Denver Envisions the Art Scene in 2028

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy: Hopefully just as vibrant and bigger, with international attention regularly and lots of cultural tourism. However, if we don't have good stewardship for the scene we have now, that won't happen.

Ken Hamel, It would be beautiful to see Denver as an international destination on the art scene, playing host to installations, lectures and happenings from a pool of local, national and global artists and organizations. And this is coming to pass much sooner than 2028, with visionary artist Christo coming to Colorado in (hopefully) 2011 to install his Over the River project near Salida (, and the opening of the Clyfford Still museum in 2010.

Bobbie Walker: It is exciting to see city initiatives that are already improving the opportunity for cultural businesses to succeed. The goal of improved mobility through a better transit system addresses a problem that is a significant challenge today. The dispersion of Denver's five art districts makes it difficult for tourists and residents to take in the whole art scene.

Jeffrey Nickelson: Sadly, at this point, we don't have a vision for 2028. For example, Denver has over 89 theater companies, most of which are struggling to keep their doors open, while institutions like the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and the ballet receive huge subsidies from the city to thrive and grow. While those institutions are essential in positioning Denver as an arts hub, they alone cannot and will never represent the rich cultural and artistic expression dispersed throughout the Denver community. In 2028, Denver should be positioned as the vanguard of the cultural arts scene, with a cluster of community arts districts — each with its own flair and cultural flavor!

Michael Henry: I think we'll see continued growth of cultural institutions across the board, from the bigwigs all the way down to the smaller arts scenes. I also think that there'll be lots more collaboration between arts organizations across genres and media, and also across traditional lines, between corporations, government and artists themselves. Maybe we'll even see things like a poet laureate for Qwest, or an in-house composer for CDOT. But then again, maybe not.

Scot Lefavor: Well, assuming mankind doesn't annihilate itself before then, I'd like to think Denver is well on its way to becoming an arts destination for creatives. I'd like to see five times more galleries with that increased population. I think people here generally get along really well and are genuinely supportive of one another. Hopefully that is what people are drawn here by, and things will become even more progressive and dynamic.

Deb Henriksen: In 2028, I hope to see it thriving and sustaining a strong presence in our city's landscape! I believe it will be a model of its own kind evolved through years of pioneering from humble beginnings.

Rick Griffith: Basically, it's some other mayor's job to figure out what the arts in Denver is going to look like in 2028. So far, I think the Hickenlooper administration has done a great job nurturing the arts. But if rising rents and gentrification keep pushing artists further out, who knows what the city is going to look like in twenty years? The Denver Office of Cultural Affairs doesn't need permission from artists to address this problem.

Studios and galleries in safe locations (as few crackheads as possible out front or back) with a benefit structure or incentive for landlords to keep up their properties and offer long-term leases. I don't think artists need big tax breaks, but it would be nice to have someone help keep the landlords honest.

Reed Weimer/Chandler Romeo: In twenty years, we would like to see Denver as a destination city for artists, a place to attract and retain talented people. What that means:
• a lot more contemporary commercial galleries
• truly affordable, permanent live/work communities and studio communities all over the Metro area
• non-profit centers focused on the arts and culture in Denver
• strong MFA programs at all the area institutions
• a statewide program that gives annual fellowship and project grants to individual artists
• a major arts and culture center
• a studio-tour program similar to the one in San Francisco (and in Boulder)
• an integrated arts program in every elementary, middle and high school in Denver Public Schools. Alternately, a full staff of arts teachers — music, visual arts, dance, creative writing, poetry and theater in every school. Denver Public Schools should further develop the "school for the arts" model to provide creative experiences for ALL students in twenty years, because we need to develop and nurture future artists and audiences.
• the restructuring of the SCFD's funding so it is less top-heavy in its distribution of money to organizations — in particular, giving more funds to the hundreds of struggling Tier III organizations who need it most
• tax breaks for property owners who support fine-arts venues (dance, visual art, theater, music, etc.)

Adam Lerner: It could go either way, and I think a great deal depends on how much we invest in higher education. The community has invested heavily in new buildings for art, which demonstrates enormous commitment to the future cultural life of the city. In twenty years, these new buildings could be the bones that support a vigorous and impressive arts community. But if the institutions that occupy them are not fed well, run smartly and surrounded by a healthy environment, then they could also become detached monuments. The vitality of our current art institutions depends a great deal on our investment in fine arts and liberal arts programs at institutions of higher education. Our colleges and universities will produce the artists, visitors, patrons, critics and collectors who give life to our museums.

Tony Shawcross: To me, the most important thing that city government can do to support a sustained arts scene is help support artists' ownership of their facilities. There are countless examples of groups of artists coming together, none of whom individually has the financial wherewithal to purchase a building, but collectively have the capacity to cover a mortgage.  How many times have we seen our favorite venues disappear because of rent increases?  

What's lacking is the business acumen, coordination and administration to make co-op ownership possible, and the city could help provide this as a service, even without subsidies. The city would benefit immensely from these new creative spaces. The city could help facilitate cooperative lending and purchasing of creative spaces, with each artist owning his own portion of a space. DOCA's new creative-spaces website could help keep those spaces full and provide the necessary left-brain zoning and legal perspective that artists and creatives lack. This is far better than the current focus of supporting a rental industry that is getting real-estate investors wealthy while milking our creative community in a way that isn't sustainable.


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