In 1983, Federico Peña's campaign for mayor of Denver urged us to "Imagine a Great City." Once elected, Pena worked to create that city, pushing through Denver's One Percent for Art program - which earmarked 1 percent of every major civic construction project for public art - and creating a cultural plan. In 2013, Mayor Michael Hancock called for a new cultural plan, Denver's first in 25 years: Imagine 2020.
As part of that plan, last month Hancock and Denver Arts & Venues launched P.S. You Are Here, a creative place-making and neighborhood-revitalization program. "You told us that Denver is an arts town and that you want to see more of the arts in your daily lives," Hancock said in announcing it. "P.S. You Are Here will create incremental improvements that can be refined over the years to help us continue to strengthen our public spaces in Denver and to promote our vibrant communities as a destination to live, work and play."
In a pilot program, P.S. You Are Here will award $40,000 in grants for creative and physical improvement projects in public spaces such as parks, alleys, streets and sidewalks; the idea is to turn these into valuable neighborhood assets rather than blighted areas. The city is currently collecting proposals for such projects; between five and seven will be chosen for grants of up to $8,000 - and that must be matched with cash, donated goods and services and/or volunteer hours (valued at $20 per hour).
"These projects turn our public spaces into neighborhood-builders, says Lisa Gedgaudas, who is managing the program on behalf of Arts & Venue's Create Denver initiative. "They invite people to interact with each other, and they foster healthier, more social and economically viable communities."
The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Friday, May 30; by the middle of last week, the city had already received forty proposals, including some "strong ideas," according to Arts & Venues.
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Applicants must be registered neighborhood organizations or neighborhood-based groups; the project should involve an outdoor public space that is highly visible. And most important, it should imagine how to create an even better city. For more information, go to artsandvenuesdenver.com.