Mayor Michael Hancock has been busy honoring the people and places that make Denver great. On November 10, he handed out the Mayor's Design awards; today he named the 2016 recipients of the Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture at a luncheon at the McNichols Civic Center Building.
These awards have been presented since 1986, when Federico Peña was mayor; during Peña's two terms, he instituted Denver's 1 percent for arts program on city building projects to fund public art and also saw the first passage of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax. And although the form of the awards has changed over the past thirty years, the goals have not.
“Denver is full of talented artists and performers filling our galleries, museums, theaters and concert halls and enhancing our daily experiences with arts and culture,” Hancock said in announcing the winners. “These award recipients exemplify Denver’s vibrant and diverse cultural and artistic scene. Through the work of these dedicated and inspiring individual and groups, the arts have become more accessible, visible, interactive and integrated into the lives of our residents and visitors.”
Five winners were chosen by a panel made up of members of the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs and Denver Arts & Venues and IMAGINE 2020 employees. Here they are, with descriptions provided by the city:
Arts & Culture Youth Awards
Denver Public Library
After School Is Cool
After School Is Cool is a five-day-a-week program that enriches the lives of underserved Denver youth at five library locations: Athmar Park Branch Library, Green Valley Ranch Branch Library, Pauline Robinson Branch Library in northeast Park Hill, Valdez-Perry Branch Library in Elyria-Swansea, and Westwood Branch Library. ASIC provides engaging activities that foster positive relationships for youth primarily ages eight to twelve. Targeting areas where children are at risk, particularly during the critical after-school hours, ASIC programs encompass a wide range of arts, including visual art, music and dance, and incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects. Programming is focused on creative expression and imagination. Activities are led by library staff and offered in collaboration with Denver-area artists. After School Is Cool at the Denver Public Library embodies the visions of IMAGINE 2020: Regardless of age, income or education, people can find the educational offerings to help reach new heights as artistic and creative individuals, or experience something new and inspiring. ASIC art programming impacts youth by empowering them to find their creative voice, and fosters art as a means of constructive self-expression.
Arts & Culture Impact Award
Every year, Raul Chavez and Grupo Huitzilopochtli donate more than 600 volunteer hours to churches, food banks and nonprofits. They offer fifty free performances a year at schools and churches. Through art and culture, Grupo Huitzilopochtli has contributed time and effort to enrich the lives of Mexican youth and their families. Bridging the gap between Mexican youth and Chicano/Colorado youth, this group has demonstrated for the past forty years how the arts can heal through cultural inclusivity and respect for one another.
Arts & Culture Innovation Award
Denver Online High School
Many online schools fail to retain students because they feel isolated and alone. Art teacher Elisa Narizhnaya of Denver Online High School continually finds innovative ways to establish a sense of community for her students. Elisa creates connections online and finds creative ways for her students to do artwork through digital processes or by sharing the art they’ve created through other means online. She then brings the art and students outside the virtual environment to participate in real-world experiences. She leads art projects during “Connection Days” (days when students connect with each other and their teachers), including an art exhibition at the Denver Art Society with a gallery viewing and celebration event.
Arts & Culture Global Award
Denver Young Artists Orchestra
The Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) works with young people in the Front Range area ages 7-23 in group string instrument classes and youth orchestra programs, providing high-level music education and world-class opportunities for students to work with top teachers and coaches, offering accessible concerts to the community. More than 250 students are enrolled in DYAO programs; no student is turned away because of financial circumstances. DYAO performs throughout the Denver metro area and beyond, providing thousands of free tickets each year for schools, social service groups and other under-served populations. In addition to large-scale orchestral concerts, DYAO performs hundreds of outreach concerts each year. From these outreach performances emerges the “Music Unexpected” program, which provides free, small-ensemble performances in unexpected locations in the community such as a Home Depot lumber aisle or a sandwich shop in the Five Points neighborhood.
IMAGINE 2020 Award
Dan loves collaborating with Denver- and Colorado-based individuals and organizations. With “Friday 500,” Lighthouse Writers Workshop's most well-attended member program, he has led writing workshops at the Clyfford Still Museum, Wonderbound, Leon Gallery and Arts Brookfield. Through Write Denver, a funding initiative of the Arts Affinity Group recognized as an IMAGINE 2020 Fund recipient and most recently the winner of the Colorado Art Tank grant, Dan has formed partnerships with the Denver VOICE, the American Museum of Western Art, Doors Open Denver, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver Public Library Central Branch, History Colorado and RedLine, and has taught writers and non-writers alike at the Denver Performing Arts Complex in the heart of the Denver Theatre District. He has worked closely with the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and Art Students League of Denver's collaborative initiative, "Art + Lit,” “See & Say: A Symbiosis of Visual and Literary Art” and the “Write, I See” exhibitions. In 2015, he led a Denver Art Museum workshop during “Artful Aging: Through the Lens of Miró."
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