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Move along: City aims to evict arts group from downtown location

Lack of board, lack of contract means city wants SWAG out of Rodeo Market


A Westminster arts group is not homeless yet, but the city has given them until June 1 to find a new headquarters.

Ann Holly, member of the South Westminster Arts Group, said it could be the end of the group. The group has called the Rodeo Market Community Arts Center, at 3915 W. 73rd Av., home since it started.

The group, nicknamed “SWAG,” sponsors regular events downtown, including the annual Orchard Arts Festival each September and a June car show.

“All these programs will stop if we don’t have the building any more,” Holly said. “The city’s position seems to be that we can continue to have our program. But if we don’t have a place to hang art, we won’t have any volunteers. So we have a car show in June, but why would anyone volunteer if it’s just about the cars not the art? To me, that’s going to put SWAG out of business.”

Westminster Parks, Recreation and Libraries Director Jason Genck said there’s not much left for the arts group to do. The city has given the group until June 1 to move out.

“The relationship with SWAG and the many great things they do for the community is not the question here,” Genck said. “The city plans to continue working with SWAG whether they are in the Rodeo Market or not. But I will tell you we have been working for 18 months to renew this lease and we do not take the decision lightly to notify them that June 1 is their final date.”

The Rodeo Market building is owned by the city’s Housing Authority, and the arts group has called the space home since 2007, using it to display and sell works from local artists. SWAG also maintains a sculpture garden next door.

The group does not pay rent on the space and the city covers utility expenses. Genck said the city has spent about $654,000 to support the group in the last 11 years.

Holly disputes that number, saying it discounts work the group has done to maintain the building.

But Genck said the groups problems began in the fall of 2016 as the city and SWAG began negotiating a new contract. The old contract expired in March 2017 and Genck said there has been little movement since to get a new one inked.

“It’s impossible to sign a lease agreement with an organization that does not have a board,” Genck said. “That was true at the start of the conversation and it’s continued for 18 months. But to be specific, their lease did expire in March of 2017 and our staff has worked in good faith to renew it. But we’ve been able to do it for the entirety of 2017.”

Holly said there has been turmoil at the top of the SWAG’s leadership and that’s caused problems.

“If you get different people in a room, they’ll disagree -- anyone that’s married knows that,” Holly said. “And if you put 20 people in the room, there are going to be issues and there will be disgruntled people. But you work it out, and we have.”

Genck said he last met with SWAG’s representatives March 10 and little had changed.

Holly said the group met March 14 and elected a full board.

“So I think we have a good environment now,” she said. “We think SWAG can function now that we have a good set of board members.”

Genck said the city has no planned uses for the building beyond SWAG’s tenancy.

Holly said the board will continue working to convince the city to let them stay.

“We asked them to at least extend it until the end of the year so we can show them that our situation has improved,” she said. “We can prove that SWAG can function.”


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