When hard times hit, art helps us heal — especially when it’s the art community that’s hurting. That’s why a concert and art show is the perfect kind of benefit to help out those affected by the shutdown of Denver’s beloved DIY venue and live-work space for Denver artists, Rhinoceropolis. The benefit will be held at Mercury Cafe on January 14 and will feature more than 12 musical and visual artists. In true Rhinoceropolis fashion, admission will be based on monetary donations which will go “directly to…displaced friends and their immediate needs” according to the event’s organizer and creator of CD-R label Tender Moments, David Castillo. There is no minimum donation required for admittance.
These “displaced friends” were evicted from Rhinoceropolis after the Denver Fire Department made an unannounced inspection of the venue/home on December 8. DFD received a tip from the Denver Police Department about concerns of “unsafe building conditions” and upon inspection found “numerous serious fire code violations,” causing them to order an immediate evacuation on a cold Denver night.
Rhinoceropolis’ shutdown came at a time of heightened concern about safety in DIY spaces. Following the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, artistic communities of this kind are hurting across the country, from Los Angeles, to Nashville, to Baltimore and even Colorado Springs. Still, there’s hope these spaces will find life again — starting with Rhinoceropolis and its sister space, Glob. “I am optimistic about the future of both of these places because I believe they will continue in some way, even if it’s not in the same buildings,” said Castillo.
Rhinoceropolis, which 303 Magazine recently named one of the top eight underrated venues in Denver, was a haven for the Denver creative community in its nearly 12-year existence. It was a place to live, work and simply exist in a rapidly changing city that continues to price out its creatives. It was the Rhino before RiNo, a cultivation of authentic Denver artistry and a home to the beginnings of many successful careers — acts such as Mykki Blanco and Matt and Kim took the Rhino stage once upon a time. A hole will be left in the community in its (hopefully brief) absence. In the meantime, we can look forward to experiencing and cultivating the spirit of Rhinoceropolis at the benefit show.
“It’s important to acknowledge that the 10-plus people that were displaced by these events need help, not just emotionally and spiritually, but also in a very real way financially,” said Castillo, himself a former resident of Rhinoceropolis. Castillo worked with the owner of Mercury Cafe, Marilyn Megenity, to put together a concert that will raise money for those displaced and will also, in Castillo’s words, be “more than just a show.”
“For this show particularly, there are going to be a bunch of artists donating their work to raise funds for [Rhinoceropolis and it’s sister venue, Glob],” Castillo said “Some will be projecting, some are more arts and crafts, some are making large prints and some are zine artists that will have zines available.” He explained that in the wake of the election, the Ghost Ship tragedy, and now the events at Rhinoceropolis, there’s been “a need to bring our community closer together but also step back and look at how we can improve it.”
According to Castillo, the event will be similar to a show at Rhinoceropolis. “[It’s] important because it’s basically bringing Rhinoceropolis to a different venue,” he says. “The bands playing and the artists that will have their [work] at the event are what you could expect to see at Rhino.” He hopes that the benefit concert will not only be a time of healing, but will also inspire growth and unity in the Denver art community. “People should come because now is the time to come together,” he said, and explained that if the event does well “we can keep booking shows at [Mercury Cafe], which [in] it’s own right is a very crucial entity in this community.”