The View From Here

Denver creatives sound off on what they'd like to see happen in Denver's arts scene in the next year.

The Denver Office of Cultural Affairs is thinking very hard about what this city's arts community will look like in twenty years. At the Cultural Visioning 2028 town hall meeting at the Denver Art Museum on January 29, DOCA director Erin Trapp led a couple dozen artists and arts enthusiasts in a discussion of how to develop and sustain the current "cultural renaissance" in an unpredictable future, throwing out socio-hip phrases like "flash mob," "crowd sourcing," "togethering" and "hypersegmentation of culture."

But while the audience seemed to appreciate Trapp's effort, the meeting clearly could have benefited from more street-level views — not to mention a focus that hit a little closer to home. Say, the Denver art scene in 2009. "Basically, it's some other mayor's job to figure out what the arts in Denver are going to look like in 2028," one artist groused.

So we decided to query important members of this town's creative class, asking not just how they envisioned the Denver arts scene in 2028 (those answers are posted online), but more immediately (and more important): What one thing would you like to see happen to the Denver arts scene in the next year?

Their replies ranged from the sublime to the ridiculously easy, and offer DOCA plenty of vision to focus on right now.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, painter

I would say that the studio situation for artists is at near-emergency status.  If we can't keep affordable studio space, we face a major brain drain that will be seriously detrimental to our future. In the next year, I would really like to see the schools that DPS has recently closed turned over for artists' studios. This could be a win/win for DPS students and staff, if done correctly. I envision apprenticeships, visiting artists for schools, after-school programs and field trips for all the schools. As Denver grows and gets less affordable, it's going to take some nurturing to keep the ground we've made!

Ken Hamel, denverarts.org

I would like to see the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver do a better job of using the Internet to communicate their activities and exhibitions to the local arts community. They are Denver's preeminent educational institutions for presenting the visual arts to the general public, and it would be nice to see more in-depth information regarding their current resources and longer-term vision for supporting the arts locally.

Bobbie Walker, Walker Fine Art

In 2008, I would like to see a concerted effort to take advantage of national media attention during the Democratic National Convention. A higher positioning of the art scene in Colorado's tourism appeal could make a long-term impact on cultural tourism.

Jeffrey Nickelson, founder and artistic director, Shadow Theatre CompanyInitiate a forum/working committee with representatives from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, the mayor and the foundation community to discuss the expansion/development of an arts fund to grow the capacity of small to mid-size arts organizations to build and emerge as a cultural arts district. There is no question that Denver has become a hip destination city, especially with regard to the high arts (ballet, opera, symphony). Still, Denver's cultural arts scene remains nascent, and smaller cultural arts organizations struggle to keep their doors open. Arts funding in Denver should consider parity in its appropriation of funds from the city and philanthropy. In the 1920s, Denver was the Harlem of the West, with a hundred-plus jazz/blues clubs. When you consider the size and influence of the Latino, Black and Asian communities, it is time for our cultural institutions to begin to reflect this rich tapestry of culture!

Michael Henry, executive director, Lighthouse Writers Workshop

The words "growth" and "collaboration" keep jumping to mind. That's what I am seeing now, and hope to see continue in 2008. And continued civic and press support, too. There are many wonderful writers in the metro area, from Nick Arvin to Kent Haruf, from J.R. Moehringer to William Henderson, from Jake York to Denver Poet Laureate Chris Ransick, who's doing lots of great — and fun — work, like sponsoring a poetry reading at the Wynkoop Brewing Company this April, where they're making a special poet's brew. And even though there's been lots of criticism of One Book, One Denver, I think it's a great program that needs to continue.

Scot Lefavor, artist

I hope more and more artists will come out of the woodwork...the more the merrier. I hope that some property owners get over having gray walls and realize that murals all around the city would be awesome. I'd like to see more and more of those murals pop up this year, for sure. Walking around and seeing huge pieces of art gets me really pumped. I'm excited to see so many art shows and events every weekend. It also seems like more folks are coming out to shows, too.

Deb Henriksen, designer, Equillibrium Clothing

More collaborations must occur between artists emphasizing a region: Denver, Colorado. Along with that, more consumerism supporting independent artisans of all types. If momentum picked up, the Denver art scene would find support from all over, sustaining a thriving art district/community.

Rick Griffith, graphic designer, Matter Studio

Denver has become a very attractive city for artists to stay in (for me) and move to (for others). So there's a lot of momentum in all the arts, and that's always exciting. As a graphic designer who depends on commercial work, it would be nice to see some more big corporations relocate to the city and bring their client dollars with them. It seems like since Boeing, we haven't heard much about reeling in some big fish.

Chandler Romeo and Reed Weimer, artists

In a year, we would like to be able to walk into the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art knowing that we will always be able to see an exhibit by a local artist — a real living, breathing, Colorado artist showing current works of art. This in addition to exhibits by Colorado artists from the past, supporting the fact that our state has been home to many major artists. Additionally, we would like to see the reinstatement of the Colorado Biennial exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. 

Adam Lerner, executive director, the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar

Collector Kent Logan is leading an effort to bring together several contemporary arts institutions in a unified marketing effort. I would like to see this organization succeed in bringing Denver the kind of national attention that the arts scene in Santa Fe, New Mexico, currently receives.

Tony Shawcross, executive director, Deproduction

The Denver Office of Strategic Partnership, DOCA and the Denver Office of Economic Development have all been exploring co-op arts space ownership, holding focus groups and interviewing the arts community for years. I'd love to see the results of these efforts this year. Where has the mayor's Task Force on Creative Spaces been headed? What is the outcome of the work the OED took on in 2006 to explore and support the "cultural creatives"?

 I'd love to see tangible resources available at the city for cultural creatives — support and services that as of yet seem to only be available through NGOs like Colorado Lawyers for the Arts or Micro Business Development or the Colorado Enterprise Fund.

Finally, in the next year, I'd like the city to help me (and others) purchase Kitty's South. I'm in love with that building and want to expand Deproduction and DOM into that space and revive that soiled movie theater.

For this creative class's extra-credit answers on their view of the Denver art scene in 2028, go to westword.com; DOCA's Cultural Visioning 2028 report will be presented this summer. — Maher

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