The RiNo Art District office is on the move. On July 14, it will transfer most of its operations to a new space in the Walnut Workshop at 3525 Walnut Street, and also partner with Crush Walls founder Robin Munro's new gallery in the alley in the 2600 block of Larimer Street, where it will highlight the work of artists living in the area whose motto is "Where Art Is Made."
In 2018, when Jamie Giellis was president of the organization, the RiNo Art District board had voted to move from an $800-a-month office on Blake Street into a much larger space in Zeppelin Station, signing a five-year lease for the $8,200-a-month suite. The new space allowed the organization to create the RiNo Made Store, a 600-square-foot shop stocking merchandise and art made in RiNo, and to also host art shows in a separate gallery space.
Last month's show was devoted to work by Tracy Weil, who co-founded the RiNo Art District more than a decade ago and became president after Giellis left to run for mayor.
But even though developer Kyle Zeppelin, a strong supporter of Giellis's recent candidacy, offered several months of free rent to the district, the bigger space took a big bite out of the RiNo budget. And now the board has reversed course.
The announcement of the new office came on July 10, the day after Weil and Munro announced the lineup for the 2019 Crush Walls, the tenth anniversary of the street-art extravaganza, which has been under the RiNo umbrella for the last several years.
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The Crush Walls announcement was made right outside Munro’s new HQ Gallery, which will host a Crush Walls Store as well as some of the Rino Made features. "It's a perfect fit and central location," says Weil, who points out that RiNo Made sales have made more than $100,000 for local artists. (Crush Walls stipends will pay out another $150,000 to artists this year, he adds.)
The new office will be about 900 square feet; the RiNo Art District will pay $1,700 a month for the space, but the first three months are free, Weil says. The district will continue to host First Friday exhibitions there, he adds, as well as welcome visitors who want to find out more about RiNo initiatives and district members, which include over 350 small businesses, shops, restaurants and bars, galleries, and artists and makers.
In August, Zeppelin Station’s popular and immersive retail concept, Made in a City, will take over the former RiNo Made retail bay. "With the continued growth of our Made in a City program. which includes a major art component, there was a need to get that space back," says Zeppelin. "Basically a win-win to let them out of their lease and add functionality for Mathieu Mudie and his team (who's running the retail and art programming at TAXI). Big picture-wise, it's always been about elevating the scene in RiNo and Denver with art and culture for us, which is why we've been by far the biggest contributor to the RiNo District since its inception. This was an opportunity to scale up our public-facing art and design programming and give RiNo more flexibility to continue to build on what is now the biggest and most active art district in the region."
Planning consultant Giellis's work in RiNo, her most prominent project in Denver, received considerable scrutiny during the campaign, including dueling op-eds in the Denver Post. "The RiNo Art District has long sought to break ground in terms of its arts-based leadership role in Denver, and that has also meant making bold moves specifically in support of the artist community, which is RiNo's core mission," she says. "The decision to open RiNo Made was among RiNo's boldest, made as organizations like this make decisions — with the consensus of a large board, acknowledging there would be many unknowns.The loss of this element to RiNo's programming after just over a year of operations is an unfortunate one for the creative community, and a step backwards for RiNo's fight to support its artists."
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Weil, though, characterizes the office and store moves as getting "back to our roots. We're keeping it real."
The RiNo Art District board is also keeping an eye on its job "as stewards of the tax dollars from the RiNo Business Improvement District and General Improvement District," Weil points out, "to do our best to make sure these dollars are used to implement initiatives that are important to the neighborhoods and uplift the small businesses, artists, residents and companies that have made this area their home."
Watch for additional announcements about Crush Walls 2019 here, and more news of RiNo projects — including a new park, a new partnership with the Denver Public Library and a new recycling program — on rinoartdistrict.org.
Update: This post was updated at 7 a.m. July 11 to include the amount that the RiNo Art District will pay for its new office.