Flobots.org break ground on $2.75 million Youth Media Studio at DHA's Mariposa Phase II

The party most surprised to learn that City Councilwoman Judy Montero harbors a soft spot for the Flobots might actually be the Flobots. According to the District 9 rep, they are her "very favorite band," which explains why she referenced two of their songs -- but, alas, did not sing either -- at an event both sides supported yesterday. For years, Montero has pushed for the launch of sustainable, green and enconomically diverse public housing in her district, and she's not the only one. Behind her, members of the Denver-based band grinned to Disney levels as the Denver Housing Authority broke ground on a project that their nonprofit, Flobots.org, shared in imagining.

All in all, there was a lot of sharing. "Together we rise," Montero smiled, quoting the Flobots, which she did again shortly by proudly announcing, "We're fighting with tools." Fighting for higher standards of living and better access to transit: The Mariposa community, which celebrated its first day of ceremonial life yesterday afternoon, is the second phase in the DHA's effort to revitalize the South Lincoln Homes that previously marked the area. Judging by the old buildings' bricks, still full of long-dead insects when they were distributed as commemorative gifts, the replacement is a step up. But the numbers speak louder.

Phase one, the Tapiz Apartments completed this January, provide 100 units of public housing, all of which are already leased and are augmented by solar paneling and a grey water recycling system. With Mariposa, scheduled to open in 2013, the community will gain an additional 93 units. And on the first floor of its first building, it will gain a younger following. When the community opens next year, it will feature a Youth Media Studio brainstormed and designed by the band through its nonprofit outreach branch, Flobots.org.

In conjunction with the DHA and the Playing for Change Foundation, the new studio at 10th and Navajo will provide hands-on experience and technological resources for Denver youth in public schools and residential treatment centers in addition to area neighbors. Along with its studio features, the space also functions as a venue and classroom for music, design and poetry.

"I'm truly overwhelmed," vocalist Stephen "Brer Rabbit" Brackett told us. "Out of all the things that have happened, even the DHA approaching us to be a part of this, the most surprising thing is that we're still here, filling in these gaps between being a band and creating some effects. It's what we talk about in our lyrics, being humble and hopeful and working in the hopes that something happens.

"Well, it's happening."

The studio's $2.75 million price tag is partially funded by the DHA, which donated $800,000 in its initial stages. In the coming months, Flobots.org is continuing its search to close the gap on the final financing. For Brackett, who stresses he's not an accountant, this has involved a lot of "unsexy stuff no one likes to talk about," such as frequent meetings with his own accountant. "We have to be damn sure we deliver," Brackett said. "That's what makes Denver incredible: There are only ever a few degrees between you and what you need."

The group's push toward the next year of progress on the studio comes with immediate inspiration, such as the first official graduate of Flobots.org's Youth On Record program. Earlier this year, the teen graduated both high school and the project, earned a full-ride to college and began a job working for the nonprofit, where Brackett regularly walks in on him in the production room. But if a band legacy appears to be progressing from stories like this one and the studio, Brackett won't admit it.

"If we did have a legacy, we'd just hope it would be to serve as a model for Denver artists to interact with the Denver community," he said. "We don't even want our legacy to be 'Flobots'" -- he puts his band's name in air quotes with his fingers. "If this is just how Denver bands start doing it, then hell, yeah."

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