Displaced in Denver: A Discussion With the Artists Kicked-Out of Rhinoceropolis and Glob

by Michael Anthony Farley on June 26, 2017 Interview + Tales From the Artist-Run

This is the first discussion in our new series Tales From The Artist-Run, which will focus on stories from the art world’s DIY fringe. As artist-run spaces must contend with a shifting political and economic climate, we’re curious to see how they adapt to (and influence) the new world around them.

Warren Bed

Warren Bedell (L) and John Golter (center) performing in Rhinoceropolis as Spellcaster’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Travel Committee in 2009. (All photos by Tom Murphy).

On December 8th of last year a dozen artists in Denver were forced from their homes unexpectedly. The warehouse building at 3551-3553 Brighton Boulevard had for over a decade illegally housed artists and musicians in two roughly 2,000-square-foot units that doubled as venues at the epicenter of Denver’s DIY scene: Rhinoceropolis and Glob. Just days before, 36 people had been killed by a fire at Ghost Ship, a warehouse live/work venue in Oakland, California. That tragedy has since inspired a series of raids on artist-run spaces nationwide—often leading to displacements.

For months, the landlord and tenants have been trying to get the spaces brought up to code and reopened. The outpouring of support from the art community has since inspired Denver City Council to draft legislation aimed at dealing with issues of illegal live/work spaces, and turned a local zoning violation into a national discussion. I sat down with Warren Bedell and John Golter, two of the displaced artists, to talk about the displacement, the process of reopening the venues, and the politics surrounding the current war on DIY spaces.

Warren: In 2005 myself and three other people got the lease for Rhinoceropolis and about four month later John started Glob, which was right next door to our warehouse. Since then we had continued doing art shows, music, and whatever else. There’s been a rotating cast of people living there. John and I had been there more or less for most of the time. At the point we were finally shut down I think we had twelve people total living between the two spaces.

John: And on top of the twelve people who lived there, we had anywhere from five to twenty volunteers helping with events between the two spaces. Then about five years ago Club Scum opened, which is the house that’s adjacent to the south of our building, and they also started doing shows. So really there were three venues, all with different programing, sharing this semi-enclosed space with a little fenced-in yard in the back. So on most nights you had three places with different shows and different crowds but everyone kind of ending up at the same space, which to me was what was really fun.

Warren: Likeminded people but different genres…

John: Right! We would kind of say “Rhinoceropolis is going to do this kind of stuff. Club Scum is going to do this kind of stuff. And Glob is going to do this kind of stuff.” It would be totally different programming—an art show or a punk show or a dance party—but the volunteers and promoters and bands were all friends. It’s a small enough city that anyone in the art scene is only a few degrees away from someone who might only go to metal shows.

The exterior of the building. Image by Tom Murphy for Westword.

The exterior of the building. Image by Tom Murphy for Westword, 2015.

Michael: How did you guys find the space?

Warren: For the Rhinoceropolis site we had been looking every time we had to renew our leases in more regular living situations– we really wanted a warehouse situation. We were literally just driving around calling the numbers on the sides of buildings. It was 2005, so we were even looking in the physical newspaper!

John: Did Craigslist exist?

Warren: It was definitely the MySpace era. But we stumbled upon it because we had good friends who’d had the space for about a year, and they left it about a year before we moved in. So we knew there was a friendly landlord. That landlord is definitely into helping artists.

John: I had a hundred-something-year-old house up in this neighborhood called The Highlands. At that point it wasn’t gentrified or uber-developed. I had lived there for five years and we were basically a punk house where we had a lot of bands play and a lot of bands practice. When the girl I was dating moved out I decided I wanted something bigger and easier to deal with—for recording, rehearsal, shows, and everything else. I had been booking shows at a place called The Zine Library down the street, and they were all kind of looking for a new location. It took me about a year and a half to find the right situation. I just happened to drive by, see a sign, and call up the landlord. After about a year and a half of looking for a space and getting rejected ALL THE TIME I was just really straightforward with the landlord: “Hey look, we’re gonna have a bunch of bands here. We’ll be having shows and rehearsals and recording.” And he just replied “I have the perfect space for you!” and it happened to be right next door to Warren, Buddy, Harry, and Jeremiah.

Our very first night, September 1st 2005, there was nothing there. It was just totally stripped bare and we were running around really excited and gunfire erupted outside. There was a makeshift club that these guys were running around the corner, and I guess there was some kind of fight, and suddenly gunfire broke out and busted out our front window. And busted out the front window on these guys’s space. It started ricocheting down the alley, and we ran out saying “Oh my God! What the hell did I just sign up for?” By the time the cops showed up all the people at the “club” had split, and one of the bullets that had gone through your [Warren’s] window lodged in a keyboard.

Warren: Yeah, it broke a toy keyboard.

Michael: Whoa. Do you still have it?

Warren: No… I think Jeremiah does?

John: Anyway it was pretty terrifying. I had just signed a three year lease and was thinking “this neighborhood is crazy!”

Michael: Was it a residential lease?

Warren: It was a commercial lease.

John: I think mine was a live/work lease.

Warren: It was definitely a commercial lease at Rhinoceropolis. The zoning was industrial, which is at the root of so many of the issues we’ve had—more surrounding that than issues of “our safety”.

John: The reason we were rolled out is because we didn’t have a residential certificate. We weren’t permitted to actually live there, and our landlord didn’t pull permits for any construction. When you walk around and looked at Glob, it looked like an apartment. You would never question it because it looked like someone’s home. Rhinoceropolis was a little bit different. It was more of an open shell of a space with apartments constructed in.

Michael: Did you guys have to do a lot of that construction yourselves?

John: Well, they [Rhinoceropolis]  did. I didn’t really have to do anything. My space just looked like an apartment with a twelve-car garage attached to it.

Warren: Yeah, Rhinoceropolis was different—the rear of the building is a big empty box, and the front was like a showroom scenario. We would use that as the showspace and we built four bedrooms in the back. And later a loft was added above the bathroom space. They were built safely for the most part, just not with permits.

Michael: It sounds like you guys put a lot of your own money and sweat equity into the space. Did you have some kind of agreement with the landlord to have that reflected in your rent?

Warren: Oh no. It was all on us. At that point I was 21 and we were just stoked that someone was going to let us do whatever we wanted in there. So we definitely did all the building on our own. A few years later he did add a kitchen for us—until then we were a hotplate kinda house—but he helped us put in an actual stove.

Michael: It always sucks when you’re renting in warehouse spaces where you do all this work and then the landlord says “Oh, I could raise the rent here!” Did that happen with you guys?

Warren: He didn’t do that, not in any malicious sense. He did raise our rent though.

John: I think he only did that once though. Since the spaces were triple-Net [a lease agreement on a property where the tenant or lessee agrees to pay all real estate taxes, building insurance, and maintenance on the property] we paid certain things that were itemized. One of those was property taxes, so once the neighborhood started getting nicer the city did an assessment every three years or so. And the property taxes just kept going up and up and up. So the overall bill, I think, from when it started to what it is now was $450 more. They just kept reassessing and saying “Oh! This neighborhood is actually nice now. I guess your property taxes are going way up!” That’s the problem with triple-Net. But I think Larry only raised the rent once.

Michael: Speaking of property taxes, can you talk about the RiNo Arts District? Was that something that grew out of the scene in the area that had formed organically or was that something else?

Warren: We had nothing to do with it. I think it started a few years after we moved in?

John: Or before?

Michael: I just looked it up, it was formed in 2005, the same year as Rhinoceropolis.

John: But it wasn’t really anything when it started—just a few businesses.

Warren: It’s totally separate from what we were doing. We have never been members.  It’s an “arts district” but its general goal is a business improvement district so they can get more money to add things like bike paths and have everybody pay for the same little corrugated signs with their logo on it.

Michael: I have to say, I haven’t seen a lot of arts-related things in the arts district in my admittedly short time here.

Warren: Yep. Many have moved away or been kicked out. It’s basically a brewery district now.

John: Yeah, as of two weeks ago another brewery opened up. Basically the one-mile area around the center of RiNo has become the most concentrated area of breweries in North America. So the RiNo district is being marketed as an “arts district” but really it’s just a place where people come to eat and drink craft beers.

Warren: Yeah, there’s a handful of people [in the arts] left but there really aren’t any galleries anymore.

Michael: Can you talk about what it was like the day you were told “you can’t live here anymore”?

Warren: It was bananas. I was at work when shit hit the fan. We had actually been planning a benefit show for Ghost Ship that was scheduled for two days after the raid ended up happening. Two days before that John and I had been going down and getting our fire extinguishers checked and refilled and had just bought another one. Texts started coming in while I was at work and I was just like, “Shit. I gotta dip out.”

John: Yeah, I think I texted you.

Warren: So I left work a little early and…. yeah. Our house was surrounded by news trucks. I was able to get in there and pull out maybe a suitcase or two of essentials and figure it out from there.

Michael: Do you want to talk about how the eviction came about?

Warren: Well, there was Ghost Ship of course…

John: Technically it wasn’t “an eviction” it was “a displacement”. Like a kicking-out. Eviction happens when your landlord wants you out, but that hasn’t happened. Is there a more accurate word than just saying we were “displaced”?

Warren: Yeah we were just told we weren’t allowed to live in the space.

Michael: By the Fire Marshall?

Warren: It was actually city zoning that still has the red tag on the door.  

John: Paul Schaffer, the inspector from Denver Community Planning and Development. The fire division—of the planning department—came in and looked at both buildings and had a list of things we needed to fix and my landlord fixed those within four weeks. It was really minor and didn’t take that long. It cost him a little bit, but he upgraded everything and that’s been signed-off. Our electrical and fire code violations were signed-off in January. The problem is really getting everything permitted to live there in Glob and throw shows in Rhino. Basically you have to get an architect. And he has to go there with his codebook and say “we have to do this, this and this”. We had an architect working with us for two-and-a-half months who, for whatever reason, just decided he couldn’t do it any more so we had to start over. It took a couple weeks for me to find another architect who was sympathetic and willing to work with us. He’s been on the case now for about 3 months. We’re coming to an end here this week.

Michael: So at the end of this three-month process you guys can move back in?

John: That’s the idea. On my end I have to add a window that has to be large enough for egress—an exit window. And we had to build two walls.

Michael: Why would you have to build two walls?

John: To make a designated “bedroom”. So we’ll have one bedroom downstairs and another bedroom upstairs. So that will be where we’re legit allowed to live. That’s all it comes down to. Rhino is a little bit different. We have to change a few walls.

Warren: We need a separate “office”, we need wheelchair ramps, we need panic doors on the back gates.

John: Well, that’s federal. We don’t really have to do that, but Larry [our landlord] wants to because otherwise we’re at risk for a federal lawsuit on account of the ADA. And it’s just a good thing to do. Basically Rhino has to adjust, add a few walls, add another bathroom that’s ADA accessible, make the existing bathroom ADA accessible. So we’re going from one bathroom to two, making them bigger, getting rid of the kitchen, and moving some walls around. We’re talking a day’s worth of work at my place and maybe five day’s worth of work at Rhino but it’s taken seven-and-something months to do that.

Michael: That’s crazy. But it seems like all three groups of tenants have been working together to resolve this situation?

Warren: Yep!

Michael: So would you say you all are bearing the brunt of the responsibilities (financially, legally, etc…) or the landlord? Or sharing that responsibility?

John: The arrangement we have with our landlord is that we’ll pay rent and he’ll take care of the construction. There wasn’t anything legally—no fines assessed—but he wanted the leaseholders, myself and this other guy John, to be really involved in the process because, you know, he’s older. We tell him what needs to be done and he takes care of it.

I have had maybe four meetings with the city, I’ve gone to other arts organizations’ meetings around this issue, gone to town halls, I’ve had phone call after phone call after phone call. I can’t count how many things I have had to do around this. It’s nuts—especially the meetings with the city engineer, the fire department, the zoning department. Right off the bat we had two meetings with the fire and electrical inspectors and zoning people. We kept meeting with them and we kept passing inspections with the fire department. That was all in the first six weeks. After that, I’ve had maybe 20 meetings with this architect, measuring everything and seeing where things should go. I drafted my version of what I think should happen and he altered them to meet code. And he’s been going back-and-forth with the city. I’ve been included in those email chains and it’s just a different language. The international residential code books are like a foot thick. And the commercial code books are just as thick. We had to get a consultant to help. And we’ve had meetings with Meow Wolf. And we have a GoFundMe for this. But the way GoFundMe is set up, if you take the money directly, you’re immediately taxed a 1099 which takes 33% of the funds. But if you have a fiscal sponsor non-profit, they’ll take the money and dole it out for you without having to worry about taxes.

Warren: Like, our money is there, it’s just impossible to get to right now.

John: It’s really, really difficult.

Michael: It seems like you got a lot of support from the community though. Which nonprofits or other groups really helped you out?

John: Meow Wolf has been the big one. That was simple. The CEO, Vince, speaks our language. You know, he may be the CEO of a massively-monied nonprofit but he went through this. Well, not exactly this, but he was in the warehouse scene back in the day. He was probably the first person I met through dealing with this situation where I sighed “Oh, this guy knows what’s going on! Thank God!” He was amazing. He and his crew come up here a lot because they’re expanding into Denver and Austin out of Santa Fe.

Michael: Meow Wolf is the art space with the Game of Thrones money, right?

Warren: Yep!

John: Yeah, George R.R. Martin gave them a lot of money. And a philanthropist in Denver just gave them a ton of money so they’re expanding up here. They do have a vested interest in keeping us going, in keeping DIY culture going. This past year has been a big hit. All the crackdowns in Baltimore, in Denver, everywhere. This was huge for them, because they are still a part of that community.

Warren: We met them before Meow Wolf existed, when they would just come play shows at Rhino and they’re just my homies from our community who have been around a long time.

John: They just got some serious donations. And once you get that one big check, you can start getting others. What they do is amazing, and they were able to get a philanthropist to fund them bringing a semblance of what they do down in Santa Fe up here to Denver. They kinda needed people who were like-minded to still be here, because they needed a scene to keep it running. They can’t just take all the people from Santa Fe and move them here. They want Denver people, so they need us to keep the DIY scene going in the meantime. It’s going to be about 3 years before they expand into Denver. And Redline Contemporary Art Center was our other fiscal sponsor.

Warren: And most of the support has been through our GoFundMe. A friend of ours set it up right after the raid—for us to get the space started again. Another friend set one up for us personally, just so we could get security deposits or whatever related costs to suddenly having to relocate. And that happened pretty quickly. That was really nice. The Meow Wolf funds have also been super helpful.

John: And the alternative press, Westword, retroactively gave us a Mastermind Award, which was $2,000. And we had two or three shows that were benefit fundraisers. I didn’t want to take the money from those. I think I did from one? But all the money from the Westword award and other benefits I just wanted to go to the other guys and girls. All the Meow Wolf money is just going to paying the rent on the spaces until we can move back in. Same with the GoFundMe money.

Michael: But you’re still waiting to get access to that money through a fiscal sponsor?

John: Yeah, through sponsorship from Redline. That should work out. As of right now we’re trying to work out the details and figure that out. But the Meow Wolf funds have been so helpful. We just got that through PayPal and it was so easy. Without that, I would have abandoned this. There was just no way to do this, our arrangement with our landlord would’ve had to be totally different. I mean, he wants to help, he wants to do all of this, but he also has to make ends meet on our end too. We wouldn’t have been able to make Rhino a legit venue. He would’ve had to get other tenants like a yoga studio or whatever. It would’ve been the end. We already knew we had incredible support from the community who really wanted it, but Meow Wolf really came to the rescue. I honestly thought this process would take three months. But just this current attempt with this architect and consultant is taking over three months. Unfortunately we didn’t meet them in the beginning.

Warren: But I think that level of support has also been essential to making us all take what we do a little more seriously. Even with a lot of the talks we had with fire and zoning officials would end up with them being surprised by how things came through. Like largely attended meetings concerning affordable arts spaces in Denver—I don’t think they realize how many people were impacted by this. Just from losing the spot that they used to go to. And as frustrating as it has been, the city doing as the city does, they kind of have been holding our hands through this process. And I think that’s due to the support that’s surrounded us. It’s so important.

John: They [city officials] had no idea that they had tripped across something. They were going by the letter of their rules and codes, just like they always do, and if we didn’t have that support [from the community] I wouldn’t be granted meetings with each department head every time I go in there. They’re in suits and ties and watching everything they say. When they get a project in it usually takes months, but they’ve tried to cut that down to weeks or days in some instances. I walked in with the architects and they were like “What? I have never met any of these people. These are the department heads! I have never had a meeting like this it’s crazy!” When he first called in and left the message that he’d be the architect working with us, he got a call back the next day from the department head, on a Saturday, to set up a meeting on Monday and get the ball rolling right away because they mayor and city council were on his case. He just said “Who are you people? What is going on?” There were so many people calling in, writing in…that made a big difference. For an architect who does this professionally day in and day out on just regular projects he’s never seen anything like this [level of political attention].

Warren: Having people in the media who know who we are and are sympathetic has also been huge.

John: I mean, for two weeks we had live news trucks camped across the street! They were doing news broadcasts like “We’re live at Rhinocergobalopolis and following the unfolding situation… as you can see they’re moving stuff out” it was so weird to be moving out my personal possessions and just see cameramen cut to me across the street.

Warren: One time I was just rolling up on my bike and had to be like “no comment!” I felt real cool.

John: I was at work and they have TVs in the cafeteria, where I would just see live broadcasts from my house on the local news. My coworkers would be like, “That looks like your car, man!” That was so odd. I tried to keep my work life separated, but it didn’t take long.

Warren: The media was also funny because at first my parents and Lauren’s parents were both like, “I understand it was really unsafe in there…” and we had to be like, “no, no, it’s not a rave dungeon.” That was the initial TV media response until smarter independent media people started reporting more ….responsibly.

John: It lasted a lot longer than I thought. It was weeks and weeks and weeks of it.

Vampire Pussy performing at Rhinoceropolis in September, 2008. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Vampire Pussy performing at Rhinoceropolis in September, 2008. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Michael: This is sort of a loaded question, but have you noticed a change in the arts scene city-wide since the post-Ghost-Ship crackdown?

Warren: In a lot of ways, yeah. You definitely notice that for punk shows, for example, no one is putting addresses on flyers. If this crackdown is really about safety, that’s problematic. Half the time I don’t even know where to find shows now! Things have definitely slowed down. Culture has been pushed way farther underground. I have far fewer people contacting me to try to book shows or events in Denver. Everyone knows it’s hard right now. As far as the visual art scene goes, I don’t know that this round of raids is necessarily the biggest factor. Denver in general is just changing. Some of the longest-standing galleries are just picking up and moving on. At an alarming rate.

John: At a very, very alarming rate. But like you were saying, I don’t know if that’s because some of them were raided and shut down…

Warren: …or just priced-out.

John: Or if their landlord or whatever is just like “I sold the building to developers. You all have to leave.” I don’t know what the landscape will look like in five years. Like you said, it’s a loaded topic, and I can’t really be objective about it because we were always in the middle of the storm! To me it feels dead.

Warren: Yeah I really hate having to go outside of my house to see a show! It’s so difficult!

John: But it actually is. Having to search around. But I think it’s kinda cool what people have done with Facebook events now. They just say “ask a punk” for directions. So if you know the person organizing it you literally have to message them to get the address. I knew this was coming. All the organizers have been like “we cannot make this public anymore because the cops are going to figure it out.”

Warren: More than cops, it’s the trolls.

John: Trolls!

Warren: All the emboldened Trump fans who just want to mess with people.

Michael: Do you think it was an “alt-right” person who tipped off the city about your spot?

John: Who knows?

Warren: Well, we have the email.

John: Does it say who specifically did it?

Warren: It was a police marshall who emailed “hey we should go check out this space and this space too. Bring the police along.”

John: But we don’t know who tipped them off. It’s all anonymous. It could’ve been a phone call and they’re not going to record that. It’s the 311 system you can call if your neighbor is dumping trash or doing something stupid. Or safety concerns or whatever. The intentions of things like that are great, like if a business isn’t clearing a sidewalk or something, but it’s something else when someone can call and say “I think people are living in this building and they shouldn’t be.” That’s really what happens now.

Warren: Well I do have a screencap of a 4chan discussion about us, where they have this little slogan like “Save lives! Shut down these socialist hives!” or whatever.

John: The right-wing trolls have definitely have been doing it after this. I just don’t think they had it in their heads to do it before it happened to us. Because it was literally less than a week after the Ghost Ship fire that they came for us. I think we were the second or third of the major venues that were raided nationwide.

Michael: Denver’s Safe Occupancy Program sort of came out of this, right? Do you have any thoughts about that?

Warren: Some. It’s a bandaid. Their whole idea is that you can get two years to fix your building if you volunteer to have them inspect you. But the inspectors could still find something and say it’s completely life-threatening, in their eyes.

John: What they deem life-threatening. I wrote something for a journalist at Westword about this [law]. For some reason, this law—which is actually a law being passed by city council—managed to be inspired by us but has nothing to do with us. They managed to target “not us” and not help us or anyone like us. They are managing to push everything so far underground it’s counterproductive and more unsafe than ever.

Warren: And there are no standards for the city deems life-threatening. You can still get booted immediately. Otherwise you might get two years. And your landlord isn’t actually responsible for doing anything. You get two years, and theoretically help from the city, to bring things up to code for mixed-use purposes. You don’t have to slice too deep with Occam’s razor to realize that nobody is going to voluntarily do that. And if they did, your landlord could still just boot you for no reason after two years and move on to the next tenants. I’m struggling to see what this law addresses.

John: There are so many things that they could deem as “Serious life-threatening problems.” It could be too many extension cords plugged in or an outlet without a cover. That could be a life safety issue, you know? There’s a litany of things they could say were life-threatening if they wanted to. And that’s probably what’s going to happen. A lot of these artists don’t get press, they don’t have mountains of people who will call in on their behalf. They could just get booted, if there’s any motivated artists still left in this city. And there’s no new places left for them anyway. It’s so difficult! I’ve looked, Warren’s looked, we’ve all looked for another space. There’s nothing. All of this was our “Plan B”. Plan A was to take Meow Wolf’s money and just find another space and bring it up to code. But there’s nothing on the market right now. And what there is is extremely overpriced. The property we had was by far the best option. And any other artist group coming up like we did when we were 21, you know, doesn’t have those options. 12 years ago it was a lot easier to find something.

Warren: And that’s why, on some level, it’s nice to see legislation attempting to address this issue. But there’s a lot of things being discussed at the table and we’re not included in the discussion…about us.

John: Yeah, they made a law about us and didn’t ask for our input.

Warren: I’m more worried for the smaller spaces. The spaces where you have to tell someone to “ask a punk” where it is. They don’t have a Meow Wolf or GoFundMe to deal with this. And they’re just going to move away. It’s happening all over the country. There’s just not policy in place. Everyone’s trying to put these bandaid policies in place so they don’t look like they’re just booting poor artists, but that’s exactly what they’re doing.

John: And the part that gets me, apart from the grey area for the “life-threatening” issues, is that if you do not voluntarily offer up an inspection you’re not guaranteed those two years. If you get a report and a surprise inspection like they did with us, you don’t get that two-year option. You just are told “You have to go, now.” They give you 45 minutes to grab your stuff and leave. I still think people will say “fuck it. I’m not going to volunteer for this. I’m just going to play it cool. And hopefully they won’t be coming through my door.” People with money, with a nice space, who are in the process of getting permits anyway—I could see them doing this. This just gives them more time. So the intention is to have artists do that, but there’s no possible way they will.

Michael: I feel like all of the brick and concrete warehouses we all used to live in illegally are probably more safe than any of the shitty stick-built condos going up everywhere.

Warren: Yeah. A huge portion of their issues, which we fixed immediately, were things that were made from construction-grade wood but hadn’t been wrapped in drywall. But we’re sitting in a “nice” loft right now looking at a wooden stairway and we just passed inspections! It’s not wrapped in drywall. Wood wrapped in drywall is apparently better? It’s all so arbitrary.

Entrancer performing at Rhinoceropolis in June 2014. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Entrancer performing at Rhinoceropolis in June 2014. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Michael: I worry a lot about this crackdown on DIY spaces nationally, coupled with gentrification, coupled with the rise of alt-right trolling, deportations. What is the future of the type of art scenes we grew up in? I feel like urban America used to be this much more open place where you could just show up in a new city and always find friends-of-friends with a warehouse space where you could crash on the couch and do a show or something. We could do our own events and live in these sort of high-density places that still had space to experiment and actually do things. It feels like a whole part of our culture is disappearing.

John: Oh, overnight. This hasn’t been a long-term trend. It happened so fast.  

Warren: Definitely in the past six months. I do agree it’s a different landscape, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. Some of the best art and culture to come out of this country was during the Nixon administration, which was no less ridicul…oh. Well, maybe nothing is as ridiculous as what we have right now. But artists still managed [to build communities] without the internet!

John: I don’t know that we can compare it.

Michael: But that was when gentrification was just a glimmer in the eyes of policymakers. Artists even had giant lofts in Manhattan!

Warren: Maybe Denver won’t be this rad hub for art anymore because all the poor people moved away. Economic structures are a huge reason that Baltimore has so much coming out of it. It’s not just from the schools. I know that Rhinoceropolis and Glob would not have happened if we couldn’t find a space that close enough to central Denver and cheap as fuck to live in.

John: That was the only reason I stuck around Denver. I mean, no offense to Denver, but if I’m going to be paying rents like people are paying now I’d be moving to LA or Brooklyn or SF. It was so attractive to me to stick around because the price point was so low. I could take risks.

Michael: What was your rent?

John: Around $1,500, split between four people. Plus bands would chip in… so it usually worked out to be less than $400 a month per person. In another building it was a 5 bedroom for $1,000. And I was touring all the time.

Warren: Yeah, when you don’t have to always worry about rent you can tour. You can build a network.

John: Or buy equipment. Now, rent is like triple the cost. No one even with a good paying job would take on an endeavor [like Rhinoceropolis or Glob] today.

Warren: The first three years of Rhino we were all paying $300 each and there were four of us. I think at the time of the raid we were nine people.

Michael: And this is something symptomatic of gentrification. Spaces like Ghost Ship became dangerously overcrowded because you can only afford to make ends meet if you’re living with twenty other people. It’s important for cities to realize that—keeping things affordable makes it easier for artists to live responsibly, and I know you have always tried to keep your spaces as safe as possible. Speaking of which, what does your timeline look like moving forward?

John: Anytime I give anyone an estimate it’s been wrong. When we started this process in December we were hoping anywhere from two weeks to two months. Seven months later we’re still filling out paperwork. It’s never ending. In theory, I should get another email this week saying “one more thing you need to fix” or “we’re done”. Maybe this week?




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