#42: Heather Dalton
As executive producer for Colorado Public Television, Heather Dalton brings local stars and stories to life with shows like Sounds on 29th and Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir Live & Local, which turn an intimate spotlight on the Denver music scene, as well as such projects as Neal Cassady -- The Denver Years, a documentary heavy with key interviews and chunks of Beat lore that premiered in 2014 after painstaking years of imagining, filming and fundraising. What keeps Dalton's creative mind percolating through thick and thin? Learn more from her 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why? Heather Dalton: This is a really tough question. Initially, I tried to think of several obscure and deeply philosophical people I could cite, giving the illusion that I am utterly worldly and sophisticated, but if I cannot fool myself, I don't want to try and fool others. My collaboration would be with my grandmother, Adrienne Perry, who passed away this year. She was the most creative person I have ever met and was constantly absorbed by one project or another. Her motivations were simple: just to keep her hands and mind busy. She never sought praise and her work was a private gallery only for our family to enjoy. Many of her talented endeavors included work as a seamstress for country-western artists and Vegas lounge performers. She filled the walls of her home with intricate, textured murals depicting rural life. Passing the time, she would make incredibly lifelike miniature dioramas on a myriad of different subjects. A very special treat for me was that in the months prior to Halloween she would spend countless hours ensuring that I always had the most amazing costumes.
One of her most ambitious projects was a hand-crafted, life-sized nativity scene complete with all of the animals (this was odd for her, as she was a staunch atheist and not religious at all). She was always delighted and would laugh every year as neighborhood kids put beer cans in Mary's and Joseph's hands. Housework to her was a waste of time and she made it clear that her creative needs came first, and she refused to be enslaved by domestic expectations in an era of Betty Crocker and June Cleaver.
Her creativity was boundless and seemed a necessary release to maintain her sanity. It was her faith in me that inadvertently set me on the path that would somehow define my later career. While I was very young, she allowed me to have full access to her VHS camcorder (very expensive at the time and not necessarily trusted in little hands). I would spend hours documenting the mundane aspects of a child's life and, in retrospect, I can see that it had a profound effect on me -- when I lugged that camera around, I felt a sense of my own creativity beginning to flourish, but without ever thinking that telling stories on videotape could ever amount to anything.
Regrettably, with the petulance of youth, I was not as attentive as I should have been when she tried to impart to me all the lessons behind her many talents. Some of it still remains ingrained in my spirit, and I am so grateful to have been her granddaughter, but I would really like to sit with her one last time and collaborate on anything her heart would desire.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and the War and Peace Report. I cannot think of a better example of the power of independent media and how one voice can still be heard above the storm. Her unfaltering dedication and drive is astounding. Actual news is not pretty and should not be hidden between fluff pieces and distracting graphics and sound effects. I appreciate the fact that she respects her viewers and does not try to dumb things down in a way that is palpable for the masses. Really, I can't imagine how she does it every single day, knowing that she will be discussing the darkest parts of humanity over and over again, yet remaining vitally passionate and undeterred. Many may claim that she is too left-leaning and divisive when it comes to fair and balanced reporting. That troubles me, and I disagree. What she does takes great courage, and I think it is easier for people to dismiss her politically than it is to confront the reality and gravity of the news she is presenting.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
There is not really one specific thing. I am an avid voyeur of pop culture, and even though there are a multitude of trends that wrinkle my nose, I believe that they are out there for some reason in this world (if only to teach us not to repeat it). I know that in due time, annoying trends will reach their shelf life and perish naturally, so I will patiently wait.
What's your day job?
Executive Producer and Creative Services Manager for Colorado Public Television 12.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
This is similar to the "What if I won the lottery" game that I play in my head -- and in discussing that scenario with co-workers, it always astounds me that the majority of us would invest it right back into public media instead of packing up our belongings and heading to a beach somewhere. To me that speaks volumes, not only to the dedication of our staff but also the real need for strong and vibrant public media outlets in today's world. Some could argue that the model is outdated and increasingly less relevant, but it is more important than ever as only six corporations control 90 percent of the media in America.
There can be no argument that that kind of monopoly takes full advantage to protect its own self-interests, which results in a less-than-perfect model for fair and accurate reporting. One glaring misconception is that public media is on the dole and raking in tax dollars, and that is not the case -- only a very small percentage of our budget comes from federal grants. We rely on the generosity of our viewers to continue to thrive as an independent voice, and that is where I would invest my money if given unlimited funds.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Denver has obviously experienced rapid and pervasive growth over the past decade, and I think that is a direct result of the thriving creative community that exists here. The obvious downside to that is everyone wants to join the party, and it seems like the highest bidder wins. In these areas where artists of all kinds have helped nurture the community, rents have skyrocketed, and those who have helped these places flourish are being forced out. That to me is a very grim reality that will strip Denver of its unique and colorful character. Therefore, I think that the city and the state should focus on creating more affordable housing and residency programs.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Sherry Hern. Some might say I have a bias and full disclosure, Sherry has been my best friend for over twenty years. Few people get to experience the wondrous journey of watching an artist evolve so closely, and I have had a front row seat all these years -- it has truly been a privilege to witness. She can take on any medium, and the outcome is always the most sincere representation of her heart, and it is beautiful. I think that her most recent works are some of her best yet and the culmination of many years of her dedication and intense talent. She has always inspired me and that has been such a great dynamic in our relationship. I am looking forward to watching all her creative pursuits for many years to come.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This year, I plan to continue on with the wonderful ride that has been Sounds on 29th, and CPT12 will be taking on a new magazine show that has a unique format that will involve local independent producers. To recharge my soul, every year I look forward to volunteering with Girls Rock Denver, an amazing organization that is staffed with incredibly talented and inspiring women of all ages and different backgrounds.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2015?
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Sara Century is no stranger to the arts scene but I believe that she deserves far more recognition. Her fearlessness and ability to take on film, visual arts and music sets her apart from everyone else. I truly think her work is of the caliber that one day we will look back and see how truly ahead of her time she is.
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