Thursday night, among freezing temperatures, Denver Fire Department officials evicted eleven residents from the storied Rhinoceropolis DIY venue in Denver, Colorado. The two-story warehouse, in the River North Art District known as RiNo, had served as a studio and performance space for over a decade. The Denver Fire Department said in a press release that several “serious” code violations were found, including illegal sleeping quarters, inadequate wiring, and general fire-safety concerns. Namely, the building was zoned in an industrial space and was not equipped for residential use, nor with any kind of sprinkler system.
In the wake of the fire at Oakland’s DIY warehouse space Ghost Ship that killed 36 people, a “tip” was reportedly called into Denver police regarding the building. A Denver Police Department spokesperson told Denver7 that they received a call mentioning “possible activity of concern.”
John Gross, the leaseholder of the building, provided a short statement to Spin:
“I am confident that we’ll get the building up to code and reopen as soon as possible. [We have a] very good relationship with the landlord. In the meantime, I would say we’re all still grieving the loss of our friends in Oaktown, and now we’re homeless.”
Elsewhere, the RiNo Art District community leadership issued a statement decrying how the whole thing went down, and vowing to help Rhinoceropolis back on its feet:
“We have learned that the eviction was a directive of the Deputy Chief of Police, likely a knee-jerk response to the tragedy at Ghost Ship that occurred earlier this week. While we support any effort to ensure that people are safe and protected in such spaces, we feel this rash move to evict people on a cold winter evening without reaching out to us, or other partners, to identify a solution or strategy, was a misstep.”
Arts patrons across the country are scrambling to make sense of what the heightened sense of security means to their spaces. On December 5, Baltimore officials shut down the Bell Foundry, another longstanding performance space and art studio. Elsewhere, the site DoDIY.org deleted its entire contents, in that they could be used as a resource for police to target more spaces like Ghost Ship, the Bell Foundry, and Rhinoceropolis.
A fundraiser has already raised $10,000 to help rebuild the community that centered on the space. “Our spaces are being targeted and attacked,” wrote Peniel Apantenco on the fundraiser page, “thanks to your community support we hope to rebuild what we have left. The exact details of that are uncertain as the final comprehensive report is due to come out Tuesday on what needs to [be] fixed.”