Art News

Denver's Arts and Culture Venues Shut Down Over Coronavirus

The Colorado Convention Center is one of many sites shuttered in Denver.
The Colorado Convention Center is one of many sites shuttered in Denver. Jeff Turner at Flickr
Cultural organizations spent last week scrambling to figure out how to respond to the coronavirus. Early on, institutions encouraged people to wash their hands, promised to sanitize better themselves and offered refunds for people too sick to go to shows. But by Friday, most of them took more decisive action.

“Out of an abundance of caution, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have made the difficult decision to close the museum until our planned exhibition opening of Nari Ward: We the People on April 24,” wrote Nora Burnett Abrams, MCA Denver’s director, in a statement to patrons sent out March 13.

Notes like this flooded Westword’s inbox as many cultural leaders found themselves in a predicament: Should they heed the advice of public health experts, close their doors and hope the virus subsides? Or should they risk keeping the doors open, to stay economically solvent and serve their patrons?

Ultimately, Governor Jared Polis made the decision, banning events where 250-plus people would gather. Mayor Michael Hancock quickly followed suit, shutting the Denver Public Library (all branches) and city rec centers, along with venues including Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the McNichols Building and the Colorado Convention Center.

By the end of Friday, most cultural institutions had announced they would be shutting their doors for at least two weeks, and some longer, including the Denver Art Museum, the Arvada Center, Curious Theatre, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, the Kirkland Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and so on.

On March 12, concert promotion giants AEG and Live Nation joined other leaders of the music industry in putting a pause on large-scale tours; meanwhile, owners of smaller clubs and venues have struggled to figure out what to do.

It was no struggle for longtime concert promoter Doug Kauffman. He's temporarily closed the Lion's Lair, his legendary Colfax dive bar and venue, in the interest of public safety.

"It will get worse before it gets better," Kauffman says. "I just think it's the right thing to do."
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.