Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a ringleader for Denver's underground art scene, knows real-estate upheaval almost as well as she knows mixed-media installations. "I've had to move my home or studio every two years," says Murphy, who found out this summer that the building housing her current space along artsy Santa Fe Drive is going to be torn down. The building's new owner, Nadine Lange, wants to use the space as a parking lot for her company, Denver-based payment-processing software developer Open Scan Technologies, which is renovating the building next door to Murphy's gallery into its corporate headquarters.
"The building next door must come down to accommodate my staff," says Lange. "That's not the safest neighborhood. I can't have my female employees walk a couple of blocks at 7 o'clock at night." Murphy, who runs Capsule Art and Events Center at 560 Santa Fe, will be allowed to stay until the end of the year and pay half of her $2,500 monthly rent while she finds new digs, Lange adds. Capsule is also home to five other artists and a screen-printing shop.
Murphy doesn't know where she's going to find an affordable alternative, and levies part of the blame on the city, saying that "in five years, there's not going to be an artist community anymore." She believes the city uses gallery owners to improve areas like Santa Fe and then allows them to be pushed out when the transition is complete. "If the city would offer tax breaks to owners who rented to artists, that would be one way to help," she says.
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
Ginger White, senior economic-development specialist for the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, says the city has helped, by offering neighborhood business revitalization loans to artists to buy buildings.
But there's little else the city can do to stop businesses like Lange's from buying property in up-and-coming areas like Santa Fe. Nor, White points out, would many people suggest it should. "I would argue that Santa Fe is vibrant as it is, but I think it could be more vibrant. I would argue maybe for vibrancy you need mixed use — not just a certain kind of business, but residents and office workers," she says. "The question is, with more vibrancy, do you create less affordability?"
In Murphy's case, it appears the answer is yes.
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Belly up to the barre: A recent study by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs puts this city's creative sector, or Creative Vitality Index, at almost three times the national average. Which means that the CVI for Glendale must be off the charts! Because the state's two major opera outfits — Central City Opera and Opera Colorado — both office in the little burg tucked into Denver's eastern armpit. And on September 24, another famous performance group will even host a benefit for Central City Opera, dubbed "Smoke, Mirrors and the Glendale Ballet."
Yes, Wayne Nielsen, CCO boardmember and self-proclaimed "baron of bodaciousness," and Debbie Matthews, founder of the Glendale Ballet – aka Shotgun Willie's – are holding a fundraiser Monday night at the famous, friendly strip club. The suggested donation is $1,000, but attendance is limited to "ensure meaningful interaction with ballet company principals," according to the invite. CCO hands off all questions about the event, pointing out that "we're not the hosts of it." But Matthews, who was just eighteen when she sang for the legendary Antonia Brico, has no problem discussing her intersecting interests in the arts and Glendale.
Denver will have to stay on its toes to keep up!