We first asked Evan Weissman to answer the Colorado Creatives questionnaire in 2013, not long after he defected from the crew at Buntport Theater to start a project of his own: Warm Cookies of the Revolution, the "civic health club" that brings folks together to discuss serious issues in a fun environment. In the interim, Warm Cookies, still going strong, has led some ambitious community-building projects, including the months-long Stompin’ Ground Games “neighborhood olympics," and, earlier this year, the participatory-budgeting funhouse of information, This Machine Has a Soul. Weissman earned the Denver Foundation’s 2018 John Parr and Sandy Widener Civic Leadership Award last month for his efforts toward bringing neighbors together to tackle the issues rising in their own back yards. What’s next? Weissman charts his continuing civic-minded course via the Colorado Creatives Redux questionnaire.
How has your creative life grown or suffered since you last answered the CC questionnaire?
Well, it has grown and suffered! I have been able to create a lot and work in so many different types of spaces, and I feel so thankful for that. At the same time, I have had to do a lot more administrative stuff, which is as exciting as smashing your face into the hood of a Kia Forte. The highlights have been the Stompin' Ground Games, where we tried to approach displacement and gentrification from a very different lens, and I think it worked well. This Machine Has a Soul was the biggest project I've ever worked on, with so many other artists and incredible residents trying to push for participatory budgeting. It was interesting to be a creative-in-residence at the Denver Art Museum in 2015 and to see how to make the installation (Vote Every Day) interactive and fun. Most of all, it's just inspiring to get to work with all the amazing people in our community who give a damn.
As a creative, what’s your vision for a more perfect Denver (or Colorado)?
- Resist Amnesia and Anesthesia
- Development with morality
- Pleasure with conscience
- Wealth with work
- Politics with principle
- Belief with thought
- Education with character
- Science with humanity
- Lists with humor
- Vote Every Day
It’s a challenging time for artists in the metro area, who are being priced out of the city by gentrification and rising rents. What can they do about it, short of leaving?
In the very short-term, not much. Alone, not much. If we get together and fight for what we want, we can get anything we want. Specifically, though: We need to push for participatory budgeting, real estate transfer taxes to fund land trusts, and rental assistance and homeowning subsidies for second- and third-generation residents to stay in their neighborhoods; change zoning for more cooperative housing models; debt cancellation; require companies that get tax breaks to move here to provide pensions to all employees; create a public bank that is required to lend based on human need; require local foundations to give more than 5 percent of their entire holdings every year. Lastly, we need to consider how to expand the tax base so that Denver can pay for services in Aurora, Thornton, Commerce City and other surrounding areas where people are being displaced. Those areas are not prepared for the influx, and Denver is largely responsible. I also think artists can and should just keep doing what they do.
How are things at Warm Cookies of the Revolution?
Things are pretty damn great right now. Always changing and never changing in many ways.
What’s your dream project?
I think I'm doing it. I love what I do and hope people will continue to support it. If not, I'll have to figure something else out!
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
I would come back as the wind, for obvious reasons.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
My pals at Buntport are the most inventive. Kagen Sound is a mathematical and woodworking genius. Jolt from Guerilla Garden and Anthony Garcia from Birdseed Collective are the real deal when it comes to graffiti, Molina Speaks is from another universe, and Ravi Zupa always makes me think.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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We are gearing up for 2019 programs, where we'll be using a different aspect of the community that we all collectively own as inspiration for programming each month (parks, streets, jails, rec centers, libraries, etc.). We're going to work with a host of artists and residents and organizations to remind people that we own the city, and we have to act to keep or change these things. And we'll make it more fun than all that sounds!
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Rochelle Johnson is a beautiful painter, Los Mocochetes and the Reminders are both incredibly fun music groups, Michelle Lim and David Viramontes are mmmanyfold, and they are creative nerds or nerdy creatives, or some version of that. They can do anything!
The next Warm Cookies of the Revolution program, Bring Your Government: F*ck, Chuck, or Marry, takes a look at various attitudes toward government. The event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 15. Warm Cookies will meet on Sunday, December 16, from noon to 2 p.m. for Sunday School for Atheists, during which the audience will ponder contemporary moral values. Both events take place at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue. According to those in charge, “recovering Catholics, 'spiritual but not religious,' Jewish-Buddhists, Agnostic soccer players, Atheist jugglers, Mormon kite-fliers and whatever” are all invited. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is requested at the door. Learn more about this, future Warm Cookies events and Evan Weissman online.