Denver has more than one winning team: The Denver Broncos may be the national champs, but this city’s artists and arts organizations keep scoring with audiences not just in Colorado, but around the world. And while the football season is over, the 2016 arts season is just beginning, so we’ve checked in with some of the scene’s stars to see what they’ll be watching — and watching for — this year.
Westword: What are three things any newcomer to Denver should know about the arts scene?
Ginger White-Brunetti: Denver’s arts scene has never been better. Every year it elevates its game by bringing new exhibitions, introducing fresh productions, putting a new spin on an old classic, or delivering the unexpected. From Denver’s creative districts to festivals to the music scene to our venerable institutions, there are exciting things afoot.
The arts scene is a great way to meet people and make an impact. I moved to Denver twice — once from Atlanta and then Chicago — so I know what it’s like to be a newbie. The great thing about our arts scene is that there are so many ways to get involved and make an impact. I have several friends — also from other places — who found their tribe by volunteering their time and talent to the arts. If you’re not sure where to start, try Cross-Cultured, a local arts platform where you can sample over a dozen arts organizations with programming focused on increasing young professional (or young-at-heart) participation in the arts. If you’re an artist, musician or creative type, Denver has a lot to help you get settled in your new city, like Moxie U and the Colorado Creative Industries Summit.
The creative community is listening. With so many millennials and baby boomers moving to Denver and the downtown area, the arts scene is paying attention and adapting to these new audiences, which oftentimes want more informal, immersive arts experiences. (Skeptical? Check out research from Denver’s cultural plan, Imagine 2020.) Be on the lookout for more and more programming from arts organizations, creative districts and creative businesses that successfully blend artistic quality with things that Denverites love: food, craft beverages and unconventional fun!
What developments on the arts scene are you excited about this year?
I’m a sucker for the smart and the clever, and a great mash-up. And Denver does that well with programs like DAM’s Untitled, the Clyfford Still Museum’s diSTILL events, and the Big Wonderful. Personally, I can’t wait to hear DeVotchKa, Denver’s hometown music heroes, take on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. ALICE (in wonderland), by the Colorado Ballet, will be a not-to-miss artistic and athletic feat: The female dancers’ feet never touch the floor!
Who/what are the artist/arts organizations to watch this year?
Where to begin? Now that the River North Arts District (RiNo) has become an official BID/GID, I look forward to seeing how it flexes its new muscle to preserve the creative community in that hot neighborhood. I’m really excited to watch the Kirkland Museum move from its studio (literally!) in Capitol Hill to the Golden Triangle Museum District (reminder: You have till May 1 to visit the museum before it starts packing up for its 2017 move). As we all know, it’s a big election year. Voters will elect a new president in November, and locally, metro-Denver residents will be asked to reauthorize the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). It’s a unique national model of public funding for the arts and significantly contributes to making Denver’s arts scene as vibrant as it is today.
What’s exciting at your own organization/institution?
There are so many exciting programs and initiatives under way at Denver Arts & Venues. Red Rocks Amphitheatre will celebrate its 75th anniversary, with special promotions and another record-breaking concert season. We are reopening McNichols Civic Center Building in Civic Center Park in September after another series of renovations that will further enhance the park. Our team continues to inspire our streets, parks and trails with beautiful murals, artworks and community-led programs like P.S. You Are Here. Kicking off the 2016 festival season is my favorite (free!) opportunity to dance in the streets — at the Five Points Jazz Festival. Perhaps our biggest initiative is the release of The Next Stage vision plan for the Denver Performing Arts Complex in March. The plan outlines a vision for the Arts Complex to be an enlivened, vibrant, thriving public regional center of cultural activity in the heart of downtown by attracting diverse audiences, celebrating a variety of art forms, and enhancing Denver’s urban fabric. The Next Stage is our greatest opportunity to transform the arts scene and downtown Denver; I couldn’t be more proud of the bold direction Arts & Venues is taking with this plan.
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How are you working to grow your audience?
The Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs, a mayoral-appointed volunteer body, works closely with Denver Arts & Venues as stewards and trustees of Denver’s cultural plan, Imagine 2020. Accessibility and inclusion, one of the seven vision elements articulated in the plan, is a main focus area for 2016. Several of our Imagine 2020 Speaker Series programs explore issues related to audience development. Most recently, we hosted Donna Walker-Kuhne, author of Invitation to the Party, and a free workshop with LaPlaca Cohen, a New York-based firm specializing in audience trends and consumer behavior. By bringing experts like these to Denver, we hope we’re not just elevating awareness and dialogue, but also providing meaningful tools.
Find out more about the city's arts programs at the Denver Arts & Venues website.