#58: Ginger White Brunetti
When you see a new mural beautifying urban greenway walls or walk into an exhibit at the McNichols Building in Civic Center Park, you do so under the watch of Ginger White Brunetti, who as deputy director of Denver Arts & Venues oversees city-owned cultural hot spots and Denver's public-art team, supports growth and entrepreneurship among local creatives, and develops ways to funnel public funds into making our city a more vital and beautiful place. What inspires the forward-looking public servant as she helps to sculpt the city's future through programs like Create Denver and the burgeoning IMAGINE 2020 cultural plan? We asked her to illuminate her hopes for Denver by answering the 100CC questionnaire.
See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Lisa Gedgaudas
Westword:If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Ginger White Brunetti: I would love to collaborate with Wes Anderson or Daniel Burnham. I can't choose. Both are extremely talented visionaries who create bold environments, immersive experiences and fanciful realities. One's canvas is film, and the other's is the city.
Wes Anderson's films are pure genius. I've loved his films since Rushmore, but Grand Budapest Hotel had me speechless and wanting to crawl into the screen. The worlds he creates are sometimes ethereal, sometimes tender, sometimes audacious but always authentic. From the script to set design to the soundtrack, his attention to detail far exceeds mine! To collaborate and create such visually rich and immersive environments would be absolutely thrilling.
The urban planning nerd in me would love to have worked with the architect and urban designer Daniel Burnham. Chief planner of the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, architect of the first skyscraper and author of The Plan for Chicago, Burnham was a groundbreaking leader and civic visionary who transformed our cities. His vision for cities -- to be beautiful, bold, democratic in design -- is a legacy that is experiencing a renaissance. And who wouldn't want to collaborate with a man who is still quoted today as saying, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood...!"
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I'm really interested in artists whose work is at the nexus of art, design and urban development: people like Theaster Gates, Candy Chang and Teddy Cruz. The work that Gates has been doing in Chicago is really fascinating to me. His nonprofit organization, Rebuild Foundation, is committed to the revitalization of under-served neighborhoods through artistic practices and community engagement. It's this kind of work that makes me excited to discover what kind of impact the arts can have on the future of cities and neighborhoods. Locally, I'm intrigued by -- and cheerleading for -- people and organizations doing similar work.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
If reality TV is considered an art, and it may be by some, then I'd like to see that die and be replaced by smart, engaging programming.
What's your day job?
My day job is my dream job! I'm the deputy director of Denver Arts & Venues, a city agency with the mission to enhance Denver's quality of life and economic vitality through premier public venues, and arts and entertainment opportunities. Every day, I am privileged to work alongside an incredibly smart and dedicated staff and volunteers who are committed to making Denver a vibrant cultural community. I am most proud of helping to transform the McNichols Civic Center Building into an affordable hub for the cultural community, lead IMAGINE 2020, reorganize and hire an amazing Arts & Venues team and spearhead the Master Vision Plan for the Arts Complex.
I'm also Mom to a very cool three-year-old.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I'm pretty much in awe with anyone who receives a MacArthur Fellows Award, also known as the "genius grant," or the Loeb Fellowship from Harvard. In a similar fashion, I'd love to celebrate people who are doing amazing things for their community -- Denver, specifically -- whose work is at the intersection of urban planning, design, arts, community engagement and social issues. We don't do enough to celebrate these individuals and their contributions. I was at a community meeting in 2007 where someone said that Denver is "big enough for cultural, but small enough for community." That phrase has stuck with me. I think it would be in the mission statement.
My greatest legacy, however, would be service to the autistic and developmentally disabled community and their families. Growing up with an autistic brother meant we rarely did things as a whole family -- theater, sports, movies, restaurants -- which I'm sure was hard on my brother and harder for my mom or dad, who had to stay behind. I applaud organizations like Phamaly and AMC Theatres that have made a commitment to inclusive experiences for all people. I'm grateful for nonprofits and corporations that are adapting to a more inclusive model by decreasing stimuli, like not dimming the lights or turning down the sound. I would love to incentivize other organizations to make similar changes so that these families feel supported and can create more shared experiences.
And with unlimited funds, I'd also provide housing and programs for families struggling with how to care for autistic and developmentally disabled adults. Resources and funding for this population are scarce. We face a mounting crisis in this country as parents age and can no longer care for themselves and their autistic adult children. It's an issue that is very personal, so that would be a substantial focus.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
IMAGINE 2020 spotlighted many of Denver's strengths, like the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), our entrepreneurial spirit and a history of investment in arts infrastructure. It also identified challenges that are preventing the creative sector from achieving its full potential. Examples include the lack of an active artist-driven organization that represents the 24,000 individuals who comprise Denver's creative sector -- artists, musicians, designers, etc. Similarly, Denver has reached a tipping point when I think it's time for a consolidated and coalesced arts policy organization that has a mandate to provide ongoing and strong advocacy for cultural development, advance research and development, act as a clearinghouse for data and offer professional development for the creative community. Lastly, I would love Denver to embrace the "buy local" movement to include local talent of all kind -- artists, designers, advertising, filming, music scores, etc. If Denver, or the region, is to continue to capitalize on the many attributes that the creative community provides -- economic activity, tourism, neighborhood revitalization, arts education, fun things to do -- then it's time for Denver to graduate to this kind of policy discussion.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I'm in such admiration of so many Colorado Creatives, so I can't choose. The coolest thing to me is when creatives use their talents to create change in the community. So many people, like Jack Pappalardo on Santa Fe Drive, Katie Kruger with CrossCultured and Rick Griffith, who's creating a youth development organization disguised as an ice cream shop, do great things by using their art form and their entrepreneurial sensibility to make Denver a better place that we all can enjoy. These kinds of projects get me energized and excited for Denver and our creative community.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
2015 will be a busy year for Arts & Venues. We have a motto of "no business as usual," so we are always seeking new ways to be innovative and expand what we do to better serve the community. Yoga on the Rocks is a great example of that. Implementing Denver's cultural plan, IMAGINE 2020, is an obvious priority. We are fortunate to have the support of Mayor Hancock, the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs and our Arts & Venues team all leaning in to make visible contributions to plan implementation.
Finding meaningful ways for organizations and individuals to independently execute the goals and strategies outlined in the plan will be critical to its success. We will be preparing for further renovations at the McNichols Building and several of our other venues. And, I hope, we'll explore new partnership opportunities to activate the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Denver Theatre District.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?
That's an especially challenging question to answer. This may sound like pandering, but I think the energy and creativity that is coming from Denver's public art team is off the charts. Last week, they produced the Big Red Street Fair, celebrating "National Velvet," one of Denver's most talked about public art pieces by local artist John McEnroe and featured haikus inspired by the work and, my favorite, a tower of red donuts! Earlier in the month, they conducted a scooter tour of public art and an event at Burns Park featuring local artists creating temporary works out of cardboard. The hundredth Urban Arts Fund mural is almost complete, too. Michael Chavez, Rudi Cerri, Mary Valdez and Christina McClelland are a fantastic team, and what they accomplish together is dynamite. They have more projects up their sleeve, too! We should all be watching what they come up with next.
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Ginger White Brunetti will discuss IMAGINE 2020 and "Color as Culture" from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Friday, September 5, at the McNichols Building, as part of the free ongoing Creative Mornings lecture series. Seating is filled as of this writing; add your name to the wait list online. Learn more about IMAGINE 2020 at Denver Arts & Venues online.
To keep up with the Froyd's eye view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.