Denver Fire Department shut down the longtime artist collective Rhinoceropolis in the city's River North neighborhood Thursday evening, saying its investigators found numerous serious fire code violations.
In a statement, the fire department says it acted after being alerted by police about unsafe conditions at the 3553 Brighton Blvd. location. They ordered five people living in the building to leave immediately. From a fire department statement:
The displaced individuals were offered housing assistance however that assistance was declined. Individuals from numerous city agencies will meet with the building owner tomorrow to discuss next steps and those with belongings in the building will be allowed back into the building briefly, under the watch of a Fire Prevention Technician, to collect the remainder of their personal items.
For the past eleven years, Rhinoceropolis has hosted concerts, art shows, and other gatherings.
“It’s not just a dumb party to us," one of the space's co-founders, Warren Bedell, says of those events. "This is our lives. This is like the thing that I’m most proud of that I’ve done with my life.”
Rhinoceropolis, and its neighboring collective, Glob, sit in a once-industrial part of the city that has long drawn artists looking for cheap rents and a gritty vibe. Artist spaces like these foster a creative and accepting environment that’s not profit-driven, Bedell says. But rapid development across the neighborhood is changing that, driving rents up and artists out.
On Twitter, artists familiar with the warehouse space criticized Denver’s action and called it an inappropriate response to the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, Calif. There, according to KQED, the city plans to pay closer attention to these so-called DIY communities, balancing a desire to be friendly to artists, but also to prevent dangerous living conditions.
my home of Rhinoceropolis, which has been operating for ten years was just raided by cops. forced out. Directly related to Oakland fire omg!
— PICTUREPLANE (@pictureplane) December 8, 2016
@pictureplane The same thing happened in Baltimore. I think across the country this will be happening now. Just to prevent another tragedy.
— Greg (@vikingreg24) December 9, 2016
— Westword (@DenverWestword) December 9, 2016
— Thomas Ryan Murphy (@TR_Murf) December 9, 2016