Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Colorado Business Committee for the Arts Awards Prove Creativity Is Blooming Here

Colorado Business Committee for the Arts
celebrated its thirtieth anniversary on March 11 at its annual luncheon in the Seawell Ballroom — an add-on to the Denver Performing Arts Complex that didn't exist when CBCA got its start. And back in 1978, when Americans for the Arts held its convention in Denver, conventioneers got a tour of the theater building that today holds the ballroom, which was then still under construction.

When the group comes back in 2018, it will be to a very different Denver. Like the rest of this city, the arts are blooming here, as evidenced by the Ladies Fancywork Society additions to the ballroom's decor, including a yarn-bomb corsage on CBCA executive director Deborah Jordy and more crocheted flowers draping the lecturn. More proof: the sold-out luncheon, with 750 arts supporters, many of them accountants, lawyers and others in officially uncreative occupations, packed into the place. But the most impressive testament to the state of the arts in this state was the incredible roster of award nominees celebrated that day.

The honors began with the 2015 National Award for State Arts Leadership from the Americans for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, and presented to Governor John Hickenlooper, who was a big supporter of the arts even in the days when he was an unemployed geologist (one of those uncreative occupations) and still plays the guitar, banjo and piano. "That dude can play," Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, remembers one musician telling him — an accolade Hickenlooper probably appreciated as much as the award that Lynch gave him. The Governor shared that award with the entire state, pointing out that today Colorado Creative Industries (the rebranded Colorado Council on the Arts) works with economic development efforts to not only promote this state's artistic endeavors outside of Colorado, but to grow them here at home, where there are ten state-recognized (and financially supported) arts districts, with more to come.

That national award was just the prelude to what followed. The Create Award went to Boulder Digital Arts, which holds over 300 events a year celebrating the digital arts, including classes (many free), art shows and screenings. The other finalists in the category: Pueblo's Kadoya Gallery and Nine dot Arts.

The Impact Award honored companies thinking creatively, and the honor went to General Services Administration, for the federal agency's devotion to fine arts in the region. The other finalists: Sage Hospitality and Community College of Denver.

The winner of the Philanthropy Award was Janus Capital Group, with DaVita HealthCare Partners and Bellco Credit Union as finalists.

The finalists in the John Madden, Jr., Leadership Award were a very competitive crew: Dana Crawford, who's been thinking creatively about historic preservation for more than five decades; Craig Ponzio, who's worked with Children's Hospital Colorado to create an amazing art therapy program; and Bill Marino, executive director of the Lakewood-West Colfax Business Improvement District. Marino took the prize, a win that shows how creativity is spreading outside the core city, and has become an intrinsic part of revitalization across the state.

Also looking to the future was the EY Next Wave Leadership Award, which went to Katie Kruger, the visionary behind Cross-Cultured, a multi-disciplinary arts platform that brought together ten organizations to collaborate on efforts to attract new, young supporters, like the Denver Art Museum's CultureHaus group that Kruger co-chairs. The other finalists in this category: Ely Corliss, a music booster who's making Greeley sound very good, and Ben McConahey, co-chair of the Denver Museum of Nature & Sciences Young Professional membership program.

Find out more about the awards and the CBCA in general here.