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Chicano Humanities & Arts Council finds a new home in Lakewood after being priced out on Santa Fe

CHAC called Santa Fe Arts District home for years
CHAC finds a new home in Lakewood's art district
Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 20:24:07-05

DENVER — This story begins back in 2010.

A board member with the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC) tells Denver7 the owner of the building they were in on Santa Fe offered to sell them the building for $500,000. The group didn’t have the money to purchase it, so they waited until 2018. By then, they say the price had shot up to $1.5 million, forcing them to look for a new home.

“It's been difficult for us. We had to move just because of the fact we were priced out,” said Lucille Rivera, vice president of board of directors for the Chicano Humanities and Art Council.

Rivera was the executive director of CHAC at the time. Out of options, CHAC had to find a new home. The group settled near the corner 2nd Avenue and Santa Fe.

“It was a very nice building, but we had to do a lot of work,” said Rivera.

After investing their own money into the building, CHAC was beginning to settle in until the pandemic created another curveball and made their $4,000 rent hard to swallow.

“Without an ability to make any money, how can you sustain that?” said Brenda Gurule, executive director of CHAC.

The group began conversations with their landlord, who wouldn’t decrease rent. Eventually, they had no choice but to close their doors and move out.

“That was the only way the organization was going to survive because the money we had in the bank, if we are continuing to pay $4,000 a month rent to an empty building,” said Gurule.

An art center filled with Chicano art, celebrating Denver’s rich history no longer had a home.

“We did get some relief funding. We started doing virtual programming. And then eventually, we started partnering with other organizations, and that's what's kept us alive,” said Gurule.

Months later, they opened up in small art galleries in Northglenn and other areas across the metro. Recently, they signed a new lease for a building in Lakewood’s art district.

Their former home is now a shadow of what it once was.

“I think they're trying to make everything all new and hip and, you know, putting in condos and apartments everywhere and pricing out these small little arts organizations, when the art organization is what made it cool to begin with,” said Gurule.

Some art galleries that are still on Santa Fe agree.

"That's happened to about probably nine or 10 galleries down here,” said Richard Dotson, manager of Grace Gallery Fine Art.

Dotson says he lost his neighbor across the street after his rent went up exponentially.

“Alan was over there with Artwork Network, and the guy eventually raised his rent up to $15,000 a month. And his lease was coming due again and when it came due, Alan found out that the guy wanted another $5,000 a month for it. So it's going be up to $20,000 a month,” said Dotson.

Although the art district has changed and forced many long-time residents to move, there’s still hope some art presence will live on.

“As long as you don't keep scraping us and turning us into big condo complexes and apartment complexes, we’ll be here,” said Dotson.

CHAC says it will move into the new building in Lakewood in April and expects to open to the public in June.