The West Entrance of Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts is already being renovated, with help from the Boettcher Foundation.
The West Entrance of Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts is already being renovated, with help from the Boettcher Foundation.
Photo by/courtesy Bill Obermeier

Boulder’s Dairy Center Honors Achievers, Celebrates New Grant and Funding

The folks at Boulder’s Dairy Center for the Arts must be popping their corks with pleasure. A major new grant will help transform their physical plant — and fund arts grants to individuals as well. And the second annual Dairy Center Honors event, which will laud six local cultural movers and shakers on Saturday, September 12, is already sold out. “It’s my favorite arts event of the year,” says executive cirector Bill Obermeier, who’s been leading the charge at the Dairy for two and a half years. “It’s surprising, wonderful and unique.”

The honorees this year comprise Barbara Dilley, dancer and founder of the Naropa dance program; artist and philanthropist Polly Addison; jazz pianist Art Lande; former CU-Boulder film studies prof and Conference on World Affairs director Jim Palmer; Michael Duran, artistic director of BDT Stage; Lafayette Cultural Resources Coordinator Susan Booker; and local businessman Richard Polk, who will receive a Humanitarian Award.

The evening is modeled after the Kennedy Center Honors, and includes a pre-show party at the nearby Google Boulder HQ, followed by an evening of tributes that features surprise guests, music, and performance. “It’s an amazing night of entertainment as well as edification,” Obermeier says.

The Center has come a long way since 1987, when local artists started using the abandoned 42,000 square feet of the former Watts-Hardy and Sinton dairies at Walnut and 26th streets for performances and exhibitions. “We used to be on the edge of town, now we’re in the center of Boulder,” notes Obermeier. The city bought the property three years later, and still leases it to the Center for a dollar a year. Thanks to this foresight, a large space for arts in a town with notoriously high land values was preserved, and years of patient expansion and improvement developed a top-notch outlet for creativity in the region.

Artist's rendering of the Dairy entrance, slated for January completion.
Artist's rendering of the Dairy entrance, slated for January completion.
Artist's rendering courtesy Dairy Center for the Arts

The Dairy is now the only multidisciplinary arts space in the county. Its theaters, galleries, offices, classrooms, rehearsal spaces and extra-comfy sixty-seat art cinema shelter fourteen resident arts groups, and also host outside groups and events.

The grant recently awarded the Dairy by the Boedecker Foundation has two goals. The first is to upgrade the Center’s crowded West Entrance with a lobby and waiting rooms, an ADA-compliant elevator and other improvements. It will also fund a new initiative called the Path to Excellence program, which will award as many as five grants of $5,000 each, each year for six years. A five-person committee will judge grant applications.

“The review committee has the intent to do two things,” says Obermeier. “First, they want to help foster local talent, to provide opportunities for arts companies to get off the ground. Next, they want to cross-pollinate with outside groups. We want to bring these groups in, not just to perform but to teach and learn and network – to really exchange information and experience. The more arts, the greater value, the better the visibility and the greater the community support.”

Obermeier’s only note of surprise was that it took until last year to institute an arts awards program in Boulder. “There are a number of awards given out by civic groups, business groups here,” he says. “But all these years, we haven’t honored the artists. This kind of event shows everyone how important it is to build a life of culture here.”

A full array of events mounted by all Dairy resident and visiting artists, featuring the Boulder Fringe Festival September 16 through 27, is available at tickets.thedairy.org/online

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