Chris Getzan is the wizard behind the curtain when it comes to community-centered public programming in Denver: As Evan Weissman’s longtime right-hand man at the “civic health club” Warm Cookies for the Revolution, Getzan worked in the wings, organizing Weissman’s big ideas into viable and fun events, and now he’s bringing his administrative and Warm Cookies-style skills to History Colorado as its newly coined Public Programs Manager, planning special events on and off the museum campus designed to engage people in conjunction with new exhibits. In his spare time, Getzan is a pro-wrestling fanatic. Go figure...
Learn where Getzan’s mad skills and imagination will be taking him this year and beyond as he answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
What (or who) is your muse?
If we’re thinking muse in terms of someone I’d like to emulate, that’s Denver historian Phil Goodstein. His righteous fury rivals Batman’s, and he’s at least as smart as the Caped Crusader. I hope I can always stay as mad at and as in love with this city as Phil has.
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If we’re talking about a muse in terms of who do I try and program stuff for, it’d be my dad: He’s a down-to-earth guy who’s still interested in the world and how it works and why. When I was working at Warm Cookies of the Revolution, I always wanted to try and make sure that the stuff we did would be something I could get my old man to come to, something that was relatable and informative, and that had that spirit of free inquiry.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?
Why? The creative Southern-fried swearing and the wrasslin’ stories, the dirty jokes and Lacan, and a twist ending that also makes you stop and think/restores your faith in humanity, steeped in the aroma of that delicious blend of 21 vintage mildly grown tobacco plants you can only find in a Chesterfield King.
What’s the best thing about the local community in your field — and the worst?
Evan Weissman really is “the field” in Denver, and probably in most of the rest of the country, in whatever you want to call this kind of work, and being able to learn from him and how he thinks about this stuff has been truly rewarding. He’s a real asset to Denver in a lot of ways.
I guess the worst part about it – and this would probably go for the global aspect of it, too – is a kind of creeping foreboding as to how, or when, civic engagement work like this could end up being seized on and monetized, or end up theorized to death by academia. This is a bigger problem than just the arts or culture, though; it’s how everything works in this historical moment. An awesome challenge and a terrible curse!
What’s your dream project?
I think I’m doing it – the dream project, you know? I get to call on the resources of a 140-year-old state museum and collaborate with a bunch of talented people who really seem to be invested in making that place as relevant and trusted in the city as, say, the Denver Public Library. And thus far they’ve been open to experimentation and have been really supportive of whatever ridiculous ideas I’ve pitched them (now, if I can get Winona Ryder to come play chess with me once a week, I’ll really be proverbially living the proverbial dream).
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
A lot of Denver is now South Boulder, and I mean that in the way that it is so very contented with itself, and in the bland, bleak ways it accounts for progress. You go ten, twenty minutes out of the city, and you are in very different places, places like Douglas and Aurora, and for good or ill, those places often reflect the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world, better than Denver does. In time maybe Denver can really be that global city the mayor talks about, one that takes on all the big problems and also all the everyday problems, from a place of abundance rather than austerity, instead of a foxhole you hunker down in, while you try and “get yours.”
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to make this a better place for all?
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Matt “Mercury” Yaden, owner of the Mercury Pro Wrestling Academy and the producer and booker at Rocky Mountain Pro. Matt’s been absolutely tireless in promoting pro wrestling up and down the Front Range, helping to develop world-class talents who have gone on to work for companies like Ring of Honor, NXT, and the NWA, as well as helping to make “Respect Women’s Wrestling” nights happen, which features some of the top women wrestlers in the world. Denver’s an emerging hub for the Sport of Kings and Queens, and Matt has been such a big part of that.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
The museum will be getting a big exhibit from the Smithsonian later on this year on the history of democracy in America; this summer, I’ll be putting together three off-site events that will look at what we get a say in – and maybe more importantly, if we get a say in what we get a say in: at work, when it comes to our movement and migration, as well as just what the things are that we call “democracy” (and if they always need to look a certain way).
I’ll be collaborating with Warm Cookies and artist Andrew Novick on something pretty cool right around Halloween, as well as bringing in filmmaker and author Astra Taylor to screen her last movie What Is Democracy? and talk about her book Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.
If there’s an underlying agenda to all this stuff, and really to anything I want to do with History Colorado, it’s that I want people to leave these events with more questions than they came in with, and the main question being, “If someone came up with different ways of thinking or governing or having an economy in the past, why can’t we?”
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local community in the coming year?
It sounds as though painter Rochelle Johnson is going to be busy this year, and she’s such a great talent to whom more and more folks are beginning to wake up. I don’t know if there’s anyone else who does such a good job of capturing scenes of unmediated time in the city, which is so important in a place that is continuing to change at such a pace.
Emily Dobkin, who runs an artistic engagement project called betterish, is more and more becoming a part of the public-arts scene here, too. I also think Misha Fraser, who’s the new director of education at Four Mile Park, is a great acquisition for them, and she always manages to make really interesting and fun community-minded things happen every place she goes.
Keep up with new public programming at History Colorado online.