For Colorado artists weighed down by a shortage of studios, ever-rising rent and increased government scrutiny of DIY spaces, Concept was going to be "a space to dream, create, inspire," promised founder Jeanie Nuanes King on the con.cept colorado Facebook page.
The longtime arts advocate, developer and artist planned to create an eleven-acre art complex on former farmland bordering an industrial area of Commerce City, "literally five stoplights from RiNo," Nuanes King pointed out before an open house on the property last September. The complex would have studios, galleries, and ultimately live/work spaces for members of the creative community who had been displaced from Denver. She hoped to break ground on Concept this summer.
But there's a new message on the con.cept colorado Facebook page today:
regretfully, concept colorado is no longer under construction.
dear fellow creatives:
i am writing to inform you that after over a year of full-on and exhaustive efforts to create concept colorado, i have decided not to move forward with the project.
in may, my husband passed away from cancer, and i'm now finding the need to focus on my own healing.
thanks to everyone for your interest in the project and support along the way. i wish you all the very best and know that everyone will be fine.
jeanie nuanes king
Just three weeks ago, Nuanes King had noted that interested artists and organizations had almost filled the first stage of the project, with leasing at Concept about to move on to the second round. What happened?
"I don't mind sharing the news," says Nuanes King. Her husband died just five weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and dealing with that sapped her energy and spirit. "I was sitting in the office with bankers," she recalls. "And I suddenly said, 'You know what, guys, I just don't have the strength.'"
She's told all the artists who'd already signed on for the project that it's not on hold: It's not going forward at all.
"I don't want to make any more promises to the arts community," she says. "I think it's done. We're putting the property on the market. For eleven acres, those prairie dogs just aren't paying enough rent."
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Not that the artists were going to pay that much; some spaces were going for as low as $1 a square foot. "But the first batch of artists that I felt committed to, they've all landed on their feet," Nuanes King says. "And the second wave is going to be fine." Maybe more arts groups will go to Lakewood, as Pirate and Reed Photo did; maybe others will find a way to stay put in increasingly pricey Denver arts districts, even after their current leases are up.
"It's going to be interesting to watch where the arts community goes," King says.
King will definitely be watching...but don't count her out altogether. Maybe, she muses, she can exchange some of the land for a building she can remodel for studios and galleries; that's a project she thinks she might be able to handle.
And simply for being willing to dream big, to give artists hope that there's still a place for them in metro Denver, she fulfilled much of Concept's mission: Jeanie Nuanes King has been an inspiration.