed upward – but were finding themselves in a bind. And the Denver’s stunning real estate prices – whether for purchase or for rent – have just continued to escalate. Just ask some of the galleries how they are doing.
The event on January 18, 2017 (though the registration document said January 17), included a panel ready to give information, with heavy-duty zoning and fire code information from representatives from the Denver Fire Department and the Department of Community Planning and Development. Denver Arts and Venues and the city’s Commission on Cultural Affairs, with Artspace, were there to give updates to the artists concerning plans being made for artist spaces.
It didn’t go well. Anger rippled through the room, it got loud, and in some cases there were tears (oh, I so understood). A city that had boasted about all the creative activities and creative makers and arts communities were going to be dealing with zoning and fire codes, which is daunting and expensive.
So this weekend, I finally was reading a bunch of recent publications. I happened upon a story in last week’s Westword by Kyle Harris about the difficulties that John Golter, an artist based at Glob, was having while dealing with city officials and the costs that were mounting in terms of city requirements.
The city, for its part, set up a Safe Creative Spaces Fund — $300,000 – in late 2017, but that’s chump change for those who become entangled in this type of process. So Golter is still moving ahead, even though he knows that the building housing Rhinoceropolis and Glob might just get sold.
Reading that piece made me want to throw the paper against the wall, and sent my blood pressure soaring. I know we all want people to be safe, but permitting and inspections can be beyond difficult to live through.
Now I understand why I saved the material from that meeting. I guess it was so I could again read a blurb on the registration: “If Denver wants to boast about its creative community, it needs to put its money where its mouth is to keep this community alive.”
Below are several links, starting with a link to the recent Westword article. There are also links to The Denver Post, Denverite, and Rolling Stone’s roundup of similar shut-downs across the country. For stories on the Ghost Ship, you can find a wealth of information online. The two men charged with involuntary manslaughter are slated for a trial in April 2019.