Arts lovers: It's up to us whether Denver's arts scene thrives or dies.
We have the makings of something special in this city: world-class museums bringing in ever more interesting programming, an emerging social-practice arts field, budding underground cinemas and art-house theaters, warhorse cultural institutions putting on large-scale productions, and rebellious performance troupes springing up. While the DIY scene continues struggling to stay in town, entrepreneurial creatives are opening up new opportunities for cultural innovation, and political activists are using the arts to combat gentrification, racism and rape culture while envisioning a better world.
It's a great time for the arts in Denver — but it's also a challenging time, with artists and galleries being priced out and the city seeming to cater more to predatory developers than creatives.
Here are five things we can do in 2018 to ensure that Denver's art scene continues to grow:
There's nothing lonelier than artists without an audience. Whether they're at the ballet, a microcinema or gallery, the artists in our community work hard to entertain, enlighten and shock us, and if we actually care about Denver culture, it's incumbent on us to show up, engage their work rigorously (nobody's saying you have to like it), and make sure that creatives — from those in towering institutions to others in living-room galleries — actually have people in their audience.
Put your money where your mouth is.
Many arts organizations that want to ensure creativity is not just an amenity for the ultra-rich have gone the nonprofit route and depend on donations to fund their work. Whether they're trying to pay a staff, photocopy posters, maintain a website or launch a massive production, the artists and programmers in our community need financial support, so do your part and chip in. If you can, subscribe for an entire season or become a member.
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Support the underdogs.
When planning a Saturday afternoon, it's easy to decide to go to one of the city's top-tier cultural institutions: the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Nature & Science or a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. While we all benefit from doing those things, don't neglect the smaller galleries and arts spaces that are setting the agenda for the future of Denver's cultural life. Sommer Browning's Georgia Art Space, which she set up in her garage, is the perfect type of spot to explore.
Spread the word.
Social-media algorithms aren't just spoiling things at the presidential level. Small arts groups can't compete against larger institutions' sponsored Facebook posts unless people churn up buzz on social channels. If you're going somewhere, let people know. Snap a photo and put it on Instagram. Tweet. Boldly announce the great projects you've witnessed. Invite friends to events on social media. Share interviews and reviews about the projects that matter to you.
The City of Denver has a long legacy of supporting the arts — and that's because residents speak up and say they care. Whether it's advancing the seven-county Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax or creating policies to help artists stay in DIY spaces, politicians respond when public pressure builds. Even if you're not an artist yourself, if you love living in a vibrant city, push your elected officials to support culture and the creative class.