Art News

City Partners With Meow Wolf on $20,000 Denver DIY Spaces Fund

Rhinoceropolis was closed by the city on December 8.
Rhinoceropolis was closed by the city on December 8. Lindsey Bartlett
Denver Arts & Venues and Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based arts organization that's considering opening a spot in Denver, just announced a partnership that calls for Arts & Venues to contribute $20,000 to a fund that will be used to help Denver's DIY and alternative spaces...a fund that will be handled by Meow Wolf rather than a local group or the city itself.

But then, Meow Wolf has a head start on thinking about such grants. Back in December, in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy, the group had announced it was setting up a $100,000 fund to support safer DIY music and arts venues across the nation; in many cities, such spaces were complaining that they'd suddenly become targets of overzealous city officials.

That was certainly the case in Denver, after inspections by the Denver Fire Department found violations at both Rhinoceropolis and Glob, two legendary spaces on Brighton Boulevard; the city closed both buildings pending repairs and ousted the artists who'd been living there. The outcry from the arts community was long and loud. In response, on January 18, the city hosted a meeting at which various Denver officials explained their policies and said they would work with the arts community to help fix any spaces that did not come up to code; Arts & Venues promised $20,000 to help make such repairs possible.

By then, Meow Wolf had already stepped up with $20,000 geared to getting Rhinoceropolis up and running again; this amount was above and beyond the $100,000 fund Meow Wolf had announced the month before. "Since then, a more immediate need in Santa Fe’s homie-city, Denver, became very apparent," the group reported on its website. "In partnership with Denver’s Arts and Venues pledge of $20,000 to support DIY spaces in its own city, Meow Wolf is proud to announce $20,000 of matching funds specifically directed towards two of Denver’s most beloved DIY spaces, Rhinoceropolis and Glob, as the spaces attempt to rebound from recent closings due to city code violations. These violations came under a more scrutinized microscope following the Ghostship tragedy that occurred in Oakland in December."

The original deadline for spaces applying for grants from Meow Wolf's $100,000 fund was March 15, but that's now been extended to March 31, says Meow Wolf co-founder Vince Kadlubek. When he last checked, the group had received about 35 applications; he expects the number to double by deadline.

Several of those applications had come from Denver, and according to Kadlubek, it's possible that more than $20,000 will go to Denver groups, since they're not shut out of the initial $100,000 pool. But the $20,000 fund coming from Arts & Venues can only be used for Denver-specific grants; that deadline is also March 31. "We already supported Rhinoceropolis and Glob and are taking that into account," Kadlubek says. "We want that to be clear; we know there are other venues and spaces that need help."

Applicants can use the money for infrastructural improvements, rent assistance, materials, equipment and other needs, including legal, zoning and building-code consulting services.

“Meow Wolf was an ideal partner for addressing short-term needs, while we continue to explore more long-term opportunities to support safe, creative spaces,” Arts & Venues Executive Director Kent Rice said in a statement announcing the arrangement. “As an artist collective, Meow Wolf has emerged as a leader in the region, working closely with Denver-based artists and reacting quickly to the acute space challenges of artists nationwide with the development of its funding program.”

Giving $20,000 to the Meow Wolf fund earmarked for Denver is just one of the steps Denver is taking to continue its work with the DIY community after the January 18 meeting.

“It was important that we had this informational forum,” said Ginger White, deputy director of Arts and Venues, in the same statement; for the past two months, she's had numerous behind-the-scene meetings. “We wanted the creative community to know that we hear their concerns and we’re taking action. We’ve provided these initial items, but collaboration with residents and land owners continues. We value the creative community and will continue to provide channels for collaborative problem solving.”

Among the channels: Denver Community Planning is creating a user guide outlining basic steps for establishing a safe and legal live/work space in an existing building; CPD teams are also reviewing zoning and building-code provisions on group living and live/work spaces and are soliciting input from the arts community to identify potential longer-term policy changes and innovations that could benefit that community.

In the meantime, the Denver Fire Department is offering free inspections for a limited time. Tenants and property owners alike can apply until March 31. Arts & Venues and the DFD are also providing safety kits that include smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, a fire extinguisher, eight-hour light sticks, flashlights, first-aid kits, and educational material around fire safety for the community; a limited quantity of those kits will be available starting Monday, March 13, in the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue.

For more information on applying for the grants, go to the Arts & Venues website or Meow Wolf.
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