Arts & Venues Denver merger not a hit with critics

Michael Hancock hasn't yet taken office as mayor of Denver. That's on tap for later today.

But Hancock's already being pressured by some arts advocates to take another look at the recent merger of the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs and the Division of Theatres & Arenas into Arts & Venues Denver, as reported in the Denver Post yesterday.

The gripes might have more credibility if one of the primary complainers hadn't been passed over for director of program development, the top arts job in the new division. That slot went to Jan Brennan, who was named director of the Office of Cultural Affairs after Erin Trapp became then-mayor John Hickenlooper's deputy chief of staff at the end of last year.

Or if Trapp and Jack Finlaw, the arts-loving former head of the Division of Theatres and Arenas, who was tapped to become Hickenlooper's last chief of staff and kept the post under outgoing Mayor Bill Vidal, hadn't kept an eye out for the arts during the planning process for the restructured division, which was designed as both a cost-savings and efficiency measure.

Or if the system was so much better when the head of the arts commission reported directly to the mayor, as critics suggest -- but that didn't work too well when then-First Lady Wilma Webb had the job.

Or if the arts community had figured out early enough that tonight's Henry Awards, which celebrate local theater, are scheduled at the same time as the mayor's inaugural -- and unlike those awards, the date of the Denver mayor's swearing-in is set by city charter.

As a city councilman, Michael Hancock signed off on the merger that created Arts & Venues Denver. As an arts lover (he's married to a musician), he'll be wary of any attempts to diminish their clout. And as Denver's top booster, he'll have to be: This city's creative class, which has grown over the last few decades (often without benefit of much political support) to become one of the town's primary claims to fame.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Michael Hancock appoints 'dream team' to plan Denver's financial future."

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